Manner maketh man (and woman) a good teacher

30th January 2004 at 00:00
When I was training nine years ago, I used to observe the teaching manner of an accounts lecturer. He would walk into a classroom with no notes and explain a topic all off the top of his head. He dictated notes to the class and demonstrated an exercise on the board. Then he would get the class to do appropriate exercises. They did so with success.

This to me was excellent teaching and I looked forward to the days when I could do the same thing. No, not exactly; I do not dictate, I give handouts of what he would have dictated and of exercises demonstrated on the board.

But I seek to capture the same spontaneity.

What has happened to personality in the consideration of teaching's effectiveness? Is this not the key to success and to the holy grail of raising standards?

Yet personality appears to be neglected in current thinking. The greyer you are, the better, it seems, as you will be able to fill in the new-style schemes of work without screaming.

Gradually, and by stealth, these new and horrendously long schemes of work are creeping into colleges. Often, it seems to happen after an Ofsted and Adult Learing Inspectorate (ALI) visit. Nobody could deny the usefulness of the traditional scheme of work, summarising in a line or so the topic for the week and referring to a chapter of the relevant book.

However, these new schemes of work are going to be a book in themselves.

They are a classic case of forms designed by people, who will not themselves have to fill in their own creation. They would not impose such a burden on themselves - either that or they are workaholics.

Needlessly lengthy plans have to be laid out for each lesson. Things that anyone with common sense can carry in their head now need to be set down on paper.

At a rough estimate, two weeks will cover one page. Consequently, if a subject is taught for 34 weeks, the scheme of work will be 17 pages plus another two pages of introduction. That is 19 pages in total. If you have to do six schemes of work, then you will produce more than 100 pages, and all at the start of the academic year. As Chico Marx used to say: "It's a crazy".

The imposition of this requirement is not all. Each week the plan has to be evaluated and comments added and alterations made. What is the justification for all this bureaucracy - recording good practice and noting when an approach to teaching a particular topic did not work? Normally teachers remember this vividly without having to note it on paper.

It is not clear who is driving this proposed change - Ofsted insist they did not initiate changes. Is it the Department for Education and Skills, the Learning and Skills Council or M15? In this age of accountability and transparency, it is not acceptable to introduce a change of this nature without first consulting college lecturers. They are the users. They should be allowed to vote on whether they find this proposed scheme of work useful or not.

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