Professional Teaching Skills

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In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the interruptions on a teacher’s ability to simply make an informed judgement on what constitutes great learning for every individual in their classroom. This judgement should, of course, lie with a teacher but other external influences have often prevented this decision from being as straightforward as it possibly can be when we’re confronted with such a range of individuals in a classroom or workshop.

There is a strong movement in education at present; one of ‘reclaiming professionalism.’ You can read a selection of research and writing around this subject here. This movement is an attractive one; one that could bring a lot of respect back to the teaching profession on a global scale. It is not without a significant amount of responsibility though.
Reading College believe this responsibility lies in updating our professional skills; vocational and subject related skills are of course necessary but our teaching skills are of great importance in affecting our learners’ progress too.
The Education and Training Foundation have formed a framework of what they believe a professional teacher looks like:

There is a necessity, that accompanies all other professions, to research, read, study, learn and perhaps most importantly, reflect on practice. Reflection shouldn’t occur annually at the conclusion of an academic year; but it should be an active process that takes place on a daily basis; not necessarily written down or vocalised to others but undertaken all the same.
‘Dual professionalism; that is mastery of our subject knowledge as well as pedagogy 
is central to the role of the teacher. Learning is an intrinsic part of this, and out of date 
knowledge on either front is not acceptable when the stakes for our students are so high. 
Learning is not a frivolous pursuit, but a professional must.’ 
Mark Anderson, Author of The Perfect ICT Lesson – 
It is important for us to question all that we do in the classroom; consider research and theory, consider the views of our students, and be able to reach a carefully reasoned conclusion that we, as professionals, feel confident with. If, at the end of a lesson, the decision we’ve made turns out not to have had the desired benefit on learning then we need to reflect on why and we have a responsibility to ensure it’s different the next time around.
In ‘How to Teach Vocational Education,’ Bill Lucas provides a diagram (see above)  that helps to illustrate the decision making process that occurs when teachers are planning. These are not easy decisions to make and it is essential that we are well-informed enough to make the best decision for our context, subject and learners each time.
Reading College’s ‘Pass It On CPD’ model, ‘Professional Teaching Skills,’ ‘Developing Yourself’ model and accompanying ‘Development Record’ provide every member of staff at the College with a wide range of opportunities to fulfill this responsibility for decision making.

After British cycling success in the 2012 Olympics, many couldn’t stop talking about Dave Brailsford and his approach to coaching the team.
‘The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down
everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike,
and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase
when you put them all together’
– Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s Performance Director – 
The team lived off the principle that if they witnessed, researched and therefore perceived that a single strategy might make a difference, however small, to the performance and success of the team, then they would try it. There was a continual process of learning and refinement based on the knowledge that they could continually improve. You can read more about its translation into other environments here and into education settings here.

Matt Slater wrote about the team, that,

‘There is no arrogance at British Cycling; they know they can do better.’
Chris Hoy said that,
“It’s hard to explain what makes the team so special…
It’s all of it, the science, the training, the coaches,
but most of all we point the mirror at ourselves and ask ‘
how can we get better?’

If we are to reclaim our professionalism from those external influences who have held it to ransom lately then we must meet the associated responsibility to make informed judgements and decisions. No-one else can and should be making those decisions for us. It is therefore essential for us to ensure we are well informed, accessing a range of development opportunities, experimenting with approaches, collaborating with others, reflecting and starting over again. The five Professional Teaching Skills that have been defined after consultation with staff and managers will help to provide a framework for development; with us each working to continually improve these core skills that contribute to great learning.

Today is the day we can each reclaim our professionalism!


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