Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Too much reliance on 'experts' and not enough common sense

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There are experts these days to teach you everything you didn’t want to know.

Education 'delivered' by contract, seminars and outcomes - true expertise is over looked in the process!

Many years ago it was shown that the In- Service Education provided (the old word for courses), although often fun, didn’t really change much in the classroom. The ones that had the most effect were presented by classroom teachers, or where you had an opportunity to visit to see a class in action.

It seems that teachers respect what real people, like themselves, do in classrooms. All too often today’s facilitators are presenting ideas designed by a distant group of ‘experts’ who have long since forgotten the white heat and creative confusion that teaching all too often is is. They even imagine teachers would sit down plan how they will teach whatever, and will have time to calmly evaluate it. This is without even considering first, that whatever little bits they are recording, are actually worth the time to do so.

There seems no appreciation that creative teachers make thousands of decisions a day and automatically receive, and give feedback; all integrated into the process of living and learning in the classroom. To collect all this material, and to record and graph it – in the name of ‘evidence based teaching’, is just too silly for words .I guess it makes sense to educational researchers who have the time – and who actually believe in it. True education cannot be so easily graphed.

It is about time teachers reclaimed their authority and made their voices heard. All the flash curriculums supplied to them to 'deliver' just haven’t worked and, worse still, have left teachers feeling their own professionalism judgment is at risk.

Teachers do not want a constant barrage of new ideas thrown at them from outside the school. They need instead guidance and support from colleagues who know where they are going, and what they are doing, and who share some commitment to help each other get there’, so said David Stewart in 1993.

Since the early 90s teachers have to put up with an endless cycle of compliance requirements, confusing curriculums and impossible assessment demands designed by distant technocrats.

What is required now is for schools to tap into the expertise and wisdom within, and between each school, and to learn from and share such ‘best practices’ with each other.

It is over to teachers to claim back this need to focus on teaching and learning on their own terms. All those experts would fall apart if they had to stay in a classroom and actually take their own advice.

Don’t spent time worrying about crossing the road, just do it!


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I believe the total environment that teachers create - the emotional, the physical, the intellectual press, the relationships, the clear expectations, are all more important that fussing around measuring the little bits. This is all about the infectious power of a stimulating learning culture. Kind of creating a 'force field' of learning. Magic!

Bruce Hammonds said...

What you have written sums up what I beleieve will be the key to education in the 21stC - when we get past our desire to control and measure bits of learning. It will be about interpreting and expressing experience.

Anonymous said...

We have done fragmentation, measurement, competition and individualism to our death - holism, integration, community and connection are the future.

Bruce Hammonds said...

But it will take our slow to learn education system decades to realize this. They are the ultimate slow learners and put their students, and us all, at great risk!

Rachel Whalley said...

I love your term 'white heat'! :-)
As a 'Facilitator' i am acutely aware of the day to day demands of classroom teachers and wonder how i can best support them without becoming part of the problem...It's a challenge but i guess i just put myself out there - where are you now? where would you like to be? have you thought of this? how can i help you??? Helping share all the great things that are happening in our classrooms with other teachers. Just a real pain that this is inside a MOE contract & we have to write so many milestones, action plans, survey our teachers, performance measures & targets...aah We have some great meetings with our leading team bouncing ideas all over the place & i am sitting there thinking i have to try and write all this stuff into milestone tasks!!??!! If we don't do it we don't get the $$$ I'd like to just get stuck in & do it but at times feel decidedly hamstrung by 'requirements'

Anonymous said...

Principals will have to learn to be braver and just say no!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all that Bruce writes, but some of the most important aspects are not really considered in many schools. It would be great to have an alignment of parents, kids, teachers. It's the parents that can make or break a school.I could imagine how powerfull a school would be if it had the total support and commitment from all involved. The most creative teacher/ facilitator needs to be significant to the kids and the parents. It is this significance that causes the kid to achieve goals that they may see no need to acheive! but do it all the same, simply to please the person they feel cares for them. To be significant sometimes you have to share your life with the families and this is a difficult thing to do.

Unknown said...

Hi Bruce,

Nice entry. Expertise is a challenging problem in education. I recently spent some time trying to precisely identify what the nature of the problem is and wrote an entry called Curriculum: The Design of the Prerequisite (

A great deal of my own work in education has been focused on finding creative ways to overcome the issues you describe. You might be interested in exploring The Virtual Community Project ( as well as a more recent project called Connected Intelligence (


Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks everyone - couldn't agree more with all your points.

Too much time wasted proving what you've done in education these days and not enough time just enjoying the journey.