Monthly Archives: February 2013

Taylor & Francis Online :: Confidence, risk, and the journey into praxis: work-based learning and teacher development – Journal of Education for Teaching – Volume 39, Issue 2

I am really pleased to share the publication of a jointly authored article (with Dr Kevin Orr, Wayne Bailey and Jane Wormald) about initial teacher education.

This article examines the relationship between confidence and risk in relation to the initial education and continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers. The context for this examination is the Lifelong Learning Sector (LLS) in England, which sits between secondary schools and universities, and the discussion is illustrated with data gathered from trainee teachers in this sector. Understandings of confidence are considered and it is argued that the inculcation of confidence through risk-taking is important for new teachers in their journey to praxis. The article concludes by arguing that the transformative potential of critical engagement with professional knowledge on teacher education courses and through work-based learning (WBL) should be balanced with the need for the good and appropriate time necessary for the risky political act of reflection, not merely the immediate technical evaluation of practice.

Taylor & Francis Online :: Confidence, risk, and the journey into praxis: work-based learning and teacher development – Journal of Education for Teaching – Volume 39, Issue 2.


EPIC 2020

EPIC 2020, stands for the proposition that the education of the world will change dramatically for the better during this decade. This site attempts to provide ideas that shatter the paradigm that the future will be anything like the past. The site is also my individual effort to provide a reasonably comprehensible resource of materials and tools related to online learning.  If you would like to be kept current please join the EPIC 2020 Facebook group in the upper right. The EPIC 2020 video below was created as an out of the box stimulus to think in new ways about education.

Comments from Martin Van Der Werf, The College of Education Blog“Will higher education collapse in this manner? No, this is far too simplistic. But are there grains of truth and seeds of nightmares in this? I would argue Yes. This video should inspire a mixture…

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Fascinating ideas. Any takers for an experiment with FE students?

What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours? Six nudges.


I have been teaching in further education since 1995, and looking back I didn’t appreciate how much my professional practice has been affected by the range of funding regimes. I accepted the rationale behind initiatives that reduced my time spent with students without realising that the quality of the student experience was being sacrificed in order to maximise funding. I didn’t question why the gains made didn’t seem to find their way into my classroom.

The Ofqual blog has prompted me to offer six nudges to any future thinking on funding methodology.  Many thanks to Bob Harrison for starting me off.

#1. Field of dreams: provide a funding methodology that focusses on process and the student, not units of production.

Any funding methodology needs to have the learner experience at the heart of the process. In recent years there has been an assumption that outcomes are already known, so curricula has been written around them. Clearly this logic is flawed. Granted there is a body of knowledge, and sometimes a known set of skills attached to curricula, but the outcome belongs to the the individual (curriculum as experienced) not the institution or the funding regime. Managerialist thinking has made the mistake of thinking that students are cans of beans. They are not. The Finnish system of education has taught me that where teachers are left to teach what they know is useful, interesting and engaging, students learn and flourish. Their outcomes are good, and they progress to their next study stage or employment with the confidence that they have achieved well. By building curricula from the foundations and researching the process (collecting data through formative assessment then coding and measuring that data) teachers and students learn. Build-measure-learn.

#2. Trust, responsibility and autonomy: provide a funding methodology that focusses on teachers making decisions about time and space in curriculum planning.

Teachers should be trusted to teach. Teachers need to take responsibility for their own development. Teachers need to feel that they belong to a community which can act autonomously in the best interests of those they serve – their students. I am regularly dismayed when I hear of  a good teacher who leaves the PGCE well equipped to begin his career in teaching only to report a gradual de-skilling through the pernicious management and control regimes. Mistakes, poor planning, unruly students, low achievement etc are part and parcel of the development of professional practice.  To think that by auditing and measuring, intervening and setting up capability mechanisms professional practice will improve is to miss the basic point that experience comes with practice, practice needs to be sustained and mistakes are how we learn.

#3. The teacher as researcher: provide a funding methodology that promotes research and curriculum development.

No other profession would allow its activities to ossify in the way that we have allowed in teaching. An outmoded industrial mentality still persists (see Ken Robinson – Changing Educational Paradigms), fuelled by the superstructure and educational reproduction ideologies (see Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). Tinkering at the edges (iPads in classrooms for example) fails to appreciate the diversity of activities that teachers promote and facilitate every day. Awarding bodies control the curriculum and all sections of society have a vested interest in a status quo, apart from the ones going through the process and they are rejecting the classroom in droves. Let teachers build, measure and learn alongside their students. A teacher is a researcher, just like a medic, and their practice will develop if they are encouraged to research.

#4. Trust, violence and responsibility (Biesta 2005) : find a funding methodology that reclaims teaching and education at the heart of the process.

When students are unruly attempts are made to ‘get the buggers to behave’. Whoever coined that phrase should be hounded out of the profession! Students behave inappropriately for a variety of reasons, and while their actions may be inappropriate at the time, their reasoning is usually very sound. Students know when they are being warehoused in the name of ‘learning’. Students are bored, especially with the five part lesson, especially in sixth forms, especially when they hear aims and objectives ‘shared’ at the beginning of the lesson. Why do teachers persist in ‘meeting every learner’s need’, having something for every ‘learning style’ or ‘multiple intelligence’? Because their grade depends on it. This is such nonsense and our students know it. Bring the students into the process. Share the vision not the outcomes, share the passion not the method. When students begin to think they are not a unit of production they will like the fact that their brains hurt.

#5. Pedagogy first: find a funding methodology that promotes pedagogy

We know that ‘pedagogy’ is a funny word. It sounds odd, a bit like ‘curriculum’, it is learned on a teacher education course and then promptly jettisoned in the drive to ‘deliver’ and administer classes. While ever accountants control the budget good pedagogy hasn’t got a chance. What does an accountant know about education? Nothing – and why would they? A teacher is not expected to be an accountant… no wait, actually they are!

The question of what is educationally desirable for a particular course is rarely asked. it should be the first question. Let’s take ourselves outside education for some parallels. The horsemeat scandal – G4S – Mid Staffs – Winterborne. One thing they all have in common is the drive to reduce cost without an understanding of the implications on the quality of outcome (food that is what it claims the be, sufficiently trained staff to support an event, patients who live, people who receive basic human kindness). How much does a typical college spend on teaching as a proportion of its overall costs? It should be a large proportion and be so proud of it that it is on the home page of their websites.

#6. Learn from the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement and Massive Open Online Pedagogy (MOOP): find a funding methodology that takes education out of the marketplace.

Buildings have to be paid for, staff have to be paid, libraries have to be stocked, college executives have to apply governance. All this costs money which has to come from somewhere. But education is not a commodity. Credentialism has created a market but it is a false one, based on a false premise. We all know this because we spend our adult time researching and learning using social media, f2f networks and online fora. Hundreds of thousands of us enrol on MOOCS, and millions of us use online tutorials to help us to understand a tricky problem. Some of us rely on our social and cultural capital to get by and get on.  We don’t ask for a certificate of achievement after we’ve solved our problem. Our credentials are there to wave when we need that first or next rung on the employment ladder. They do not represent the sum of all that we are, so why peddle this ridiculous notion to our young people? If employability is the new mantra then stop subsidising employers by doing their training for them. Make them pay a proper price for the training that colleges do (very successfully in most cases). If basic skills are lacking in 16 year olds then tackle the schools’ funding methodology first. Ask why our 16 year olds arrive in college with poor literacy and numeracy after 10 years of schooling. Colleges have about 2 years to compensate for the deficit caused by poor schooling, and add some vocational value for employers to benefit from. The funding methodology should recognise this and fund it as generously as in schools.

What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours? – Ofqual

Last night I was busy minding my own business on @Twitter reading and retweeting. I like to know what’s going on in the world of FE and the skills agenda, and I follow @NickLinford as he is always on top of things. I caught a conversation between Nick and @bobharrisonset (another mine of information). It seemed as if there was a little disagreement going on:


so of course I waded in.

Well one thing lead to another, including getting incensed at the word “delivery” as if it describes what teachers do:

Bob pointed me to the Ofqual website and you can read it here, including my comment:

What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours? – Ofqual.

I said that GLH in principle are all the things stated in the viewpoint, and on the face of they perfectly acceptable as a way of measuring student entitlement. However it is the reductionist way that they are used in institutions to compact curricula and tie teachers to physical spaces that causes the problem with regard to the poor outcomes achieved by a significant number of courses. Far from ensuring quality of experience and outcome they serve as a blunt surveillance tool managed by accountants. Teachers are the best people to know how many hours should be allocated, including whole group teaching, seminar, tutorial and supervised study/practice. Find a funding formula that allows professionals to thrive in a culture of education.

The reply from Bethany Hughes was positive, promising a review to look into GLH. I am keen to be part of that consultation and would welcome the opportunity to reflect a philosophical, professional perspective. Since the demise of the FTE as a funding formula FE has been managed by accountants, keen to balance the books (not a bad thing in itself), but not in  a position to understand that ‘delivery’ based models and methodologies have no place in an education process. More to come on this when I’ve thought about the things that I would suggest to the minister for skills Matthew Hancock.



No, I’m not asking whether you have finally lost it, but whether you are participating in perhaps the most revolutionary innovation in education over the last 50 years.  “Flipping the Classroom” is a concept which arose from the incredible success of the Khan Academy.  Essentially, the concept is based on the fact that teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge ( in fact recent surveys have shown that learners are much more likely to Google for information than to ask their teachers or their families).  If that is the case, then the traditional role of a teacher to impart knowledge, becomes  outdated and inefficient.  Again, traditionally, students have been expected to embed and apply their learning by doing “homework”.  But what happens if they get stuck and need additional support? With another recent survey showing that 9 out of 10 parents were unable to successfully complete a short…

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