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A practitioner reflects on the rolling out of CfE
CfE consists, very largely, of common sense and good practice. Let us have a look at some of these good teaching practices and let us question whether they have been implemented by those leading CfE with regard to their stakeholders, teachers.
1) Learning intentions should be stated at the start of the lesson.
Clarificaton: There should be a clear end product with step by step progression.
Response: Enough said?
2) Build on previous knowledge of your stakeholders.
Clarification: Before adding a new element, it is advisable to remind pupils/stakeholders of what they already know and make links between that and the new element. This, combined with clear explanations of how to apply the new element, will help build confidence and competence. This will be followed by practice and exercise – with the teacher and with other stakeholders.
Response: Oh, dear.
3) Practice and exercise
Clarification: A considerable variety of methods should be used, bearing in mind varying levels of ability and interest, but all should be accessible and very clearly explained. Models should be used to ensure clarity of understanding and thought – especially if pupils are to be expected to produce something similar by their own initiative. Apart from clear initial explanation and direction for a task, support should be available throughout the exercise – better to catch a small error early on than have to redo the whole exercise at a later date due to lack of comprehension. With this in mind, good lines of communication are essential – teachers should listen to their pupils and respond to any problems they might be having.
4) Summarise what has been learned at the end of the lesson.
Clarification: Remind pupils/stakeholders of what they have learned this lesson, identifying progress and therefore building confidence and an awareness of their own knowledge and worth. Praise and recognition of hard work will be invaluable in this regard.
5) Cross-curricular links
Clarification: Emphasise and discuss the cross-cutting content of the lesson. Broaden the lesson to encompass global issues or issues of social relevance.
6) Encourage self-reliance and initiative
Clarification: Self-reliance and initiative are the ideal outcomes if pupils/stakeholders have access to resources and can develop their own understanding. This process usually requires input and guidance to help master reflection and reinforce knowledge and understanding. The amount of input and guidance will vary with each pupil – not necessarily because of differing levels of ability, but also because of different characters. Input from others will help pupils learn and develop.
Response: This is what I have always understood by “teaching” – helping others to help themselves.
It appears curious, then, that practitioners should be requested – even required – to master a new system without clear identification of objectives and how to achieve them.
Discussion and debate should be encouraged in order to identify what is required to make CfE a success. Those rolling it out should certainly not consider the vague outlines of objectives so far produced as sufficient or fit for purpose. They are merely a start point for further reflection and guidance – reflection and guidance which should come from practitioners themselves, not careerists.
Careerists follow rules and pander to whatever policy is currently imposed because they seek advancement for themselves.
If an education system is operated by careerists, it is difficult to see how true or objective progress can be achieved. There must be an objective beyond mere personal advancement – if everyone talks the same language (no dissent, debate or discussion), “progress” is a sham.
There must be debate and dissent in order to clarify things, and any existing lack of clarity must be recognised if genuine progress is to be made. Progress should not be simply assumed or fabricated by a group of well-intentioned people who promote vague notions rather than specific concepts and ideas, and who may intimidate others into submission if they raise issues.
Most “sceptics” are simply asking questions and are seeking clarification. If the powers that be cannot answer such questions, perhaps these questions should be considered all the more valid.
In any case, to ask a question or raise a doubt is not necessarily to be sceptical. To do so is a professional response and shows reflection on the part of practitioners, and being a reflective practitioner is not only perceived as positive, it is seen as a requirement for future professionals.
Let the powers that be, then, resolve the issues raised by present reflective practitioners rather than suggest they should (or even wish to) accept responsibility for resolving the issues they have raised.
To suggest that reflective practitioners should reflect their way out of a situation imposed by others is mere tautological word-play. It appears curious that practitioners should be requested – even required – to master a new system without clear identification of objectives and how to achieve them.
If things are to change so radically that we will witness the biggest shake-up in Scottish education in some 25 years, it might be an idea to add some flesh to the bones of idealism, and offer substantial examples of the way ahead. After all, few pupils would be able to assimilate a new formula or proposition if it is shown in purely abstract form.
CfE consists, very largely, of common sense and good practice. This is not to say that we cannot develop and spread this good practice – no-one would dream of denying that, but this interpretation is a long way from the impression given in official documents so far produced. The principles of CfE are based on existing good practice – time need not be spent on the identification of such techniques, but rather on how to best implement their use across the education system. This objective is, I would suggest, unlikely to be achieved by announcing a requirement for change without identifying the nature of that change and how to achieve it. Successful practitioners need not be reflective practitioners, and insistence on reflection should not be regarded as a synonym for “passing the buck”.
Stuart Fernie 27/12/09