A New Kind of Teacher, Pedagogical Expertise, and a World of Infinite Possibilities

We’ve written in a previous blog about Peter Hyman and the ‘free school’ he’s setting up in Stratford, East London. He’s now written a column in this week’s Times Educational Supplement:

There’s more to you than your subject

If we want children to succeed in the 21st century, we need a new kind of teacher, says Peter Hyman

If we are to prepare children to succeed in the 21st century, then teaching and learning have to change dramatically. That is the conclusion we have come to while planning to set up School 21, a new 4 to 18 school in Stratford, East London.

If we want children to leave school at 18 ready for anything thrown at them, then we need to cultivate (adapting Howard Gardner) what might be called five minds for success: a disciplined mind, a reflective mind, a respectful mind, a creative mind and a communicating mind.

To do this effectively we need teachers who can do more than impart subject knowledge, important though that is. It is time to move beyond the stale debate about whether teachers should be a “sage on the stage” or a “guide on the side”. The truth is we should be both, and much more besides. In this respect there is a lot that secondary schools can learn from the best primaries.

Teachers in the 21st century will need to be able to deliver: mastery lessons that personalise learning so pupils can address specific weaknesses in, for example, grammar or a language; Harkness tables where 12 pupils can sit around an oval table debating issues to a high level and thinking deeply; project-based learning that culminates in pupils creating an extraordinary product (an exhibition, presentation, performance, etc); one-to-one coaching where a pupil works through their own learning dashboard; and advisory groups of 15 where pupils share their learning experiences and goals and work out how to do better.

This is what we are attempting at School 21. If we get it right, then pupils will be far more likely to become problem-solvers, critical thinkers, team players, risk takers and creative citizens.

We are recruiting teachers at the moment, and offering them the chance to have a far richer and more stimulating timetable. For the teachers I have spoken to, this is the kind of revolution they are desperate for. Instead of what amounts too often to the drudgery of one-hour lessons, 30 in a class and the same behaviour management issues, we plan a variety of lessons, with different sizes of class, different settings and different goals. Teachers are able to teach the whole child, and to use a range of coaching, mentoring, facilitating and subject skills in rich and varied ways.

These different ways of teaching will need a high level of pedagogical expertise if they are to prove effective. We need to do more to support action research, reflective practice, and deep knowledge and expertise in teaching and learning. That is why we will give every teacher a generous bursary to pursue their own professional development. All teachers will need proper training in coaching techniques, questioning techniques, child development, differentiation and language acquisition.

If this is what we ask from teachers, then teacher training needs to change. I fear that teaching schools might end up merely replicating old models of teaching: a teacher attached to a single department, trained to do no more than teach curriculum content. We need a teacher-training process that supports a new and more varied role for teachers so that they are equipped to teach in a range of settings.

The more we have thought about this new role for teachers, the more we have realised that some of the old senior leadership structures are outdated. If we want teaching and learning to drive a school, then the hierarchy needs to be flatter, less top-down, with leading teachers involved in every aspect of running the school.

Teaching is the best job in the world. But too often it grinds people down. To make it the stimulating, exciting and truly rewarding job it should be, we need to give teachers the chance to help all children take control of their lives and prepare themselves for a world of infinite possibilities.


Whilst we don’t agree entirely with Mr Hyman’s concept of “5 minds”, we can see that it’s based on the idea of multiple intelligences and creativity, which of course we completely agree with. We can certainly agree also that “teaching and learning have to change dramatically” in a great many schools.

Thank goodness there are people like Peter Hyman and his colleagues who are daring to work within the state system and yet do it a way that’s radical, original and based entirely on the needs of pupils for learning that will enable them to become “problem-solvers, critical thinkers, team players, risk takers and creative citizens.” We wish them the best of luck.

See also:


In our next blog we’ll take a look at the Finnish educational system and its expectations of teachers.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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5 Responses to A New Kind of Teacher, Pedagogical Expertise, and a World of Infinite Possibilities

  1. Pingback: A New Kind of Teacher, Pedagogical Expertise, and a World of Infinite Possibilities « Welcome on Rita's Spiritual Blog

  2. 3D Eye says:

    And thank you, bensten, for these words of encouragement. They mean a lot to us, as we try to put together our 3Di blog as a resource and a meeting place for people who want to share ideas and function as ‘critical friends’ to what is currently happening within our systems of education. One hesitates to use words like ‘idiotic’ within our blogs, but we sometimes feel driven to it by the actions and beliefs of those who try to drive our system ever more desperately down roads that are clearly dead ends as far as the majority of pupils are concerned, since all pupils deserve positive and enjoyable school experiences that are free of unwarranted stress, pressure and unreasonable expectations, and fail to develop every intelligence as well as latent creativity.

    I hope you and your colleagues who are shaping a vision for a Charter School find some interest in the reports we’re posting on the Finnish system of education. We’ll aim to keep up with the developments at School 21 and also post more reports as we learn more about it.


  3. bensten says:

    I appreciate how Hyman’s model treats teachers as intelligent and responsive professionals who are “… able to teach the whole child, and to use a range of coaching, mentoring, facilitating and subject skills in rich and varied ways.”

    Here in the US the movement is more and more towards a scripted, “robotronic” teaching model which demands less and less improvisation and judgement on the part of the teacher. Very uninspiring, and thus check out our teacher burn out rates…

    Great piece of cutting edge news, and thanks for sharing.


    • 3D Eye says:

      Thanks for this, bensten. Unfortunately the majority of teachers in England complain about the centralising tendencies in our system, and about political/bureaucratic efforts to micromanage what happens in classrooms. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear about School 21, which is probably the only one of the new ‘free schools’ that is taking a radical new approach to learning and teaching in an effort to drag pedagogy here into the current century. If there are any more, then we haven’t heard about them.

      The majority of the free schools have been set up to impose on their pupils to ever greater degrees ‘traditional’ approaches to teaching and learning, with the sole emphasis, in many cases, on raising performance in timed tests and exams. This is not to say that there aren’t any brilliant schools within the state system, because there clearly are – but they exist in spite of, and not because of, political and bureaucratic interference during the past several decades, and also pressure to raise ‘attainment’ to the detriment of all else, on the spurious grounds that it’s only through achieving high scores in tests and exams that young people can do well in life.

      This is a miserablist and plainly idiotic philosophy, if you can dignify it with such a word, and thankfully more and more people are waking up to the fact that all of our children have a right to a creative and enjoyable experience in schools, and they have a right to learn how to become independent and creative learners who can take responsibility for their own lifelong learning and the development of all their intelligences and talents, rather than sacrificing them on the altar of so-called academic success.

      By all means let us help all pupils to achieve high standards in public examinations, in order that they can pursue higher education and careers in their chosen professions, but for the sake of the less academically gifted let’s stop turning our education system into a rat race which has turned many English children (and also many American children) into the most unhappy in the developed countries, according to UNESCO.

      School 21 seems like very good news, and we’re glad you enjoyed hearing about it.


      • bensten says:

        Extremely well put. The rational but passionate tone of your reply has an almost manifesto like quality, but I mean that in the most positive of senses. I hope that both the logic and passion draw more and more people “on board” to a vision of education that does match this century. I really look forward to tracking the progress of School 21 via 3Di. Thanks again for the work you are doing on this blog. It happens to be a great inspiration for me and some colleagues who are shaping up a vision for a Charter School here in the US, which I believe would be the equivalent to the “New Schools” you refer to in your post.


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