Champion: winner, hero, victor, conqueror, warrior, patron, guardian.
The Guardian’s “Long Read” often contains interesting articles on a variety of subjects. This week, spread over three pages, it posed the question, “Could this man transform your child’s education?” [On the website it appears as “The revolution that could change the way your child is taught“] So is Doug Lemov a transformer or a revolutionary? Is he both? Or neither?
Mr Lemov’s book, Teach Like A Champion, has sold well is his native America, as well as in the UK and elsewhere. Ian Leslie’s article sums up its key ideas as
1) Teachers should position themselves at vantage points or ‘hotspots’ from where they can see the faces of their pupils.
2) Give children adequate time to consider questions; don’t let the quickest to put their hands up dictate the pace of the lesson. Don’t let the slowest switch off.
3) Repeat questions during thinking time.
4) Check that every pupil is paying attention to whoever is speaking.
5) Silence those who are speaking to classmates.
6) Move around the classroom; don’t stay rooted at the front.
7) Correct poor behaviour without embarrassing those who need correction.
8) Keep smiling; convey warmth.
9) Vary the volume of your voice in order to convey enthusiasm for the topic.
10) Aim to make children avid for learning.
11) Be prepared to put in “thousands of hours of deliberate, carefully considered practise”.
12) Stand still when giving instructions.
13) Call on students to answer questions regardless of whether they have raised their hands (“cold calling”)
14) Make sure that students are aware they may be “cold called”.
15) Make sure pupils understand the various procedures and expectations, and why they exist.
16) “Over-explain everything”. Ensure pupils are “signed up” for “hard work, trust and fairness”.
17) Make critical feedback encouraging (“positive framing”)
The article goes on to say,
Hardly anything matters more than education, yet when we talk about education we spend a lot of time arguing over things that do not matter very much. Class sizes, uniforms, curriculum design, which politician runs the Department for Education – none of our favourite flashpoints make a lot of difference to whether children do well at school. For all that parents worry over which school to send their children to, more important is who teaches them when they get there. Professor John Hattie, of the University of Melbourne, has undertaken a rigorous assessment of the thousands of empirical studies that have been carried out on educational achievement. He concluded that, other than the raw cognitive ability of the child herself, only one variable really counts: “What teachers do, know and care about.”
After years of debate among academics and politicians over how to raise teacher standards, the problem is being solved by the practitioners. And it has become apparent that the noisy argument over “bad teachers” was drowning out a much better question: how do you turn a bad teacher into a good one?
And what makes a good teacher good?
Our brief observations:
1) All of the above has been considered and spoken about by teachers and teacher trainers for several decades, if not longer. Lemov himself says he’s only passing on what he’s seen good teachers doing – i.e. teachers working in highly effective schools, as defined by their pupils’ success in timed tests and exams.
2) All of the above relates to classrooms where teachers are concerned primarily with the transmission of knowledge – asking questions, receiving answers, consolidating the retention of information. There’s no consideration here of cooperative or collaborative learning since it’s assumed that the pace of learning should be driven by the teacher at the centre of everything. There’s no mention here of children learning how to collaborate or learning crucial social skills. It’s assumed that children learn more and learn faster when they don’t communicate with one another? And even if that’s true – are speed and curriculum coverage the keys to a great education? Is there no merit in “Slow Education“?
3) None of the above relates to how children might “learn like a champion”. The focus is on teaching, not learning. None of it concerns how children might become independent, active, self-motivated learners. None of it involves children learning how to learn. None of it concerns children using their creativity or imagination, or honing their independent research skills.
4) There’s no mention here of children at different levels of learning, or of children with special educational needs. Are we really saying that the classes he observed are so homogenous the children can all cope with whatever is being offered in the way of maths, physics, foreign languages, etc?
5) None of the above concerns children learning how to formulate and express their own questions, ideas and opinions. None of it addresses artistic creativity and expression, drama, dance, drawing, design, etc.
This article suggests we could be at the dawn of a ‘revolution’ in teaching, and its readers may be drawn into thinking that the model of teaching and schooling suggested here is the one best suited to learning in the 21st Century. We’re by no means the only ones who think it isn’t. We’re not saying these tips for teachers are useless or invalid – we’ve used these techniques ourselves with various age groups over many years – some more than others, depending on the needs of the children and the curriculum to be covered.
These ideas are part of the story of improving education, but there’s so much more to successful teaching and learning than this article would have us believe. Yes, let’s raise attainment – but let’s consider other aspects of achievement and what’s involved in enabling all children to enjoy the broad and rich education that really good schools provide. It’s fine to list the ways in which successful teachers get results, but let’s also consider the needs of learners and how they can become successful, enthusiastic, independent and lifelong learners.
For a review of Doug Lemov’s book, try this one by Tim Taylor – http://www.imaginative-inquiry.co.uk/2015/03/review-teach-like-a-champion/
The Future of Education – in Finland and Elsewhere – plus links at the foot of this article