Evidence based education- What is teaching in the 21st century?

Speakers: Professor Kathryn Ecclestone; Tony Neal; Geoff Petty
Chair: Dr Mark Taylor

Things in schools certainly are changing. Countless education related inquiries (the Assessment Inquiry, the Primary Review and the Good Childhood Inquiry to mention just a few) — let alone the Children’s Plan – promise major changes in schools and what it will mean to teach in the 21st century. There is similarly a growing array of research programmes competing to try and influence educators and sell their evidence – often contradictory – as the most reliable guide to ‘best practice’. The ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme has suggested teachers follow evidence-based commandments (the ten principles of pedagogy).

These evidence-based policies now target an ever expanding number of people involved in the educational process. Education is increasingly ‘outsourced’ to learning guides, support assistants and other ‘key workers’ who facilitate and mentor children to create their own learning outcomes. Teachers working alongside them face new demands for ‘continuing professional development’ in childcare and identifying children’s needs, as well as pressures to consider ideas such as ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ to increase their effectiveness as ‘classroom practitioners’.

Such a confusing scene begs questions about what teachers are for these days. Is a teacher a distinctive academic professional anymore or just one of an array of caring neo-professionals supporting the welfare of the child? Is making teaching a more research-informed profession the best alternative to much-decried ‘here one day, gone the next’ policies and initiatives? Or is evidence-informed pedagogy too narrow and prescriptive an approach to allow for teachers’ autonomy and creativity?

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