From education to employment

Rushed curriculum leaves teenagers unskilled

Teaching staff across the nation are bracing themselves for the August onslaught of exam results, as government policies on education look set to spectacularly backfire.

According to a research project led by Professor Mary James, of the Institute of Education, increasing government pressure to meet performance targets and teaching the curriculum in haste will effectively result in teenagers leaving schools and colleges without the necessary skills.

“Unfortunately, the pressures to meet performance targets were constraining how teachers teach for the majority of the teachers in our research, and reducing their ability to give students the skills they need”, explains Professor James, formerly Director of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP).

The research concluded that of Professor James” sample, only 20% of teachers felt able to put effective teaching for learning before teaching to targets and tests. Furthermore, their survey of 558 classroom teachers, including interviews with 42, revealed that the majority felt a tension between helping students to be more effective and independent learners and pushing to meet performance targets.

“Teachers know that the days are long gone when children could learn everything they needed to know in life during their school days”, Professor James commented. “Teachers want to help children become more effective learners. This means helping them to learn how to learn and to understand standards of high quality learning, having proper conversations in the classroom, making the most of the knowledge children bring into the school from outside, and helping children assess their own learning.”

According to her research, teaching in this way allows children to take more responsibility and produces more effective teaching and learning. Indeed, of the survey, teachers who held a strong sense of their own responsibility and worked in the belief that they could make a difference usually gave priority to helping students become independent learners. And one school where this proved the norm belief for most of the teaching staff yielded exam results that were exceptionally good. Her research concluded that if teachers concentrated on good learning, results will follow without teaching to the test.

She concluded: “The system should reduce their significance, and create incentives for schools to make sure children become effective learners. That would make for better learning as well as happier teachers”.

Vijay Pattni.

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