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For years, as a profession, we have been trying to raise levels of student achievement. Given that the challenge is still on to pursue excellence day by day, often in testing circumstances, this seems like a good time to gather my favourite practices together and share them. Teachers want practical ideas. My experience has been that the quality of teaching and learning improves most readily when practice and theory inform each other.
Making the same point, Frank Zappa, the great American rock musician, once said: Without deviation, progress is not possible. We have to do things differently if we want achievement to improve further. But what? Fortunately, we no longer have to depend on guesswork, trial and error, ideology or flights of philosophical fancy. We can now rely on some fairly secure truths about the learning process. It seems that there are natural laws of learning, some givens, some universal principles that provide a firm foundation for effective practice.
These provide us with compass directions to follow, indicating the best, though not necessarily the easiest, ways forward. Where have they come from? In recent years a huge amount of scientific information about the brain has become available thanks to new neuroscanning technologies. This has been popularised in accelerated learning and through the wealth of print and Internet material on brain-based approaches see Appendix A and Bibliography for details.
What is impressive, and reassuring, is the extent to which this new stuff affirms and refines earlier practices based on the principles of humanistic psychology, holism, cooperation and democracy.
Many older educationalists who held only quasi-scientific notions about teaching and learning — Dewey, Holt and Rogers, for example, whom we shall meet later — have been proved largely right. This current convergence of thinking from a variety of old and new sources — neuroscientific, psychological, sociological and moral — suggests that the main thrust of national policy needs to be rethought. It seems to be barking up the wrong tree. The practical techniques inspired by current thinking are sufficiently self-contained to be conducted within the confines of your own four walls.
In some cases the strategies of yesteryear belonging to the older, recently reaffirmed thinking, can be dusted down and reused with confidence. Classroom techniques created in the days of active learning, student-centred learning, drama across the curriculum, flexible learning and supported self-study, and belonging to initiatives such as the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, Active Tutorial Work, even Raising of the School-Leaving Age well before my time!
These ideas always were effective, and now we know why. They just got buried under the pile of prescription that is the national curriculum.
So, where is this particular collection from? Over the 22 years that I have worked in schools — as a teacher, head of department, advisory teacher, staff development tutor and freelance trainer — I have learned my craft from many remarkable people.
Without doubt the deepest and most pervasive influence has been Dr Donna Brandes, the internationally renowned student-centred educator. Donna brought into my young professional life, at a time when I am ashamed to say that students called me Hitler , a coherent person-centred philosophy and skill set.
The ideas stretched me to the limit but resonated strongly with the deep values of my theological training and so created the kind of congruence in my teaching that I had been seeking. Over the years that we worked and wrote together she taught me how to trust students, how to be myself in the classroom, how to pursue the goals of self-esteem and personal responsibility above all and let everything else fall into place. A master practitioner herself, she showed me the power of optimism, unconditional regard and self-belief.
The second greatest influence on my thinking has been my good friend Professor Roland Meighan. Roland taught me to see the big picture, to understand what is happening socioeconomically and politically within and beyond schools. He showed me the true nature of democracy and cooperation, the value of nonconventional and free-spirited thinking and the place of pioneering action. He continues to model the winning combination of hard-hitting analysis, humane values, sharp wit and genuine warmth.
Then there is my wife Sharon. She taught me how to use drama, how to trust intuition, how to think laterally and how to be daring in the classroom. Her creativity and spontaneity I aspire to. The fourth, but by no means least, significant influence is my close friend and colleague Peter Batty, the ultimate reflective practitioner and man of integrity. Peter has taught me to slow down, to make room for learning, not just teaching.
He has shown me how to trust the process, how to value reflection and review, how to let principles be the guide to practice, and how to live a little.
So, you will no doubt get to know these characters as you read between the lines of the pages that follow. Beyond them are countless teachers, headteachers, advisers and trainers who have taught me, often unknowingly, crucial lessons. The ones that are mine have been fashioned from experiences in thousands of classrooms in hundreds of secondary schools of all types around the country. In fact, every practical suggestion has been thoroughly road-tested, often with difficult classes and always in a variety of subjects and with different age groups.
In the hands of skilful teachers, they have almost always had positive effects on motivation, discipline and the quality of learning. Now, at last, I can get back to listening to my jukebox and going to some home games at the Britannia Stadium. Paul Ginnis.
For years, as a profession, we have been trying to raise levels of student achievement. Given that the challenge is still on to pursue excellence day by day, often in testing circumstances, this seems like a good time to gather my favourite practices together and share them. Teachers want practical ideas. My experience has been that the quality of teaching and learning improves most readily when practice and theory inform each other. Making the same point, Frank Zappa, the great American rock musician, once said: Without deviation, progress is not possible. We have to do things differently if we want achievement to improve further. But what?
The Teacher's Toolkit: Raise classroom achievement with strategies for every learner
Ross Morrison McGill Ross Morrison McGill Ross is the founder of TeacherToolkit; an experienced teacher and school leader who has worked in some of the most challenging schools in London over the past three decades. Specialism Whole-school leadership; teaching and learning; social media Teacher workload, wellbeing, and mental health. He has been a senior leader for the last 7 years in a successful all-through academy working across 5 key stages. Chris has now worked in over schools across England and Wales. Specialism Coaching for teachers and schools Whole-school professional development.
The teacher's toolkit
Please click button to get the teacher s toolkit book now. Start Listening Today. There is a paul ginnis teachers toolkit pdf section in the book detailing dozens of effective teaching strategies that anyone can try, each one saying how it could be adapted for each. New upgraded! Introducing the new Firefox browser.