Do some people just have that something special? Are others doomed to fail? Or is brilliant teaching something that can be taught?
According to Matt Hood, in his session at the Headteachers Roundtable Summit, the myth that ‘great teachers are born not made’ needs busting. I tend to agree, although there was a bit of debate around this. No one in the room pointed to any evidence to suggest that there is a set of characteristics that gives someone the pre-disposition to become a great teacher, so if you do know of research, please share in the comments below!
Give every teacher a chance to be ‘made’
I still hear school leaders and speakers at conferences talking about CPD as something you ‘send staff on’. We need to change this mindset. Research shows that if presented with the theory alone, only 5% of people are able to apply what they learn on a course into classroom practice. What about the other 95% of teachers? We need to recognise that professional development isn't something you go on, it's something that can (and should) happen all the time in classrooms and schools.
Teaching is a complex, multifaceted profession that takes years to master. The training and professional development on offer needs to start living up to what this complexity requires (and what teachers and students deserve).
Provide training and development opportunities that actually help your teachers be great
Rather than asking ‘what makes a good teacher?’ would we be better focusing on ‘what makes good teaching?’ [Tweet this]. Would this encourage more research, enquiry and professional dialogue? Would this help to create a professional culture in which teachers are more open to sharing practice, observing one another's lessons and using tools like video to analyse teaching and learning? The key here is that the focus is on the teaching and learning, not the teachers and learners.
CPD budget should be sacred not slashed
When we know that the quality of teaching is the most important controllable factor affecting student outcomes....schools need to keep investing in CPD if they want to retain staff and maintain and improve standards (and the government needs to listen up too).
New data from the Teacher Development Trust about schools spending on CPD is concerning:
- Over 21,000 teachers are employed in schools which report zero or near-zero CPD budget
- Schools rated Inadequate by Ofsted spend around 20% less on CPD than other schools, as a proportion of their total budget
- Across the sector, the median spend on CPD is 0.7% of the school’s overall budget
- The average spend on staff development per pupil is just £33
There’s also research to indicate that having provisions to grow and develop in their practice is becoming increasingly important to young teachers. This is something needs attention considering the recruitment and retention crisis.
If you want to know what makes a good teacher, start focusing on what makes great teaching learning and provide the support needed to embed changes into classroom practice.