Raising academic achievement should not just be about improved performance in examinations, it should be about improving intelligence. This can be achieved by changing how subjects are taught and what material is delivered. Modern day education should place a greater emphasis on developing a wider range of thinking skills rather than sticking to the tried and tested. The present emphasis on recall is doing a disservice to pupils, to the teaching profession and to society as a whole.
“The world economy no longer pays for what people know but for what they can do with what they know.” (Andreas Schleicher, OECD deputy director)
As a result of an over laden curriculum and the pressures of having to work to targets, be they National Curriculum levels or examination grades, the art of teaching has been compromised, with many stretching for ‘off the shelf’ schemes of work that take away the burden of lesson preparation and, unfortunately, some of the responsibility for what goes on in the classroom. Learning has become a means to end. What is absorbed one day is forgotten the next.
“Never memorize something that you can look up in a book.”(Albert Einstein)
There is another, more rewarding method of teaching, one that reduces the incidence of poor behaviour in the classroom and one that also has another significant advantage, it raises academic achievement. This methodology facilitates ‘accelerated learning’ as well as developing thinking skills such as problem solving and reasoning.
The principles are simple:
- Assume zero knowledge at the start, introducing the key word/title of the topic.
- Develop the concept using a constructivist approach.
- Build the concept like layers of a cake, always starting in the ‘concrete’ then lead into the more ‘abstract’ as appropriate to a child’s capability.
- The stages are clearly differentiated, indicating what stage children are at in terms of their cognitive development.
- All this should take place in ‘guided’ heuristic style where the teacher rarely gives answers but rather asks Socratic based questions (leading ones if needed).
- If all this is put into a context then the work is brought into life.
Using this template, pupils build up their own schemas and with it a deeper understanding of the concept involved. The work starts slowly at first but then understanding becomes exponential as the child gains in confidence. Behaviour improves as the self-esteem of pupils rises. They become motivated and seek the challenge of increasingly harder problem solving situations. There is more information on this approach in my essay which is available on Kindle.
“The world cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Einstein