Friere, Piaget and Vygotsky are the usual suspects in the theory that underpins many initial teacher training courses, at least in my experience; I am happy to be corrected. The theories of these men, while useful and, in parts, necessary are often presented as the ground truths of teaching and learning or as outright fact.
Over the past few years I have picked up a little bit of knowledge about certain concepts that, if not completely debunking many of these operational fact-theories, certainly voice a challenge to them and I think it would do a lot to develop educators own critical thinking faculties if these concepts were taught alongside the main teacher training dogma.
Many of these ideas I have been exposed to through my own semi-self directed reading about education. I write semi-self directed because although I am choosing which books to read and when, I rely on the recommendations of colleagues and the educators that I follow on twitter.
What do you think are the ‘threshold concepts’ for understanding teaching/learning – i.e. that transformed your practice irreversibly? So one for me – ‘memory is the residue of thought’ from @DTWillingham
Interested to hear others…
— Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) November 4, 2018
While each of these, on their own may not be threshold concepts as such (if such a thing exists) learning about them has had a developmental effect on my thinking as an educator.
In my thirties, I can now begin to trace back my own intellectual interests and growth of knowledge. Originally, I was only interested in biology and things directly related to that field. Working as a teacher, my interest in this subject prompted me to develop my knowledge of neuroscience, among others. From here I developed an interest in the teenage brain and then neuromyths.
The challenge for disciplines that centre the 'lived experience' is that this experience is prone to error (biases, misperceptions etc) and the fact that the most important lived experience is often 'I used to think X but now I think Y'.
— Carl Gombrich (@carlgomb) October 16, 2018
During my PGCE top-up, it was clear that subjective research processes were held to be just as valid as objective research methods. I challenged some of the ideas fed to us about subjective & experienced based research, arguing that evidence needs to be as objective as possible. My ideas were met with some scepticism, but I went ahead and tried to summarise some of the work on educational neuroscience and to do some sort of quantifiable research on teachers understanding of neuromyths.
Have encountered a few people recently who’ve been enamoured with education research and how “science” can help us teach better. These people seem to confuse the explanatory and predictive powers of the physical sciences with what social sciences can do.
— Alom Shaha (@alomshaha) October 30, 2018
Despite the lack of rigour and balanced curriculum, topping up my GTP to a PGCE was worth it. I wanted to do the PGCE because I felt my GTP had not had any academic focus and I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t know much about the theory behind what I was being told to do in the classroom. My PGCE served to get me academically engaged with the educational theory and it is only since I completed it that I have continued to maintain that engagement.
My interest in this area hasn’t abated but as I learn more it has become more nuanced. I agree that we need to be careful interpreting the results of much cognitive research but I do think that it offers that power to help guide us to what may better versus worse pedagogical techniques. They may well help us hone our pedagogical content knowledge.
Currently, these are the ideas that I believe that all teachers should have some training on (in no particular order):
- Crystallised and fluid intelligence
- Flynn effect
- Lindy effect
- Logical fallacies and cognitive biases
- Matthew effect
- Hypercorrection effect & Testing effects
- Problem solving doesn’t guarantee learning
- Familiarity vs understanding
- Expert blindness
- The debate: Traditional aims and progressive aims
- Retrieval strength and storage strength and the power of forgetting
- Spaced practice
Where can you go to get more valuable knowledge on these concepts? Here are some of the resources that I would recommend: