For some, the start of a new year means healthier eating and more exercise. For others, it represents an opportunity to set goals and be more successful.
So, what about teachers? Well, it’s fair to say that most in education will have a number of hopes and fears for 2020, which are likely to include the following.
Reducing teacher workload
This is sure to be top of the list for several teachers in 2020. The only problem is getting to the root cause of teacher workload – research suggests that ‘school leaders’ are to blame. However, one survey suggests that there has been a tipping point: School inspections appear to be driving teacher workload, rather than school leadership.
This calls for teachers to question their choices, habits and perceptions of ‘what works?’ For example, cognitive biases can often influence the way we think and work with others, which doesn’t always lead to positive teaching outcomes.
Challenging frequency and compliance methods
In recent years, schools working with disadvantaged pupils, as well as those in particular regions of England, have been applying ‘frequency and compliance‘ methods upon their teachers. The only schools that buck this trend are those recently labelled as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.
The notion that teachers can determine a child’s progress from an exercise book is potentially dangerous and a poor proxy for learning. After all, if a school insists that teachers mark books once every two weeks, who would want to work there?
Making meetings more meaningful
If you were to ask teachers up and down the country whether they like the meetings, you’d be hard pushed to find many putting their hand up straight away. It’s one of the top things listed by teachers (DfE workload surveys 2013 and 2016) that increased their workload.
This is why a different approach to meetings is required. Share the agenda in advance, make sure the chair keeps to time and give everyone a voice, present professional development opportunities and don’t overlook the importance of more relaxed get-togethers such as stand-ups or walkabout meetings.
Encouraging mental health conversations
Even though many schools are excellent in managing pupil mental health, they struggle to manage their own teachers’ wellbeing, especially when it comes to discussing the issue.
This is despite the fact that schools which are achieving collective teacher efficacy, protect teacher professional development fiercely and regularly access internal action research and external publications to interrogate, interpret and inform teaching pedagogy.
Championing cognitive science
“Cognitive load theory may be the most important thing that teachers need to know,” says Ross McGill, founder of TeacherToolkit. “I often advocate, if teachers do less and think about how best they impart instruction, they can deliver more effectiveness in the classroom.”
Even if schools give teachers the tools to bring their curriculum to life, pupils require more effective learning methods to improve retention and memory. This is where cognitive load theory comes into play. All teachers must focus on the basics and master these to the best of their ability.