I am delighted to have been asked to write a foreword to the third edition of this best-selling book.
How well we cope in life, either as individuals or as nations, depends essentially on our knowledge, skills, creativity and attitudes. Teachers are critical in helping us to develop each of these qualities. So, ultimately, our future depends on the expertise and commitment of teachers.
This clearly puts a premium on producing the best possible teachers, through the highest quality of education and training. We need to prepare teachers not only to fit well into the way schools currently operate, but also to have the ability to adjust to future change. Indeed, our aims should encompass more than this: new teachers should be competent initiators of change, able to critique current practice and to plan and undertake innovation.
Even within the limitations of current practices, teaching is a skilled profession. It requires not just the expertise to respond to routine classroom situations, but a deployment of a wide variety of skills in order to deal with any specific problems that may arise. What is the best way of presenting this material so that it will engage this class? Why does this student find it difficult to learn this and what can I do about it? What would be a fair and appropriate way to assess understanding of these ideas? Which of these online resources is appropriate?
To be able to solve such problems, teachers need to develop their knowledge on several fronts: first, of their subject areas; second, of how students learn, or fail to learn, and why they develop specific attitudes and behaviours; and, third, of the most effective ways of teaching, both at the general level and at the level of the specific concept or skill, including available teaching resources.
Teachers need to be able to deal not only with issues that arise in their classrooms, but also those that confront departments, schools or colleges as a whole. Decisions need to be made on what curriculum to offer, what