Failing Teachers?

Failing Teachers?

Failing Teachers?

Failing Teachers?


This work describes research undertaken during the Teaching Competence project, a two-year research project which investigated five main areas surrounding the subject of teacher competence.


Why is there a question mark in the title of this book? For a book describing research into teachers alleged to be incompetent, the title Failing Teachers? appears to cast doubt on the issue. School inspection reports show that most teachers are regarded as professionally 'competent' or better, so who is failing whom? Are some teachers failing their pupils, or is society failing its teachers? Or when teachers have been identified as 'incompetent', is there some uncertainty about whether this label is accurate?

The answer is that we inserted the question mark deliberately, because the research project reported in this book was one of the most difficult we have ever undertaken. Although some teachers were agreed by all concerned to be failing to do their job properly, even in many instances by the accused teachers themselves, there were numerous other cases where the origins, causes, effects and responsibility were disputed. One person's 'incompetent teacher' can be another person's 'innocent victim'. The ambiguity of the title and its question mark, therefore, represent the uncertainty of the whole situation as we encountered it. It was the best (or the worst, depending on how one looks at it) example of what is often termed 'multiple perceptions of reality'. That is why we sometimes use the word 'alleged' in this account of our research findings.

Professional competence is not something detached from the rest of someone's life. For many people in a job, the expertise for which they are being paid constitutes a very important part of their whole life. If a practitioner is alleged to be lacking the necessary skills to carry out professional duties effectively, this can be a shattering blow. To attack someone's professional competence is to attack that person as a whole, not just one element, which is why a strong emotional aura sometimes cloaked the cases we studied. The following four quotes all come from people interviewed during the research:

I went to hell and back.

You're totally on your own. I was always frightened I was going to go off on long-term sick.

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