On the face of it, there is fair agreement about what—in general—we mean by excellent teaching. HMI (DfEE 1997), former Chief Inspector Chris Woodhead (Ofsted 1996) and academics writing about pedagogy (Alexander 1998; Sutton et al. 2000; Turner-Bisset 2000) decide that the best classroom practice does two things. Unfailingly, teachers make as sure as possible that pupils hit important learning targets (pass exams and so forth). At the same time, they strive to arouse committed interests and enthusiasms in learners over the longer term. Teachers, these days, must ‘prepare for lifelong learning and the world of work’ (Alexander 1998:65), rather than settle for lesser ambitions. Our best schools will be those which lay foundations for pupils’ professional and vocational futures as well as taking them to thresholds of personal fulfilment.
At first, such a picture appears slightly at odds with standard teaching models, as these have been described. Such models are usually oriented towards knowledge-delivery and formal exams (Chapter 3), to personalised knowledge construction (Chapter 4) or to forms of collaborative learning (Chapters 5 and 6). Yet these models counsel bias (‘orientation’) not exclusive preoccupations. And they do so for good reason. To believe ‘high culture’ is a mainstay for schools (Gingell and Brandon 2000; O’Hear 1987; Winch and Gingell 1996) is to believe it enriches pupils minds while it prepares them for formal exams. It isn’t inapplicable to personal life-styles and pastimes, it is timeless in what it has to offer (Rossbach 2000). And although learner-centred thinkers and those committed to democracy in schools (e.g. Kelly 1995) denounce curricular prescription in favour of ‘processes’, they are unlikely to deny that exams and tests have their place in teaching. On the contrary, enskilling pupils as independent or collaborative learners should widen their scope for taking tests as for self-improvement. So commentators differ in how they think teachers can realise everyone’s dream of a learning society, occupationally skilled and economically profitable as well as culturally rich. They don’t