Teachers `Ignore' New Ideas; Stressed-Out, Test-Obsessed, Staff Now Suffering from `Initiative Fatigue'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

Teachers `Ignore' New Ideas; Stressed-Out, Test-Obsessed, Staff Now Suffering from `Initiative Fatigue'


Byline: Jenny Rees

TRADITIONAL teaching methods are so deeply ingrained in school staff that change is like ``turning round a tanker'' - and our children could be losing out.

New research shows that improved teaching methods are being ignored in favour of the traditional methods.

Government guidelines on interactive classroom techniques encourage teachers to increase the time spent in class discussion and dialogue with children. But instead staff are relying on easy questions designed to elicit specific answers rather than open questions to prompt discussion.

However the study, led by Dr Frank Hardman of the University of Newcastle, also found that teachers had no clear idea of what ministry officials call ``interactive whole class teaching'' and had received little practical guidance on how to implement the teaching methods recommended by policy makers.

``Officials assume it is enough to hand down advice to teachers, but the truth is that their behaviour in the classroom is ingrained,'' said Dr Hardman. ``It's like turning round a tanker.''

He found that probing questions and dialogue with an individual child are rare and 70% of exchanges with pupils lasted only five seconds, limited to three words or less.

The research casts doubt on the effectiveness of ``top down'' initiatives such as the National Literacy Strategy and the National Numeracy S t ra t egy.

``These initiatives have made an important contribution to raising standards by helping teachers measure children's achievement, but they do not appear to have reached the deeper levels of teaching practice,'' said Dr Hardman.

``Teachers are bombarded with demands and advice and many of them suffer from `initiative fatigue'.''

Philip Andrew, head teacher at Brynmill Primary School, Swansea, said though he had not seen the research, it is certainly true that teachers are bombarded with initiatives. ``Schools are trying very hard to sift out the messages from research, that will benefit children's learning. The key is having the time to look at different research and put into practice what is best, but because of pressure from a whole raft of things, they don't have that time to embed it into school practice. …

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