According to the Sutton trust, good teaching is measured by the progress of our students. Six key components are given: Pedagogical content knowledge, quality of instruction, classroom climate, classroom management, teacher beliefs and professional behaviours (Coe, 2014). When I first wrote about what makes good teaching, I focused on four traits and one skill, patience, empathy, confidence, compassion and room reading. Whilst I still think focusing on characteristics is important, which is why I propagate Bennett’s virtues of good teaching, they are limiting by themselves. I have also included an awareness of folk pedagogies to better focus on the needs of our students, practical judgement as advocated by Heilman and JPD as propagated by Gregson.
Folk pedagogy, intuitively held beliefs on teaching based on our previous life experiences, are deeply ingrained into our psyches. Bruner writes that these beliefs, from teacher and student, can have a huge impact on classroom dynamics. The reason it is so important to engage with our folk pedagogies is that our biases will impact our teaching, though well intentioned folk pedagogies are not neutral in nature. As Bruner writes ‘Teaching, in a word, is inevitably based on notion about the nature of the learner’s mind’ (Bruner, 1996). We must make sure that we don’t mix up the nature of our minds with the student’s minds and make assumptions. We must to be mindful of the reasons we act and the reasons that our students act. As teachers we must challenge our own views for the benefit of education and try to understand the world views of our students to inform pedagogy.
Secondly, I would like to address the matter of traits inherent to good teaching. I made my own list for the previous assignment as can be seen above. Bennett focuses on virtues of character, including justice, courage, patience, wisdom and compassion. Characteristics are useful as they can refer to more than themselves, such as the characteristic of wisdom. Bennet suggests there is theoretical wisdom, or knowledge, and practical wisdom, putting the knowledge into effect. He writes ‘Wisdom is the rational process of evaluating and identifying processes that reach for aims towards successful outcomes’ (Bennet 2012). He goes on to explain that we can use wisdom to make decisions such as when and when not to enforce rules, thus relatable to room reading, judging the decision on the mood of the class. In this way Bennet’s traits encapsulate good teaching through characteristics instead of individual skills. As skills and techniques change and develop, we can rely on these characteristics to remain the same and of use.
Practical judgement and evidence informed practice, suggested by Ruth Heilman, supports Bennet’s position of practical wisdom. Heilbronn identifies three dimensions of practical judgement: ethics, flexibility, personal rootedness. She stresses the importance of ethics in order to teach from a position of mutual trust, and flexibility to be able to adapt to the situations we find ourselves, writing ‘expert practitioners can flexibly respond to changing situations’ (Heilbronn, 2011). Bennett’s definition of Wisdom to be evaluating and identifying process to reach a solution is very similar. Practical wisdom and practical judgement are key to flexible, ethical and ultimately successful teaching.
Finally, Gregson writes on the use of Joint Practice Development’s role in continuing professional development. JPD consists of a six stage cycle, consisting of six workshops to develop a project and its purpose, aimed to better inform teaching practice. In order to measure impact, soft and hard indicators are determined, soft indicators being an unquantifiable outcome such as classroom atmosphere, and hard indicators to measure and quantify the study such as achievement rates (Nixon, 2015). Through JPD’s teachers can reflect on their practice and then examine the ways in which they can improve. Reflective practice is useful, but JDP adds an empirical and measurable element which enables teachers to test their theories and develop teaching strategies.
These four aspects are imperative to good teaching. Investigation of our folk pedagogies provide us with a conceptual tool with which to identify our own biases. Bennet’s teacher traits remind us that, whilst the best course of action is subjective, we must determine the best course of action from a position of compassion and ethical behaviour. Heilbronn’s three dimensions of practical judgement reinforce flexibility’s position in good teaching, being adaptable placing some control on situational events. Finally, Jameson and Hillier illuminate the importance of continuous learning and progression and provide a modal on which to evidence our progression.
Bruner, J. S. (1996) The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 45-50.
Bennett, T. (2012) Teacher: Mastering the Art and Craft of Teaching. London: Continuum, 71-121.
Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S., Major, L. (October 2014) What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research, Sutton Trust.
Gregson, M., Spedding, T. and Nixon, L. (forthcoming 2015) Helping Good Ideas Become Good Practice: Enhancing Professionalism through Joint Practice Development (JPD). London: Bloomsbury.
Heilbronn, R. (2011) ‘The Nature of Practice-based Knowledge and Understanding’. In R. Heilbronn and J. Yandell (eds) Critical Practice in Teacher Education: A Study of Professional Learning. London: IOE Press, 7-9.