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If We Know What To Do, Why Ain't We Doing It?

A few days ago I tweeted how we always seem obsessed in education with taking exciting, yet complex, developments and turning them into something that is mechanistic and linear, and which loses the desired impact as a result. I cited some approaches to Curriculum for Excellence and Assessment for Learning as examples of where this had happened. Amongst the responses was one from @fkelly who presumed I was aware of the attachment he sent me. This was from the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) undertaken by the now defunct General Teaching Council for England and others. I must admit I had no recollection of this but I looked at the paper Fearghal had sent me and found that what I was reading was resonating so much with approaches we had been taking in the school I lead. In the meantime @GTCS_Tom had joined in our twitter discussion and he too sang the praise of this research programme which he told me was one of the largest pieces of research on teaching and learning ever undertaken in the UK.

My curiosity was well and truly pricked and so I undertook a little more online research to find out more about TLRP and found more information that I not only liked, but which started to jog my memory about whether I had seen or heard about this before. I had. I saw one document on line that was a schematic of TLRP's ten principles of effective teaching and learning. I certainly recognised this and had already used this in school with all our teachers. I knew where it was as well, and soon found a file in my office which contained the report of the findings from the TLRP, published in 2010. This had been given to me by @drgillysr who we have been working with for a number of years and is based at Edinburgh University. Gillian had given us lots to read as we embarked on our journey of using practitioner enquiry based approaches to personal and school development. I had been immediately taken by the schematic as this was re enforcing many of the thoughts and conclusions we had come to ourselves about teaching and learning, and we had used this as a quick reference fro staff to check their own practice. But what else had I missed?

I now went back to the full original document and began to read and consider the whole of the programme. Having done that I have engaged more fully with the content and I have also been musing on why this material is not more widely known and being used by schools?

The final report on the programme presents the results in the form of a conceptual framework for teachers and school leaders to use to help promote discourse around teaching and learning and everything that impacts on this within our schools. The framework was to help establish 'a more precise understanding of of teacher expertise.' It also hoped to promote the development of a'shared professional language' as it sought to establish the profession as the ones who would be best placed to defend and argue, from an informed and evidenced position, about what our schools should look like and how they should further develop their educational provision.

I am suggesting that anyone really interested in teaching and learning should go back and look at the results that came out of the TLRP, and I will leave it up to yourselves to do this. But, I would like to share some statements that particularly caught my eye.

They wished to, 'stimulate a debate with teachers and other partners on developing a shared pedagogical language for teaching.'

They state that, 'Teachers should be able and willing to scrutinise their own and others' practice in the light of relevant, theories, values and evidence.'

They saw that, 'pedagogy is impoverished if it is disconnected from the capacity and responsibility to engage in curriculum development and to deploy a range of appropriate assessment methodologies.'

It was noted that, 'good teaching requires strategic decisions informed by evidence. But it also requires a large number of implicit and often instantaneous judgements and decisions.'

They then went on to identify the ten principles of effective teaching and learning and what was involved in each of these aspects. They also identified nine 'Enduring Issues' that formed the basis of the conceptual framework. In each of these areas they considered curricular concepts, pedagogic concepts and assessment concepts to be thought about and discussed under each. If you are a school leader, and you really want to promote deep, sustainable change in your school, then I would suggest that you find time to make yourself familiar with this work. Try www.tlrp.org/findings

So back to why this programme and this piece is not familiar to many in schools. I suspect it is probably well known in universities and amongst academics but it has to be equally familiar and understood in schools, the intended audience, for it to have its greatest impact.  It is obviously well known to Tom Hamilton and the GTCS and Tom has indicated, and it is easy to see, how this work has helped inform the new professional standards now in operation in Scotland. Via this route, TLRP will be having an impact on practice in more schools and on more teachers, though perhaps a little indirectly. I know the GTCE is no more in England, so perhaps some readers can help say what has happened there as a result of the programme. I fear the worst, because so much of what is being encouraged and promoted by TLRP is in complete contrast to what we see happening in English education at the moment. It may well be that, because it is in such opposition to what the current Education Secretary is promoting that it has been forgotten or 'buried'. I certainly would struggle to see many of its key messages being popular within the current political climate in England. But money has been spent, time has been given and many of the leading lights of education have been involved and have helped inform this work. Messages are clear and informed and we would be failing ourselves and our learners to not take cognisance of these in our own practice.

The final sentence of the report says it all.

'In our complex and rapidly changing world, teachers' moral commitment and professional resilience remain as important as ever.'

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