chapter  8
17 Pages

Innovation and improvement

ByIan Woodfield

Q8 Have a creative and constructively critical approach towards innovation, being prepared to adapt their practice where benefits and improvements are identified.

AS A NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER in the 1970s I left training college fired with an enthusiasm to teach my subject, history, but with I readily confess only a very limited idea of how to go about it in the classroom. My training college course focused on the nature of the various disciplines that commonly comprised teacher education – psychology, philosophy and sociology – coupled with the academic study of history. However, few if any of my lecturers really addressed the issue of how to link up these areas of study with the classroom experience, that – it was generally felt – was up to me. In the decades that followed that ‘sink or swim’ approach had some positive outcomes, it made me think about how to teach my subject and how to engage my pupils, to reflect on the relationship with my colleagues and to plan for sustained

improvement. However, in the first instance my on-the-job experimentation did not meet with unqualified success, but this was a world where provided you could contain your pupils within the classroom, few if any of your colleagues would intervene. In this relatively unstructured and permissive atmosphere, inspection was a distant and unlikely experience and performance review was largely a matter of not being brought to the head teacher’s attention. My pupils and I survived our shared experience and eventually achieved some success together, an outcome that ultimately left me with the firm conviction that successful teaching is a creative act rather than a repertoire of technical skill sets or custom-made lesson plans. Such materials where they exist may well be a useful starting point, but ultimately the successful practitioner must engage creatively and critically with teaching and learning – constantly seeking to adapt to the needs of their pupils. More than this, as a true professional they must seek to contribute to a wider learning community – engaged critically with policy as well as practice.