‘Your students won’t be the same as my students’

A brief blog post, but one on an attitude that I find at times frustrating, at times annoying, and at times worrying.

I’ve been involved in a bit of an argument this evening over the benefits (or otherwise) of using De Bono’s hats in the (specifically RE) classroom. I’m not a fan, others are, but I’m not going to dwell on either position (read Andy Lewis, David Didau or Debra Kidd if you’d like more on this issue!)

During the discussion, I was offered the counter-argument to my opinions which took the form of: ‘*I* find it useful to teach *my* students’ (emphasis NOT mine) and ‘students being people not machines some of what works with one group is not what does with others’.

This sort of attitude concerns me. It basically says that we don’t need to concern ourselves with the combined wisdom of the teaching profession, the huge amounts of research that exist, the must up-to-date pedagogical thinking, because there is no way that we can understand the students that are in any given classroom outside of our own.

Now, of course an individual teacher will know their students far better than a colleague from another school. This much is obvious. What is not obvious, though, is why any group of students would be radically different to any other group of students of the same age, in terms of what works for ensuring the best progress in the classroom. This doesn’t mean students won’t have different interests, experiences, cultural references and so on, but if there is a piece(s) of research that suggests certain pedagogical techniques are going to be beneficial, or not, ignoring it simply because ‘your students won’t be the same as my students’ seems bloody-minded, and also to not appreciate the nature of high-quality research.

If we are to be taken seriously as a profession, we cannot simply be lone wolves, each doing what we think is best for our students as only we can know them well enough to know what works. We must seek to engage with research, expertise and experience both in our own schools, and (perhaps more importantly) outside of our schools.

None of this means we shouldn’t know our students as individuals, build up positive, professional relationships with them, and come to know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. We can, however, do this whilst taking account of the wealth of information which is at our fingertips. In fact, I would say we are obliged to do so to give our students the best chance possible of achieving as much as they can.

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