Teaching automatons? Looking at the what and why instead of the how


If you put some teachers in a room to discuss what they think is good teaching they will probably be referencing one of two things: their ITE Course (school direct, PGCE etc) or what the school/s they’ve taught in have told them is how they’re going to do it. They will discuss the processes they’re used to rather than the core fundamentals of teaching & learning. 

For example, a teacher might say “marking student books is essential” instead of “giving feedback” or “sharing lesson objectives” instead of “putting learning into context for students”. The ‘how’ has overtaken the ‘what & why’.

My concern with this is that there will be some teachers who have only experienced the ‘how’ and have never considered or had to consider the ‘what and why’.

This has probably manifested it self most recently in the life without levels situation. Suddenly teachers have gone from a set process of levelling work and were asked to ditch it for any other model they choose. Suddenly, teachers were asked to consider the what and why to create their own how, and they struggled.

I don’t have a good memory but I think it has been a rare occasion in my teacher training and consequent career where the what and why are discussed or referenced before the how. If schools continue to tell teachers how they want things done without any evidential basis, we are creating teachers who may be great at doing what they’re told but lack the independent, critical  thinking skills to develop strategies from the theory upwards. 

Maybe some leaders don’t know themselves and are just repeating their own experiences (in my experience this is very common and incredibly damaging) or maybe some don’t want teachers to question what they’re doing. My concern is that there are trainees and teachers that believe what they’ve been told to do is ‘teaching’ and that what they know is the ‘right’ way without having considered alternatives and the reasoning behind them. It’s all they know. They’ve never questioned it. They repeat it to others and believe that it is ‘right’.

So, without the why are we teaching automatons or creative, informed practitioners? 


4 thoughts on “Teaching automatons? Looking at the what and why instead of the how

  1. You have a point. Fortunately, as long as there is high quality evidence-informed teaching on university partnership PGCE courses, all is not lost. At present, trainees are doing a task where they implement & evaluate research-informed interventions to support the learning of groups/children who might otherwise not make good progress. So the trainees are using what, why and how.

  2. Pingback: Teaching RE: back to the basics of text & interpretation | missdcoxblog

  3. Pingback: Five checks to see if you’ve replaced levels with levels | missdcoxblog

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