What's your passion?
A passion for learning keeps me reading about teaching.
People ask ‘What’s your passion?’ and when that refers to my working life it’s not that easy to answer. As someone who came to teaching with only a vague idea of why it might be the vocation for me, I was surprised by the intensity of the satisfaction I gained from the role. Building a productive relationship with the 30 children in my own classes and the wider school community was, on the whole, such a privilege. Going to work every day knowing that I’d be getting the chance to share my passion for learning (oh – there it is!)
And it is learning and, by association, teaching, that still fascinates and inspires me. Exploration of all of the complex ingredients that combine to make for real learning, the kind of learning which is deeper than surface and which in turn leads students to thirst for more, that’s the driver. Reading Professor John Hattie’s book ‘Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximising Impact on Learning’ which shares research suggesting that it is what teachers know, do and care about that can account for up to 30% of the variance in student achievement (the most significant aspect after the what the students themselves bring to the table), I find myself eager to understand this fully and to share it widely. Hattie also refers to the difference between experienced teachers and expert teachers as 5 dimensions of the latter. Expert teachers can:
- Identify essential representations of their subject,
- Guide learning through classrooms interactions,
- Monitor learning and provide feedback,
- Attend to affective attributes, and
- Influence student outcomes.
Thinking about our vulnerable learners, how well do teachers understand and attend to their affective factors?
Brain-based learning; teaching methods and techniques grounded in the neuroscience of learning is an area I find absorbing. Linking the latest scientific research about how the brain learns, including cognitive development, to what actually happens in our classrooms seems intuitive but not all our established conventions or educational practices resonate with this. We teachers are time-poor and so the concept of the school as a complete learning community, where staff are learning from and with each other (and their students) is a fantastic aspiration. How close are we to this? What are the range of learning opportunities within your school or setting?
In this role, I feel part of the wider learning community and that is special. The opportunity to learn from experts in their field and to connect up my reading and interests with the actual practice happening around the UK is definitely feeding my passion!
Alison joined nasen in November 2014 as their Head of Education and contributes to the strategic direction of the Association; working to make the vision of securing the best possible outcomes for children and young people a reality.