Achieving Competence, Success and Excellence in Teaching

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Students effectively exchange ideas with peers and adults from different backgrounds — either virtually or in person — and have the skills to enter new communities and spaces. Perspective taking skills. Students demonstrate curiosity and empathy and may show compassion for the perspectives of others. Intelligent humility. Students understand that their knowledge is not nite and appreciate how much more there is to learn about the world. Students understand the grandiosity of the world and its complexities.

Divergent thinking. Students see alternative or original solutions to existing problems and can envision the world differently from how it currently exists. Technological literacy. Students utilize and explore existing technologies to communicate and collaborate with others, and to learn and share new ideas and information. Students create new technologies or discover new uses for technologies that help them and others navigate their worlds.

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Achieving Competence, Success and Excellence in Teaching

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But, staying with generalities pro tem, the three options introduced are paradigmatically a teacher or subject-centred approach; a learner-centred approach; and a partnership approach compromising between teacher and learner-demands. With the second, it is selected intermediaries, notably the skills, attitudes and commitments of pupils themselves, which give results learning outcomes : these have the decisive role in the pedagogic equation. So it is on these which teachers must concentrate. With the third, pupil and teacher-actions are integral to a system where each functions optimally in tandem with the other.

Two agencies work effectively because they work together. What is promised by insulating the paradigms from each other is that each will faithfully deliver particular outcomes. As a preliminary to closer study, it is worth exploring this possibility for each paradigm in turn.

Knowledge Workers and Academic Coaches

If teachers can really dictate outcomes, the highest fence in the educational stakes is cleared at a bound, at least in principle. Once teachers know exactly what is expected of them they have success in their sights. Should they, still, fail, they can rightly be regarded as chief culprits for their own failure.


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Such teachers can be dismissed, admonished or retrained. A likely flaw in what is the simplest possible pedagogic formula has already been mentioned. Such qualified approval might confirm the first paradigm as one well suited to present-day schools. Each year, a number of students complete formal schooling with few qualifications; some can neither read nor write at even minimal levels Pring Although this failure of educational policy may have other causes than unrealistic expectations of teachers, it does leave open the possibility that unreasonable expectation is a main cause. For although pupils are treated as agents for their own learning, mediating or facilitating that agency is in the remit of teachers.

So if learners fail we can, still, name the teacher as culpable. We can still condemn uncertain empower ment strategies, poorly resourced workplaces, or whatever. The paradigm makes requirements for setting and achieving objectives differ between pupils; and there are real uncertainties for teachers working informally in knowing exactly what does count as a successful outcome. If it is in the dispensation of learners, what might we believe indisputably are criteria for teaching effectiveness? Do these lie in the attitudes fostered in learners or in their actual achievements?

And does it matter what those achievements are? Or should pupil-empowerment itself become our teaching goal, disregarding the content of what ultimately is learned? To give to learners decision-making powers may overburden them, no matter that they have been educationally enfranchised. Critics e. Alexander see as bedrock the requirement of a moder n educational system that types of learning are non-negotiable e. Moreover, to opt for strategies that hit desired targets indirectly, creates a more hazardous set-up than 6 The study of teaching that created by the process-product ideal.

Teachers, knowing they will be held accountable if they fail, may find a thoroughly learner-centred curriculum just too risky to contemplate. Raising such objections does not damn altogether process-based teaching. It encourages us to limit known difficulties while retaining inherent strengths.

By not glossing over these, it helps us see where further progress might be made. For, to press on towards the third paradigm, one might speculate that it is reasonable for us to concede some basic misgivings about controlled curricular delivery while, still, insisting pupils meet agreed targets. Surely, all we need do is more carefully demarcate teaching and learning roles? If learning is something learners have to do for themselves this does not mean they do so in an academic vacuum: their capacity and appetite for learning must, somewhere, benefit directly from pedagogic skill.

If plainly stated, it should set down rules not to be ignored without doing injury to the paradigm itself. An introduction to partnership dual-referenced approaches It seems sensible to think that educational outcomes are won by interchanges between curricular partners with complementary roles. School teaching and school learning are conceptually bound together, so they must interrelate practically too. Its rationale condemns both classic paradigms. What, purportedly, it does not do is fudge the issue of whether it is teachers or pupils who matter most to educational success, for it refuses to come down on one side or the other.

No matter how autonomous a pupil is, the fact a state-financed regime exists means due note is taken of publicly agreed aims and the rule-governed way in which schools operate. Similarly, no matter how charismatic or skilled a teacher, internal pressures on learners from social and psychological sources with which the learners themselves have to cope are respected. The onus on realising curricular aims, therefore, moves from teachers or pupils alone and becomes the responsibility of both, though not always in equivalent measure in all circumstances.

The study of teaching 7 It is common enough in schools for teachers to collaborate with each other, with parents and in a rather different sense with pupils. At a level of personal achievement, pupils fashion their mental worlds and learning skills through their own agency. But at least in institutional settings they do so within shared, culturally rich frameworks resourced especially by teachers and parents powerfully affecting what they do.

This paradigm related to a sociocognitive process called co-construction finds an implacable dualism at the heart of schooling, counterpointing the roles of learners with teachers, then extending their relationships to include important others, in a complex though comprehensible pedagogic enterprise. What knowledge we have of the approach suggests it might be a break-through in teaching methodology Silcock It imposes dyadic controls, rule operations, curricular decision-making and so on.

Its binding, contractual nature gives parity to participants by rule: within true partnerships, constraints of rule and relationship affect both agents. Unfortunately, deciding that teaching and learning are bound together makes sense only if one can pin down precise terms in which they are and convincingly illustrate benefits.

Otherwise, contentions become merely fatuous, reducing to the self-evident fact that teachers and learners must both engage in any organised teaching situation. One suspects that teachers opt sometimes for top-down management and sometimes for learner empowerment because a degree of singlemindedness guarantees results of some sort. There are obvious dangers in trying to achieve too much at once. In the end, we might decide to deal with the currently fashionable topic of what makes for excellent teaching just by reasserting the profoundly variable nature of teaching.

Satisfaction might be limited to showing how the different paradigms constrain teachers trying to teach competently, successfully or reach excellence. Model-specific rather than general factors may unite them. This has to depend on what we are looking for when we look for quality of teaching or level of success. But this does not by itself make teaching a random or irregular craft.

Achieving Educational Equity and Excellence Learning Framework

Nor does it make generic skills irrelevant. Reasoning in this way would be defeatist in the extreme. It is a fair supposition that those who are effective in classrooms will be largely competent, while those who approach excellence will to a high degree teach effectively. So there is likely to be a linear progression from teaching competence to excellence. What potentially confuses any analysis of this progression is the fact that to assess teaching as poor, good or excellent is already to assume values taken from the perspective we are trying to judge.

We find ourselves pinning our hopes on selected strategies because behind our selection lie those very values sanctioning it if I believe excellent teaching is that which delivers exam results, I do so because I already value exams. Circularity seems unavoidable. The best we might manage is to take this fact itself part of the equation—that is, admit that teaching quality will always have linear, generic and contextual valueoriented features. We just need to decide which dominate in any judgements about teaching we happen to make. If there is a rule that teaching assessment always invokes multilevel judgements some of which will be pre-set by value-assumptions behind the exercise , it will stay true even with reference to a nationally imposed curriculum.

This rule assuming it is true weakens the position of anyone wishing to standardise teaching and assessment methods. Given that one has to partial out the influence of contextual factors, we are left, when defining competent teaching for example , with generic skills and linear progression. Yet the generality of skill-lists we are left with enormously limits their application.

Mini Lesson: Achieving managerial excellence - Competency Perspective

Though there will always be some merit to stating them, at least at the level of initial training, dangers can follow from doing so given that context-specific determinants are likely to count more in many settings than the generic. Whether such hazards are confined purely to the study of competent teaching, or whether they appear just as strongly in studies of teaching success and excellence remains to be seen.

Competence Competence represents, on one interpretation, a base-line for teaching effectiveness. A competent teacher is someone who retains and exercises proven skills through sustained effort. It is notable for its diversity of task, and the culturally cherished yet often contested nature of the intellectual, social, emotional and physical gains awarded by it. Given that teaching skills have to be applied in almost as many settings as life presents, there is awesome variability in what the job asks for.

Some of these ask for procedural rather than pedagogic skills, some bring intellectual capabilities into play such as perception , some emotional attitudes such as perseverance , some stress relationships, pragmatic skills, empathy and so on Hayes On this count, what we need are not so much lists giving all capabilities parity in training, suggesting that once acquired in the normal course they are sufficient to ensure teaching competence.

What we need, more, is some inkling of what skills work best in the special circumstances of various types of classroom, how far these will alter through circumstance, and how they will alter. That is, to know what makes for competent teaching we need to know how common tasks give its procedural, cognitive, social and affective capabilities their special character cf. Reynolds Put most simply: before we can list teaching competencies, we have to make a better shot at listing the challenges of modern classrooms.

If we start with generic skills, we risk getting sidetracked into trying to fit all of them to all tasks, and then having very little insight into the particular ways in which they apply. That was the touchstone of their professional duties. Teachers of citizenship must at a premium work persuasively to help pupils commit themselves to virtuous, responsible, value-driven ways of life Silcock and Duncan Questions of teaching competence are inextr icably bound up with questions about aims.

And eclectic competency statements or statements of standards: TTA b not only avoid value issues, but also can be taken to imply that such issues need not be considered at all. The induction of people into a new way of life requires a degree of compliance no one should ever guarantee. This is to be realistic not defeatist.

And there can be profound social reasons for the really tough problems teachers face in keeping pupils on track for certain types of goal. One might think that where pupil and teacher values are totally at variance, no educational policies can work. So any thoughts about teaching success must confront not only arguments about values but the rights of different groups to assert their own. Almost certainly, in any one society such as English society at the beginning of a third millennium there will be moral, academic and industrial pressures from stakeholder groups, unavoidable for teachers as for politicians.

If a society ever becomes wholly materialist, perhaps placing consumerism and wealth creation above moral virtues such as honesty, prudence and diligence, the job of teaching by any standard becomes practically impossible. How far this is true and can be tolerated, and how far it can be changed, are issues following hard on the heels of those introduced. Excellence If excellence transcends competence and success, it must build on both to a degree.

For that reason alone, we can immediately decide that there can be no single model of excellent or quality teaching, just as there can be no single model of competence. By contrast, the American educator Carl Rogers tries to eliminate as The study of teaching 11 far as he can his own effects on students, wishing them to tread their own routes to success.

Any accounts of excellent teaching have to show how the teaching embodies values the teaching seeks to fulfil. Pr inciples explaining excellence are intimately close to those explaining competence and success, though, by nature, the degree to which pedagogy embraces fundamental values will be at an optimum with excellence. Other determinants—such as teaching charisma, a narrative gift, the more personal integration of skills into a style—will play a part relative to dominant values, and the point of studying excellence in its own right is to give due weight to these matters.

A general condition for excellence has to be the tailoring of capabilities to valued aims. The ideal of teaching excellence held by those who prioritise knowledge delivery is of a different order to that of teachers who idealise learner autonomy or think both sorts of value really do engage each other. For the latter, where it is expected that conflicts arise as a matter of course between personal and imposed values, negotiation and collaboration will figure as values in their own right.

This may mean a teacher following competing aims at different times—perhaps keeping to strict procedural rules when pursuing academic truths while, later, falling back on different strategies to engage in imaginative problem-solving. We might suppose that this is to rule out of court the brilliant raconteur or the warm, nurturing person who allows even the youngest to bloom precociously. But all that is suggested is that skills are assessed within and not outside the value-context which prioritises them. There are other approaches to excellence in teaching to set against the value-centred.

These consultants took from discussions with large numbers of teachers and pupils incidents and actions having positive excellent classroom outcomes. There is much that is worthwhile in any survey of teacher views. Yet taxonomies share the weaknesses found in the other lists of competency statements introduced. There are innumerable ways to show excellence in teaching, as there will be in any profession which works in a range of environments.

Simply to report what teachers themselves say misses the need to couple what is said to the usually hidden reasons why such views are held. Just as we cannot decide what is competent or successful teaching just by looking at what practitioners do, so we cannot decide what excellent teaching is just by talking to teachers or to pupils. We have first to agree our expectations of those who teach; and that is never going to be straightforward.

Achieving Competence, Success and Excellence in Teaching

If politicians are serious about raising standards, they have to take equally seriously the fact that not only will there be people aspir ing to different standards, but also there will be those who cannot fulfil the most highly rated, traditional ideals. Types of competence, success and excellence to be discussed, are those thought most likely to work with children raised in all households, with backgrounds, attitudes, ambitions and capabilities typically found in the United Kingdom.

A number of these deviate more and more from a traditional British stereotype. They are discussed in detail and without reservation below. These are set against a backdrop of changing socio-economic and political demands, and are thoroughly tested against this background as well as against each other. For one thing, suitable educational journeys for some learners may not be towards popular destinations, but towards places they can actually reach.

One suspects, from time to time, government policies for raising educational standards do assume that there is no viable option but that which legislates for all. To give credence to this as to other possibilities, generic models will be studied alongside those that would, if followed, undermine them. The book is planned as follows. Chapter 2 lists first principles of good practice before testing out the resulting general approach against likely criticisms, especially those related to disputes about values and value-conflicts. Chapters 3 — 5 discuss teaching theories or models as The study of teaching 13 reservoirs of professional knowledge and skill, setting out what teachers must do to reach high standards regarding each one.

While harmonising important themes arising in the educational literature during recent years, writers set out a detailed, practical and theoretical guide to good educational practice justified in terms of present-day school conditions. Competing possibilities are compared so as to isolate what each has to offer, without overly stigmatising any, or stirring together incompatible ideas into a fairly meaningless brew.

First principles and counter-arguments Introduction: two types of teaching From time to time, all of us who live within communities become teachers. Directly or indirectly, we teach friends, children, siblings, acquaintances, strangers who need our help, whatever situations demand. And although we will differ in how seriously we take our pedagogic roles, through practice and—sometimes—through necessity, we will develop talents for communication, relationship, empathy, tolerance and so on which mediate the process of passing on knowledge and skills to others.

We will become good, mediocre or poor teachers. But we will be teachers of a sort. Professional teaching can be judged a special case of that informal teaching which becomes a passing brief for most of us. For although professional teachers must presumably bank on the same human talents for helping and informing others resorted to in less formal settings, they will also adapt these talents to larger, more diverse cohorts of students.

Over time, complexities of preparing different sorts of learners for their future lives modifies skills otherwise acquired naturally, making professional teaching both similar to and distinct from lay teaching in the way skills are refined and deployed. This conclusion reminds us of how context constrains teaching; but it also reminds us of how longterm intention affects skill, since the reason why we ask professional teachers to work in institutions like schools has to include the special purposes such institutions have.

Arguably, it is the special purposes of professional teaching which entail its having to be organised within institutions so it can be systematically programmed and linked directly to its goals. This is a fairly obvious conclusion to reach, as the product of any sort of teaching What is good teaching? If I teach a friend how to use a woodwork tool, I must have in mind how that tool can be used skilfully.

These considerations both tell me what to do and how to judge success. However, professional teachers have a much broader remit, transcending the immediate and the situational. What are learned in schools are more than useful skills and capabilities; they correspond to those fundamentals a society believes of value for all Peters ; Pring a; Reid ; Wilson b. Such value-related goals oblige teachers to have some fair idea of how an educated person thinks and behaves, so that this conception can condition short-term objectives and related actions.

In particular, it will always entail judgements about what makes for a good learner whether children, adolescents, students or adults linked to the educational ideal. Good teachers know what good learners are, and their work usually feeds from this knowledge, in so far as it also fits with more basic conceptions. Such a superimposing of the short onto the long term knowing what features of learners will, ultimately, define them as educated people allows teachers to respect basic values while dealing with daily chores.

That is why being accountable for what they do teachers must sometimes take soundings from longerterm aims so as to be sure they are guiding learners in the right directions. Even if they do so rarely, such soundings will—when they are taken—forcibly impose themselves on events as arbiters of all pedagogic decisions. To summarise: the starting point for any professionals deciding how to teach has to be their fashioning of concepts of teaching and learning within broader educational ideals seeing how learners think, act, achieve en route to their becoming educated—in the light of some view about what that means.

These interrelated concepts mastermind pedagogy, within educational institutions, framing it as a potentially sophisticated theoretical as well as practical business. They do so because ideal conceptions of child and adult learners quickly bring into play academic theories to back up the more practically focused theories or models of teaching which, according to Biggs all institutions as well as teachers should follow if they are to be successful.

Whether teachers refer much to long-term goals or give thought to attendant academic questions is another issue. The educational ideal As argued, thoughts about what it means to be educated rely on valuejudgements about how human beings learn and develop Wilson b clarifies this: ch. But these can split sharply into judgements about process and product.

Theorising around ideals of adults and young learners is the price we pay for seeking to educate rather than, just, teach. It is easy to agree on ways of teaching someone to dress, eat politely or use a computer correctly. It is much harder to be sure about how best to educate someone for whatever we think is the right way to live. We might agree on generalities like the need to be literate, grasp moral issues and so forth.

But we will debate at length whether teaching others to read, write and behave in one way rather than another is guaranteed to help them use their skills within the life-styles and attitudes we dignify as cultured or educated. Admitting this not only reinforces the role of values and ideals, but also affects decisions about how long-term ends are to be delivered. Different methods must be linked to different ideal conceptions—otherwise, how could we ever realise our ideals? Generic skills, for example of communication, relationship etc.

Together, a concept of education and practical pr inciples underpinning it are the stock-in-trade of professional teaching. Which is not to say that every teacher must regularly think through first principles if he or she is to be a professional educator. Teachers can make such judgements only by comparing their professional know-how first principles with a rationale embodied in the national curriculum concerned.

Teachercentred, learner-centred and democratic options were introduced as our best known paradigms. Although teachers can teach well i. These assumptions are vulnerable to theoretical, empirically based argument. Third, procedural rules can be stated as governing the way teachers cope with mundane chores as well as use complex skills though they may not be learned formally as procedural rules, as will be discussed later.

Classroom strategies, methods, etc. But these altered methods must conform, somehow, to procedures linked to longer-term conceptions, since if they did not it would be impossible to judge how far they were likely to be successful. Fourth, generic skills of relationship, communication, tolerance and empathy, of administration and organisation, etc. What separates good from bad teaching is not just whether the teaching is skilled or not, but whether skills are suitably or unsuitably deployed in service of justifiable ends. In sum, the means-ends behaviours which have been descr ibed are the theories of teaching or models of good practice which all teachers need to work systematically and purposefully and which educational studies illuminate Wilson b: ch.

Objections to first principles generating theories of good teaching A number of objections might be made to the principles stated above, some of which have already received comment. It is worth classifying these before considering them. Adhering to legislated demands has itself become a major occupation and hard-pressed practitioners might well find theor ising about the longer term takes from them precious time. Second, even if teachers should occasionally refer to long-ter m notions, we might still wonder whether these need consideration if they are seldom consciously acknowledged in classrooms.

Surely they stay as implicit, affecting ver y little, while the practical business of teaching proceeds? Third, accepting that teachers should and do refer to teaching models, we might query why only three have been chosen from a potentially much larger number, given that we cannot fix any one as super ior to the others except by invoking situation.

Fourth, drawing criteria for quality teaching from the same listed principles might be judged dubious, and probably too complex to be practically useful. Others have come up with other cr iter ia usually of a simpler sort. Dealing with the above objections goes beyond justifying any single approach. It justifies the use of theoretical models, per se. It also lets us probe not only variants of good practice e. What is good teaching? Standard curricula seem to remove from teachers the need to refer to their own educational values since these are predetermined.

This fact sits somewhat strangely with above proposals about the key role of values in education. For value-driven conceptions of what it means to be educated would normally precede any listing of curricular content, rather than statements of content being decided first with statements of value added later.

The point is, without such an ordering of events, there is always likely to be a mismatch between curricula and their own values. The idea of starting with some concept of education is that it will limit later decisions. To have no limitation set when devising a curriculum invites a free-for-all among interested parties. Exactly the same problems would arise for a religious group agreeing its forms of worship and ritual before clarifying the nature of its god; or for a political party settling on practical policies before admitting its political ideology.

Where values are left in abeyance, vested interests win out according to the strength of their representation rather than according to how far their proposals are likely to produce desired outcomes. Broad aims for the school curriculum were made to echo those embodied in section of the Education Act They are as follows. The preamble to the statement wisely acknowledges that it is not exhaustive.


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  • For instance, it avoids being swayed by religious beliefs or teachings. Recalling first principles, what the QCA statement does not do and is not meant to do is resolve ongoing conflicts about what it means to become educated. Additionally, even if one treats the QCA list as a set of ideals to which all teachers can subscribe, their task remains hampered by a National Curriculum still heavy with subject-based teaching. In sum, if they adequately tell us what the National Curriculum seeks to achieve, value-statements are insufficiently detailed to give guidance on teaching aims at a curricular level.

    In so far as they are interpreted as accepting broadly agreed priorities most school missions recognise, they highlight the shortcomings of the revised National Curriculum. In other words, it is, still, for teachers to expand on and interpret both National Curricular values and National Curricular programmes, in ways they can manage.

    Statements about the importance of self, relationships with others, society and the family are applicable to almost any ideal. That is, they contain no implications for our deciding how educational insights might actually develop in young people and how learners might therefore be taught.

    Of course, any diet of programmes laid out for a whole nation, satisfying no single set of interests, is bound to tie itself to generalities.

    Creating a Meaningful Sense of Competence

    Yet the QCA statement is, theoretically, the linchpin for everything else. And, practically speaking, teachers do need such guidance. The enormous scope of a national curriculum is such that teachers cannot, simply, teach it as it stands. They must interpret it according to other criteria— and What is good teaching? Second objection: do teachers use theories of good practice even if they should? Noting the shortcomings of a standard curriculum does not by itself mean that teachers will detect such shortcomings and behave in more virtuous ways.

    Anyone watching skilled teachers at work in an English primary or secondary school might not notice any rules operating apart from their general compliance with National Curricular orders. At first sight, teachers dealing with day-to-day chores appear pragmatic rather than formulaic, following personal rules-of-thumb they have concocted from their own unique experiences. Schon , describes what is happening here. Tacit theories are not prescriptions so much as routines which teachers fall back on unthinkingly—fleeting, inner dialogues which throw up tentative, promising gambits to try out with ever-changing problems Schon ; Van Manen Yet personal or tacit theories—being specific and practically focused—need not contradict general rules.

    Even unique practices can correspond to and become justified by abstract theories in the end, they must be so justified: see Korthagen and Kessels What we might conjecture is that, because they are professionals i. We might concur with Korthagen and Kessels that they must do so. Teaching routines—to be routines—must follow agreed plans, and these will, somewhere, service short-term and, ultimately, longer-term goals. These approaches will approximate to more abstract conceptions of teaching which will, accordingly, require theoretical justification.

    Usefully, Schon helps us see how professionals come to devise their programmes pragmatically, and so gives us clues as to how teaching models arise as models in the first place, and so helps sanction their study. Student-teachers interpret for their own purposes, i.


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    • Novices improve through reflecting on actions in the light of real outcomes. What this makes plain is that to succeed teachers cannot work only pragmatically or through observation but will i. They will have a discourse to use with other groups to whom they are accountable parents, governors, inspectors, other professionals, school managers, etc. They need not openly rely on an abstract model for their terms of reference. They unerringly give teachers options typically needed for routine tasks. To be precise, as teachers organise schemes, plan strategies, record and assess, they are faced with doing so in a top-down pre-decided way, of allowing pupils substantial freedom of choice, or of seeking to establish a democratic consensus on ways forward.

      To keep faith with their values, they will tailor-make and continuously revise rules and procedures. They need not study formal accounts like the ones in this book , though by means of such accounts they might most easily revise and refine in terms of coherence, systematicity, and so forth whatever approach they take. Nor will this be true only for teachers.

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      It is hard to see how those who inspect or advise teachers can do so except via some underlying belief system generated by a teaching model Silcock and Wyness On such grounds, theorising about pedagogy becomes in the end not an imperative for the sake of accountability, it becomes the only sure way a teacher can get past mere competence. Obviously, no one believes that teachers learn just by reading books. Fault for the practice—theory mismatch lies not with theorising itself otherwise we end up in quagmires of amateurism but with the idea of anyone memorising strategies purely as a discourse rather than actually learning how to use them see also Chapters 7 and 9.

      Teacher-education courses are regularly pilloried for purveying theory divorced from practice Ben-Peretz ; Korthagen and Kessels ; Zeichner and Tabachnick This fact smiles on various types of school-based teacher education, school—college collaborations, and posttechnocratic models of continuing teacher development. Now, suggesting that teachers find systematic solutions for repeated problems does not mean they gradually work out highly sophisticated blueprints. Teachers have a professional taste for any tricks of methodology known to be usually effective and their theories will embrace these.



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