10 questions arising from lazy thinking in ICT and computing in schools

I came across a blog post entitled Bureaucracy is sucking the life out of teaching, by Carl Hendrick.

In the article, Hendrick states:

A central problem is the conflation of bureaucracy with professionalism. This was illustrated some years ago when I visited an ‘outstanding’ academy. It had implemented a standardised four-part lesson format. All teachers were expected to deliver the same format every lesson and provide weekly lesson plans to leadership, who then went on ‘learning walks’ to ensure teachers were moving from part A to part B of the lesson at the right time. When I suggested that this approach might be creating a culture of monotony and covert intimidation, I was told, ‘well you can’t argue with the results, can you?’.
— https://chronotopeblog.com/2015/09/02/bureaucracy-is-sucking-the-life-out-of-teaching/

Now that is what I call 'lazy thinking', and it's certainly prevalent in the ed tech field. I am not saying it's more prevalent in ed tech than in other areas, because I don't know enough about the other areas in the curriculum, just that it's something I come across all the time.

Caution: lazy thinking ahead

Caution: lazy thinking ahead

Taking the above extract as a starting point, you most certainly can argue with the results, by applying even the most rudimentary level of research thinking. For instance:

  • Are the good results becauseof the 4 part lessons, or despite them?
  • Has anyone run a pilot study, in which some classes did not have 4 part lessons?
  • How are these results being judged as good? I mean, if the exam syllabus or criteria change, would the students be able to do as well? Would they do as well at university or in work, where neat structures like the 4 part lesson do not exist?
  • Has anyone done or discovered any research that explains why the 4 part lesson works so well? After all, it would be nice to know exactly why it works rather than adopt a painting-by-numbers approach. That's a good analogy I think. Anyone can produce a decent-looking painting using painting by numbers, but will have learnt nothing in the process about composition, colour or any of the other elements that make a painting good, except perhaps by accident. So a follow-on question would be...
  • How are teachers developing professionally when they are expected to follow a rigid structure with rigid timings? And that leads on to...
  • How are those teachers ever going to cope in a different school where the senior leadership team leave lesson planning to the teachers themselves.
  • How does this approach tie in with Ofsted's (the English schools' inspectorate) declaration that inspectors have no expectation of a particular form of lesson structure, or indeed any written lesson plan at all?
  • How does anyone know whether the results seen stem from something else, like the placebo effect, or the experimenter or Hawthorne effects?
  • Who came up with this idea in the first place? A so-called celebrity? The Headteacher? If so, that's an example of what I call 'eminence-based education' rather than 'evidence-based education'.

Perhaps the most important question is this:

  • How can you guard yourself against lazy thinking? Join a research-based organisation would be a good start. For example, in the UK, Mirandanet and ITTE. Go to conferences if possible, especially the Bett show in January or the ISTE conference or the EdTechXEurope conference in June. Read a lot as well, especially my newsletter, Digital Education. I know I would say that, but I try to include research reports in each issue, as well as book reviews and well-researched articles. If you think that statement is too self-promotional, then sign up to the Mirandanet newsletter instead. I think knowledge, and exposing oneself to views outside the echo chamber of school, are crucial. Why? Because it makes one a better teacher, one who is critical (a useful skill to pass on to pupils) and more knowledgeable.

You might also like this article: The 3,000 part computing lesson.