Ofsted are the English schools inspectorate. Back in the noughties, they used to go around telling schools that their lessons needed to involve more personalised learning and have less teacher talk. But they are supposed to have stopped that now and no longer have a preferred teaching style.
Well, that’s the theory.
In a report written in June of this year, the inspection team ask, “What does the school need to do to improve further?” and then answer:
“Continue to improve outcomes by… providing regular opportunities for the most able pupils to deepen their understanding by applying their skills and knowledge in enquiry, investigation and problem-solving.”
“Overall, there is too little opportunity for pupils to develop reasoning skills in a range of subjects. Pupils are not consistently challenged to enquire, investigate and solve problems. This is limiting the progress of some pupils, particularly the most able pupils and students on post-16 study programmes.”
Investigative work is not a terrible idea. Done well, a little investigative work can be effective, but only if students have already been taught the required content. Unfortunately, no such caveats are stated in the report. Many people interpret calls for inquiry to mean the use of inquiry from the outset of learning about a particular area and there is very little evidence that this is effective. It might even be damaging.
On what basis are the Ofsted inspectors making this recommendation? Do they have research to support it? Is it just a personal view?
The impact of having this written in Ofsted reports is that consultants and other schools will see this and think, “we need to do more problem-solving in order to please Ofsted.” This is damaging for schools who are trying to develop a coherent, long-term approach.