I was interested to see that the Institute of Education in London (IoE), the teacher training college where I completed my own teaching qualification, has started to organise a series of debates on key education issues. The number of such debates seems to have increased in recent years. I have attended panel discussions hosted by researchED events in Australia and I have watched a number of researchED and Michaela debates via YouTube. Although largely centred on the UK at present, such discussions can only be a healthy development.
The IoE debate focused on the possibility of evidence-informed practice. Let me be clear, all of the contributors had something valuable to say on this topic. Even though I disagree with Gert Biesta’s position on the question, his views are valid and worth considering. And I was amused by the contribution of Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), with his swipe at people with large numbers of Twitter followers – who could he possible mean? – and his attempt to insist that the EEF has no agenda (when it clearly has).
However, the whole discussion was encapsulated by a moment when Ann Mroz, a journalist, discussed the way that Christian Bokhove, a researcher, reads academic papers. Mroz wondered whether busy teachers would have the time to do this and what this might look like.
At this point, it would have been good to swing to a busy teacher, or even one of the school research leads who had been the subject of speculation by members of the panel. But there were no teachers on the panel.
Think about that for a minute. It’s extraordinary. Can you imagine a panel discussion about how doctors or lawyers or journalists use evidence that did not include a doctor, lawyer or journalist? It’s not good enough. It is a comment on the status of our profession and, frankly, we should start expressing our unhappiness at this sort of thing. Panelists should ask, when invited to talk about the work of teachers, whether there will be a teacher present on the panel, and organisations should catch themselves before they run teacher-free discussions about the work of teachers.