New requirements for teachers
Successful Futures identifies key attributes of excellent teachers that link with the four purposes of the new curriculum. The attributes of good teaching include:
- excellent subject and methodological expertise
- sound classroom craft skills
- understanding of how social and psychological factors influence learning
- the ability to excite and inspire children to become independent learners.
These attributes have now been crystallised in the publication of the National Professional Standards of Teaching and Leadership.
The Standards introduce a new expectation that teachers will both use research to inform their curriculum and school improvement decisions as well as carry out research in their own classroom in the form of practitioner enquiry. Choosing which pedagogical approach to use is a decision for schools and individual teachers based on the needs of the pupils and the context of their learning. Schools are encouraged to use research to identify which pedagogical approaches will be of most benefit to their pupils. For example:
- Sutton Trust Toolkit which outlines the impact and supporting evidence for pedagogical approaches.
- NfER research that identifies key whole-school strategies including pedagogical approaches for closing the attainment gap.
A good starting point would be the list of 12 pedagogical principles included in Successful Futures that link directly with the four purposes of the new proposed curriculum.
What will it take to secure the ambitious outcomes of the new curriculum?
The ambitious aim of Successful Futures is to develop a set of valuable learning habits that are seen as essential for learning, life, work and citizenship. This has implications not only for ‘what’ is taught and learned but, more importantly, ‘how’ it is taught and learned in a way that enriches pupils’ views of learning.
Beneath the bold headline outcomes of Successful Futures lie the key, almost hidden, values of this new curriculum. Here you’ll find words and phrases such as resilience, perseverance, making connections, play different team roles, use evidence, face and overcome challenge, manage risk, develop empathy. These are descriptors of learning-how-to-learn dispositions, that go well beyond the idea of study skills and into the realms of what have come to be known as learning powers, or learning habits or dispositions or tendencies.
In other words making Successful Futures successful will rely on paying attention to and developing students’ learning dispositions; their inclination or propensity for change; ultimately developing those learning habits that will direct their willingness and capacity to learn throughout their lives.
Teachers as learning habit builders
Whether we like it or not, teachers are in the habit forming business and are highly influential in forming students’ learning beliefs and behaviours. The way in which students perform and behave is influenced by how teachers talk about learning, what they notice and praise and how they guide learning. Deliberately fostering effective learning behaviours in students is possible because we now know that learning is a learnable craft and how to do it.
Learner’s beliefs about learning influence how they learn. Learning habits and attitudes develop through use and practice (deliberate or otherwise!). But desirable habits will survive and flourish better if students are aware of them, realise their value, and strive to improve them.
Cultivating learning habits involves:
- Providing rich and varied occasions for exercising learning habits
- Exercising learning habits in lessons to enhance content understanding
- Recognising and celebrating the use and growth of learning habits
- Enabling students to identify how and when to use learning habits
- Expecting students to take ownership of and responsibility for their learning habits
- Exploring the development of learning habits with students.
When teachers become influential learning habit builders they become mindful of how to help students form, replace, re-form and strengthen their learning habits.
Teachers in Welsh schools now need to ask whether their teaching habits are helping students’ learning habits? Are they building learning behaviours that will contribute to the four purposes of Successful Futures and last students a lifetime?