At the start of the year I read this Guardian article calling for politicians to trust teachers, and it set me thinking about trust in education.  Then yesterday I saw this which shows just how bad it can get when you don’t trust your teachers/staff.

So what would an Education system based on trust look like and how would it be different to what we currently have?

creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by Andrew E. Larsen

Politicians to Ofsted/Inspecting bodies

Current state Politicians impose targets and policies.  Ofsted reports back to policy makers, providing reports on findings and  inspection reports.

Trust tell the inspecting bodies what they want to achieve (the end results) and then ask them to use their expertise to provide options for achieving these results.

In theory there is already a lot of trust at this level with Ofsted being an independent body.

Inspectors to Educational Establishments

Current state Establishments are subject to inspections, and given a grade.  Where schools do not meet standards they are given advice on how to improve.  Grade is considered very important with failing schools having Headteachers removed and in some cases schools are closed down.  Schools are ranked in league tables based on multiple factors, standardised tests results are very important in these rankings.

Focus is on not doing things wrong and not being downgraded or falling down league tables.  Time and effort are spent trying to prove to the inspectors there are no problems at an establishment

Trust work with inspectors on areas they need help with and draw up plans together to improve these.  Time and effort are spent eliminating problems.

Leaders of Educational Establishments to their staff

Current state Teachers have lesson observations and are graded, considerable effort is spent by teachers on making sure these lessons go correctly.  Often these lesson observations are linked to staff review.  Staff need to provide detailed lesson and curriculum plans detailing how each hour of contact time is spent.  Extensive test results and measurements of students in the class need to be collated and shared, staff are asked to predict student grades.  How much student grades improve is (in some schools) a contributing factor in staff pay rates/rises.

Time and effort are spent providing evidence (paperwork) that demonstrates the teaching is good.

Trust Teachers work with the institution, asking to be observed when they need help advice and feedback on their teaching (see this “Why I asked my Principal to observe my craziest class” for an idea of what that would be like).  Student work is available to other staff and the institution to inform discussions with teachers, but the teachers understanding of how students are doing is trusted instead of requiring lots of test results.

Time and effort are spent improving teaching and trying new methods to see if they can work better than existing methods.

Teachers to students

Current state Students are tested to see what level they are at.  Staff decide what students learn and when students learn it – so that the materials that are on the tests are covered.  Staff set deadlines and check work to ensure that students are working.  In worse case scenarios teaching becomes crowd control trying to keep students quiet and focused on the task in hand.

Trust Students have a greater input into what they learn and when (see 20% time for and other similar communities for ideas).  Teachers provide guidance and suggestions on areas that might interest students.  Student work is shared with the teacher for feedback and assistance, staff help students with managing workload and ensuring students give projects realistic timeframes.

Closing comment

Looking back over my post I think I might have been a bit harsh with the “Current State” in some areas, but these are all things that are happening somewhere in education, and in most cases it will be because of a lack of trust.

I’m not saying that moving to trust would be an easy process, but it is one that could have a dramatic effect.  So the next time you are planning something at whatever level you work in education, rather than thinking “What do I need to put in place to check that people are doing what they are required to do” try instead “If I trust people to act appropriately what can I do with the time I save, to help them succeed”

For a good example of how trust ties into pedagogic theory try this post by Wayne Barry on “Partners in Learning

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