The analysis so far has looked at broad trends within the whole sample of respondents, then looked at some of the different attitudes expressed by teachers working in the primary and secondary sector, and then looked in more detail at male / female differences for two of the questions. In this final piece of quantitative analysis, I wanted to consider whether school role had an influence on the responses to the survey.
Due to the fairly limited numbers of head teachers / principals who responded to the survey, I decided to group them in with teachers who had senior leadership roles within the school. The analysis that follows is restricted to the 358 teachers within one of these roles:
What did I expect to find?
I was curious whether more experienced teachers and more senior teachers would be more or less inclined to the ‘traditional’ or ‘progressive’ options outlined in the survey. For all six questions, I examined two interactions within the opinions expressed:
1. MPS v UPS teachers
2. TLR v SLT teachers
So … what did the survey say?
Question 1 asked respondents to consider potentially competing ideas about how children learn best.
(A) Some teachers may argue that learning principally involves knowledge discovery and that this helps to develop the learning skills and commitment needed to become autonomous or life-long learners. Some may argue that students learn best when they discover or co-create knowledge for themselves.
(B) Other teachers may argue that the supposed benefits of learning by discovery transfer poorly between dissimilar contexts, the heuristic skills developed are too narrow for general application, and that important key discipline concepts are required before meaningful discovery can occur. Some may tend to argue that students learn best through explicit instruction.
Question 2 asked about frequently competing ideas around the curriculum in schools
(A) Some teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when students are able to exercise choice about the curriculum content, as this provides an education that is more relevant and authentic to their personal background and interests. Some might argue that students should have a significant role in deciding the content of the curriculum.
(B) Other teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when teachers select the curriculum content that students follow, as this exposes them to the ‘best that has been thought and said’. Some might argue that students should have curriculum content entirely selected for them.
Question 3 asked about the importance of teachers working within a subject specialism and holding subject specialist knowledge.
(A) Some teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when students learn within discrete subject areas (such as English, Maths, Art or Geography). Some might argue that specialised subject knowledge is one of most important competencies of an effective teacher.
(B) Other teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when students engage in learning based around cross-curricular projects rather than traditional subjects (e.g. Life in Roman times). Some might argue that specialised subject knowledge is a relatively unimportant competence for an effective teacher.
Curiously, despite not finding a difference for MPS and UPS teachers, there does seem to be a difference here – with SLT responding more favourably to the ‘progressive’ option (cross-curricular projects) than teachers with a TLR (subject focused).
Question 4 asked whether students working in groups or principally focused on the teacher was better for learning.
(A) Some teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when students are mainly focused on the teacher rather than engaging with their peers. Some might argue that seating children in rows facing the front facilitates this and leads to more effective learning.
(B) Other teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when students are able to socially learn from each other in groups rather than mainly focused on the teacher. Some might argue that seating students around tables where not all students are facing the front facilitates this and leads to more effective learning.
Question 5 asked about student motivation – contrasting ‘engagement’ strategies with ideas about ‘mastery’ of content.
(A) Some teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when lessons are creative, pacey and varied, drawing often on practical or social activities. Some might argue that engagement strategies are key to students’ motivation to learn.
(B) Other teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when lessons are focused on consolidating the recall of key knowledge, understanding and skills. Some might argue that mastery of content is key to students’ motivation to learn.
Question 6 asked about differentiation strategies and whether this implied simply more practice or planning for specific individual needs.
(A) Some teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when lessons are focused primarily on developing the key knowledge, understanding and skills required of the content. Some might argue that effective differentiation means recognising that some children will need more modelling or practice than others.
(B) Other teachers may argue that learning is best achieved when lessons are focused primarily on the individual learning needs of students. Some might argue that effective differentiation means recognising that students have individual learning needs and require personalised planning to meet those needs.
Some tentative conclusions (so far)
Caveat: This sample is unlikely to represent the views of the broader population of teachers in the UK.
This part of the survey gave the least consistent picture of patterns within the response to the survey. However, within this sample, where significant differences were found, MPS teachers were more inclined towards the ‘progressive’ option in the survey and UPS towards the more ‘traditional’ option. This was true of 3 questions (out of 6): Q1 Learning, Q4 Groups and Q6 Differentiation.
This pattern was broadly reflected in the other questions (though not reaching statistical significance) – save for Q3 (subjects).
The survey can’t tell us why this is (so I’ll speculate!). One possibility is that MPS teachers are coming into the profession holding more ‘progressive’ ideas about education. It’s harder to argue that the inclination towards more ‘progressive’ ideas is arising from within the culture of the school, as UPS teachers appeared more likely to hold more ‘traditional’ opinions for those questions. This may have implications for initial teacher training (whether school-based or PGCE / BEd).
There were also a couple of significant differences between teachers holding a TLR and members of SLT. Where these differences were found, TLR teachers were more inclined towards the ‘traditional’ option and SLT towards the more ‘progressive’. This was true for 2 questions: Q1 Learning and Q3 Subjects.
Again, This pattern was broadly reflected in a couple of the other questions (though it didn’t reach statistical significance).
Why this might be? Perhaps teachers moving into SLT roles re-connect with more ‘progressive’ ideas as part of the professional leadership programmes they attend. Perhaps it is merely a hangover from the past expectations of Ofsted to see more ‘progressive’ elements in teaching. Perhaps it is simply that SLT tend to do less classroom teaching than teachers holding a TLR – and this affords them more opportunity for ‘progressive’ idealism compared to the more pragmatic ‘traditionalism’ required of a teacher with a high teaching load.
I look forward to comments offering alternative explanations!
This concludes the quantitative part of the survey. In time, I hope to qualitatively examine some of the comments and clarifications left as part of the survey.