Build the bridges and the ships

Build the bridges and the ships

Whatever side of the education debate you land on its important for us to find our common ground, because after all aren’t we after the very same things?

I’ve been full of joy and wonder since listening to Emma Turner and Tom Sherrington on todays #BrewEdIsolation. They spoke about their upcoming show ‘Mind the Gap’ and i just can’t wait. What a double act. Both have become #edulegends for me in recent weeks and months.

In their talk Emma used the analogy of us all being on a side of a river. We first, must take into account that no one ever wants the river to flow backwards. We all want the river to flow downstream. Ive never experienced any teacher outline their desire for children to fail or to not succeed. The exact opposite is the only discourse that prevails.

What Tom summed up was that they both come from completely opposite backgrounds. Tom spent his career as a classroom physics teacher and formerly a high school headteacher. Emma on the other hand spent her career in primary going on to form one of the UK’s first ever co-headships. Now aren’t they a wealth of completely different experience.

What makes me completely excited is their promise to provide debate and insights from each bank of the river without the often polarising nature of twitter debates. Regardless of which riverbank you place you flag, I believe that we can find middle ground.

Whether you advocate for a progressive education or a more traditional education it is important to note that there are common grounds and for me, you can’t teach using solely one. You need to board a boat or build a bridge between them. Tom Sherrington uses the terms Mode A and Mode B. With Mode A being more of your traditional teacher centred approaches and Mode B incorporating more of the progressive student-centred approaches.

If you’re new to this debate (like I was only a few months ago) they can be summarised as follows:

Progressive: Student Centred: experiential learning, group work, the guide on the side, discovery/enquiry, 21st-Century skills.

Traditional: Teacher-Centred: expert knowledge delivered by the teacher, direct instruction, the sage on the stage, rigour and challenge, probing questions.

In The Teaching Delusion Bruce Robertson advocates for an 80/20 split for Mode A/Mode B teaching. Agreeing with what Tom Sherrington outlines in The Learning Rainforest. Both of these books should go straight to the top of your wish list. Given this, I would agree with the split and feel that the more we know about cognitive science and how the brain works the more a traditional approach comes to the fore.

A good education, however, must include Mode B pedagogy. This is where i build my bridges and hop on my boat. I often employ flipped learning strategies, encourage debate and I am (far too) often found to be going off piste with the enacted curriculum.

The progressive-traditional debate is just one area of the minefield that is education. The curriculum is a debate that could rage for hours but with everything it is important that we give an appreciative nod to those on the opposite side of the river and build our bridges and boats to get downstream ever quicker to the hinterland of a truly word class education system. We can get there.

About the Author
Teacher of young people.

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