Do We Have The Right Recipe?

April 1, 2018


Strategies designed to assist school leaders and teachers to engage in continuous school improvement include the provision of specific curriculum topics and pedagogical practices, not necessarily designed to meet the needs of each individual student. Teachers are provided with lesson plans, assessment items and in some cases, even the words to use in the delivery of  lessons. I refer to this as 'Recipe Teaching'.


Let me explain a little more. If I want to cook a cake for one of my grandchildren's birthdays ( which would be a rare event  given my culinary skills) I will search (not research) for a recipe that will provide me with  step-by-step instructions that will hopefully enable me to cook the cake and have it looking like the one in the illustration in the recipe book - or on the cake mix box.


To reach my intended outcome for the cake I don't need a degree, a diploma  or even a certificate. The problem is that sometimes the cake will either flop, or on a more positive note, look similar to the illustration- and hopefully even taste similar.  But could I do it again? Possibly - but I'll need to go back to the recipe because if I miss a step or get one out of order the whole task could be a dismal failure.


Similarly, school leaders and teachers who are directed to follow a particular step-by-step teaching program are merely being given a recipe with little or no regard for their professional judgment, knowledge and skills even though they have earned their education degree/s. 


 I truly believe that  'recipe teaching' will not provide long term sustainable success for students because, as time goes by, teacher capacity could be severely diminished . Why? Because the professional and rewarding experiences of professional conversations, sharing of best practice, planning for personalisation of student learning, designing assessment that is rigorous and authentic and providing learning opportunities that are engaging and promote critical and creative thinking are all part of a good teacher's repertoire of skills. Take them away by handing teachers the plans, the assessment and the words to speak and what is there to do?   


Hence trusting the judgment of good teachers and leaders, whilst ensuring that quality professional development is continuously provided to build teacher capacity, will result in enhanced student outcomes and a stronger teaching force .


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