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How a Focus on Outcomes, Not Pedagogy, Can Liberate Teachers

The idea – that it doesn’t matter how we get there, so long as the students demonstrate a positive outcome from the provision and the process that we as teachers provide – is potentially liberating for many practitioners

  • How a Focus on Outcomes, Not Pedagogy, Can Liberate Teachers

The current discourse in the world of teaching seems to be shifting towards a focus on outcomes and away from pedagogy.

Pedagogy derives from the Greek word paidagōgós, meaning ‘boys tutor’ or ‘teacher’, but also meaning a person who is ‘pedantic or dogmatic’. Originally, these ‘teachers’ were slaves who escorted boys to school.

The idea – that it doesn’t matter how we get there, so long as the students demonstrate a positive outcome from the provision and the process that we as teachers provide – is potentially liberating for many practitioners.

‘Outcomes’ should not simply refer to grades or academic achievement – we all know that school is an education in much more than that – they can include things like how well students work independently and collaboratively, and their ability to think about subject-specific skills, for example scientific, technological, human and social skills.

Similarly, how well can they demonstrate social awareness? How well can they use IT? How well can they communicate using speaking, listening, reading and writing? These are just some examples of the outcomes that derive from the provision and processes that we put in place.

Planning, schemes of learning and feedback could no longer be considered an emblem or indication of good teaching. However, naturally, to foster and cultivate positive outcomes, teachers will (arguably!) feel that we need these structures in place, not least to manage teacher workload which then leads to strong teacher wellbeing within the work place.

Shifting our own mindsets from what we provide onto the outcomes of our students gives opportunities for teachers to reassess how to build provision. Must a rigid structure of starters, mains and plenaries be followed?

Already, many teachers have moved away from learning objectives, and grades for individual lessons are no longer given by inspection bodies.

No doubt there are reservations about moving away from structures or carefully formulated plans, but if students show strong outcomes from a variety of approaches, even very traditional ones, then teachers can be released from the pressures of creating activities with bells and whistles.

With this in mind, particular attention can be further dedicated towards how we get outcomes from individual students. A lesson I recently observed disregarded the ‘punchy starter’ and simply outlined the intended outcome and how students would move towards it.

Following this, students were given specific key words from a text and were shown how to analyse them using a class model.

In differentiated groups, students focused on these words. Students whose strength was to articulate the analysis were paired with those who had developed depth and detail in their responses to the words.

The teacher was then barely involved for a section of the lesson where students focused on the outcome that was the goal.

Another lesson saw a teacher facilitate impressive discussion between students using only pictures and no questions.

These approaches worked for these particular students and resulted in strong outcomes.  Encouraging students to conceptualise an outcome they’ve not yet achieved is a key part of moving towards their goal.

Directing our attention towards the outcome rather than the process can encourage teachers to break away from the one size fits all mind-set that can breathe down our necks as we plan.

Eleanor Mears is a head of English, lead practitioner and MSc student in Learning and Teaching. You can find her at myenglisheffects.com and follow her on Twitter at @EnglishEffects.

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