Christodoulou seeks to address some myths
Focus should be on what happens in the classroom
Daisy Christodoulou,joined the Curriculum Centre, which is part of the ‘Futures Academies’ group (Pimlico Academy etc) as its first Managing Director in August 2012 and was quickly promoted to the role of CEO.
She studied English Literature at Warwick University and trained as an English teacher on the Teach First programme in 2007. In 2010 she edited a Policy First publication on the importance of ethos and culture in schools. In 2011-12 Daisy worked at Pimlico Academy on a pioneering knowledge-based curriculum. Daisy’s book Seven Education Myths: Knowledge and skills in the English Curriculum, was published this month.
Daisy is the Curriculum Centres English Language, English Literature, History and Geography lead.
She has spent her twenties teaching in challenging inner-city comprehensive schools, and much of what she writes in this book is informed by what she experienced in these schools. Her book is essential reading for anyone in education who wants to fully understand some of the thinking behind the curriculum reforms.She identifies seven myths but there are rather more out there that need to be challenged, a point that Daisy accepts. Daisy is also interested in the advances in neuro science and how much more we now understand about how the brain works, and how this might help inform teaching practice in future.
Much of the heated disagreement in education has been over structures. As the introduction points out, ‘both left and right prefer structural solutions to education problems’. In a certain sense structural reforms are the easy bit (which is why politicians are so keen on them). This book shines the spotlight on what matters most: what actually gets taught in classrooms, and how it gets taught.
Here is an extract from her book about the disconnect between robust evidence and teaching practice :
‘ After I’d been teaching for three years, I took a year out to do further study. I was shocked to stumble across an entire field of educational and scientific research which completely disproved so many of the theories I’d been taught when training and teaching. I wasn’t just shocked; I was angry. I felt as though I’d been led up the garden path. I had been working furiously for three years, teaching hundreds of lessons, and a whole lot of information which would have made my life a whole lot easier and would have helped my pupils immeasurably had just never been introduced to me. Worse, ideas which had absolutely no evidence backing them up had been presented to me as unquestionable axioms… My central argument is that much of what teachers are taught about education is wrong, and that they are encouraged to teach in ineffective ways’.
Daisy draws from her own experience of the ways in which potentially effective teachers have been made ineffective because they follow too closely the theories they have been taught in their teacher training . Some of this training peddles not only the wrong ideas about skills and knowledge, but has also served to deprive these potentially good teachers of the knowledge they need to be effective teachers of subject matter. Teachers who are only moderately talented as teachers can be highly effective if they follow basic teaching principles and a sound curriculum within a school environment where knowledge builds cumulatively from year to year. Knowledge begets more knowledge and has a multiplier effect. The ideas of ED Hirsch are much in evidence here . Daisy supports the Core Knowledge approach advocated by Hirsch (Hirsch, by the way, admires this book and Daisys approach )
Seven Myths in brief
1. Facts prevent understanding
Myth: Facts are inert
Reality: Facts are foundations
2. Teacher-led instruction is passive
Myth: Directed instruction is counterproductive
Reality: Directed instruction is effective
3. The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
Myth: The future economy makes learning facts pointless
Reality: In a knowledge economy, knowledge is a prerequisite for innovation
4. You can just look it up
Myth: The Internet makes memory obsolete
Reality: Long-term memory is crucial for thinking well
5. We should teach transferable skills
Myth: Most skills transfer easily across subject content
Reality: Few skills transfer easily across subjects
6. Projects and activities are the best way to learn
Myth: Physical activity always enhances thinking and remembering
Reality: Physical activity often crowds out thought and memory
7. Knowledge is not indoctrination
Myth: Prescribing knowledge is a right wing ideology
Reality: Sequencing knowledge is crucial for critical thinking skills
Seven Myths in Education is out on Tuesday 18th June on Amazon Kindle, and available via the free Kindle app on iPhones, ipads, Macs, PCs and android smartphones.