Recommendations Part 3


Theoretically, the transformationist approach, which is consistent with the emerging philosophy evolving from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’ in higher education (King 1993), is supposed to be effective in the T&I classrooms. However, the reality is that some T&I classrooms may not be ready to welcome such an approach. Two obstacles may stand in the way. One is that teachers may hold mixed views of learning, instead of purely constructivist or situated learning views (Allen 2013, Klien 1996, Murphy 2000). The other is that misalignment is evident between teaching beliefs and learning beliefs (Brown 2009, Kern 1995 and Yung 2013 in Li 2017).

I have seen similarities in my work in moving people, along the spectrum from racist to anti-racist. I have found severe resistance (fragility), as views become entrenched through firstly anchoring bias and then a confirmation bias. Once toxic associations are formed even statistical evidence may fall on deaf ears. (Eberhart 2019, p23)


I have come to use and advocate an approach which brings people to the conclusion but does not seek to answer the question for them. Similar to Lauren Spring, Melissa Smith & Maureen DaSilva (2017) in feminist-inspired guided art gallery visits for people diagnosed with mental illness and addiction facilitators use VTS (visual, thinking skills), describes ‘VTS uses art to teach visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills–listening and expressing oneself. Growth is stimulated by several things: Looking at the art of increasing complexity; answering developmentally based questions (What is going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find?); participating in peer-group discussions carefully facilitated by teachers. (p. 19)

The dialogue around any facilitation in moving beliefs is of utmost importance, ‘Dialogue is more than a conversation; it is the building of learning the centred narrative.’ (Carnell and Lodge p15). If we merge these concepts together, the teachers should aim to fade into facilitators and enables groups of pupils to co-construct meaning.

Yenawine 2013 argues that VTS (visual thinking strategies) offers a ‘new paradigm that nurtures deeper learning’ and gives participants’ permission to wonder’ (p. 163). I would say it does more than this. This process takes time and refusal to become the all-knowing sage (reception model). No matter how many times the participants/students ask. While she (Yenawine) and Abigail Housen discourage facilitators from drawing any tidy conclusions or ‘wrapping up’ a VTS session by pronouncing which participant responses were most accurate (i.e. ‘yes, this actually is his wife’ or ‘the painter had indeed encountered analytic cubism in France before setting to work on this canvass’)  (Yenawine, 2013 in Spring et al 2017).


The constructivist ‘teacher’s’ role incorporates the context and lens of both the ‘teacher’ and the ‘learner’. Without an in-depth knowledge one own ontology, epistemology and their bearing on your beliefs, the job of a co-constructivist ‘teacher’ is near impossible.

Teachers should embrace a model of learning and practice which in part suits their learners, their personal experience and their core purpose, the first step in should be through a personal reflection in which they interrogate their experiences of learning as well as their ontological and epistemological background.

A high starting point is encouraging teachers to start to elicit personal reactions to the critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire who describes informal and formal education as dialogical; this dialogue is fundamentally about making a difference in the world.


Coaches/mentors should ask what is the purpose of education? Learning content (knowledge) and the skills to apply them are essential in today’s world. If we take a consequentialist view, and link education to employment and the current global capitalism in play in the world; this point is echoed by the world bank in ‘creating workers for today’s workforce’, Educators today are tasked with developing lifelong learners who can survive and thrive in a global knowledge economy – learners who have the capability to effectively and creatively apply skills and competencies to new situations in an ever-changing, complex world (The World Bank, 2003; Kuit & Fell, 2010 in Blaschke 2012).


Is this the sole reason teachers teach to enable pupils to enter the workforce? In my experience teachers as a whole would resist this as a basis and many teachers would hold similar views.


‘While such claims do stem from a concern about the ways in which teaching and schools can ‘make a difference,’ they are often linked to rather narrow views about what education is supposed to ‘produce’ taking their cues from large scale measurement systems such as PISA which continue to focus on academic achievement in a small and selective number of domains and subject areas.’ Biesta (2015)


A reflexive approach is needed, depending on the answers that surface.

However, this task becomes easier once you have accepted where your own learning has come from. Even a fickle surface level interrogation of your own beliefs can trigger self-directed questions around your position on the constructivist scale.


‘Given the nature of case studies, the findings of this preliminary inquiry may not be generalisable to a wider context. However, the value of this study lies in the fact that it inspires colleagues to research their own beliefs in their own teaching contexts and those of their students, and to understand whether those beliefs are enabling or detrimental to the design of a successful T&I course.’ (Li 2017)


Belief systems are resistant to change as the groups of traditionalist and progressives have reached a collective status, with both groups, hailing their idols and their respective villains. The issue in moving teacher practice may not be one of convincing someone to the advantages of the co-constructivist model but, ironically, one of asking them to accept and adjust their lens and their position in society.


‘How we are seen determines in part how we are treated; how we treat others is based on how we see them; such seeing comes from representation.’ (Dyer 1993:1 in Gilborn 2000)


It is vital to recognise one’s own beliefs, as Gilborn 2000 goes on to cite that through encoding, and limiting preferred reading (Hall 1990)’ representation does not reflect (in some neutral way) … instead support a particular idea.’ Which further entrenches these views.


Teacher trainers should also learn lessons from Twistleton’s 2002 dissertation, where she discusses three stages of teacher development, this work is centred around trainee teachers but has been extended to experienced teachers.


Task Managers– Through a self-identity which heavily influenced by their own experience as pupils, task managers appear to rely on a knowledge of educational contexts. Where they employ teaching priorities that involve authority, order and ‘busyness’, this is typically taught through the reception model.


Curriculum Deliverers-Their modus operandi involves a broader knowledge base than Task Managers. Curriculum Deliverers’ primary focus is curriculum knowledge. When working with groups of inexperienced teachers, it is tempting, as a leader, to put this at the heart of the teacher’s daily planning routine and core purpose. However, this is not the aim of teaching, as Counsell (2018) stated, simply distilling the residue of ‘core’ can ultimately lead to teaching being more difficult and detrimental to the whole process. These are also typically delivered through the reception model.


With the implementation of the National Literacy Strategy and the National Curriculum in the 1990s. Twistleton (2002) postulates that this possibly explains why there was a cluster of teachers as curriculum deliverers, which are generally traditionalist/behaviourist due to the constraints of time. Which pushes teachers, even those with a constructivist base, towards the reception model and traditionalism.


‘Instructors are torn between providing sufficient knowledge and facts to help a student become successful in the next course and delivery fewer facts but creating a learner-centred environment.’ Horton (2001)


The above is an extremely pertinent point at the moment with the profound changes to the secondary curriculum and movement to the grade 9-1 system.


‘[Teachers] have spent years improving their delivery of method, changing from the chalkboard to overheads, and lately moving to computer projection and online delivery. Moreover, as students they have taken standardised exams to measure learning. However, these teaching styles do not assist the student in becoming lifelong learners relative to a given topic.’ Horton (2001)


More and more teachers are forced (and remain stuck) into these categories (curriculum deliverers and traditionalist), through fear of the unknown. As a classroom teacher, middle leader or senior leader, mark schemes and specimen papers provide solace in a world where you know little about the nature of the new assessment framework. In moving towards a co-constructivist model, teachers need to be pushed towards concept and skill builders.


Concept/Skill builders – “… they saw the task as important only in so much as it contributed to the ultimate goal of an increased understanding related to the broader framework of the subject Insight allows the expert teacher to see deeply into a problem in order to seek the most effective solution. Selective encoding helps in selecting the relevant information to do this. This provides the expert with an insight into the situation, which will: a) enable her/him to make the most efficient use of the time available and b) draw on the most useful areas of knowledge.” Twistleton 2002


As a physicist who was taught for 18 years (for the majority) under the reception model, it is very difficult for myself to incorporate constructivist teaching into my own classroom. My natural tendency is to revert to myself as the font of all knowledge and students as being the passive receptacles of knowledge, through this assignment I have seen the merits of the transformationist, reflexive and interrogative approach.


Teachers coaches and facilitators should consider following:


  1. Creating awareness of the spectrum of the reception model to co-construction.
  2. Using techniques used in consciousness-raising activities like VTS, where facilitators do not seek answers but seek thought.
  3. An interrogation of the
  4. Teacher’s own experiences
  5. Their ontology and epistemology.
  6. An identification of the teacher’s core purposes.
  7. Ameliorate personal resistance to change.
  8. Appreciate all of the above factors in both the journey of the pupils and the journey of the teachers.
  9. Adapt practices as a result.





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