OneSchool’s David Barrett started teaching history in 2004 after a 15-year publishing career and says one of the most significant changes he has seen was the introduction of the Australian Curriculum in NSW in 2014.
“The idea that we take a broad view and then dip down into specific case studies appeals to me as an approach to teaching and learning in history,” says the MET-based teacher. “I’ve also seen a move into increasingly evidence-based pedagogies, in which neuroscience meets motivation and mindset, and learning becomes a visible process, not just the internal province of the individual mind.”
David says that this new way of thinking offers both students and teachers more insights especially when it comes to evidence-based teaching.
“We are now seeing different techniques tested to determine their effect size, which moves us towards more rigorously proven techniques and away from gut feelings about what works,” he says. “I think this is creating better teachers and students who are more reflective and self-aware learners...This evidence-based approach to teaching and learning will become more critical in future.”
Having been in publishing and teaching, David knows how technological advances can be good and bad. Both jobs have been revolutionised due to advances over the past 10-15 years, whether it be something like the Adobe InDesign publishing platform, or video conferencing for teaching students who live remotely.
“Technology can be a powerful tool or it can be the greatest in-class distraction since pigtails were first dipped in inkwells,” says David. “In OneSchool campuses across Australia, we see the great benefits of online and video conferencing technologies, and student devices are providing access to the wealth of knowledge that is now available on the Web. But we must proceed with care, ensuring that our use of technology is based on sound pedagogical principles and specifically targeted to the learning needs of our students.”
And while David is no Luddite in the era the
internet and email, some of the past principles can be brought to bear in the
modern learning environment. “Bringing teaching and learning into the 21st
century while still using models adapted and evolved from but essentially
rooted in 19th- and 20th-century schooling is an enormous and exciting
challenge,” he says. “One example is how do we provide effective feedback for
students who are increasingly studying online and in the ‘glass classroom’
(video conference), and who we might only see in person once or twice in a
year, if at all. We know that teachers rise to such challenges, and I have no
doubt we will see a rapid evolution in this area over the next few years.”
And are there any learning techniques he wishes he’d known about when he first started teaching?
“I was exposed to a few techniques that I now know are part of Cultures of Thinking,” says David. “It’s been instructive to attend so many valuable professional-learning opportunities with the MET School and OneSchool and to discover that what were for me merely handy little teaching tips are actually part of a much greater (and growing) whole.”
As for advice to anybody who is thinking of becoming a teacher, David is to the point. “It’s important to find our teacher selves. So my advice is to try different things in the classroom – when to have a sense of humour, when to use ‘the look’, and so on – but to always be faithful to who you are. Kids smell fake a mile away.”