What do we really want from education?

I had a fascinating conversation this evening with Professor Philip Woods, chair in educational policy, leadership and democracy at the University of Hertfordshire, and Charles Weston, Director of Equity Research at Numis Securities. Philip is an expert in educational entrepreneurialism (amongst other things), and Charles is an analyst in private healthcare. Between us we analysed the emerging trend for private healthcare to move in to areas in which the NHS had a monopoly, and considered the implications for education.

Charles told us how a relatively small healthcare firm, Circle, beat the giant Serco to win the contract to run a poorly-performing NHS trust. Apparently they have already achieved amazing things, with improved throughput of patients, improved patient satisfaction, and improved staff satisfaction. The key? They gave the doctors control over decision-making, gave them 49% of the shares in the trust, and encouraged them to innovate.

In healthcare it is standard practice to measure success using short- and long-term outcomes, as well as intangibles like patient and staff satisfaction. Charles wondered whether such a system could be imported in to education.

Philip then explained the extra complexities in defining outcomes in education. The key difficulty is getting people to agree on a definition of “what is good education?” There are so many conflicting ideas of what a great school looks like. You have everything from selective grammar schools producing students with lots of exam success through to Steiner schools who produce extremely rounded individuals. He then gave us some details about Steiner education (having studied it in some depth), and we agreed that it would be difficult to produce measures of success within that system that could also be used with the grammar school.

This thought-provoking conversation (which moved through a large number of similarly interesting topics) really made me think about what it is that makes some parents choose a Steiner education for their children. Is it because they are taking the long view? Do they essentially trust the school to manage the process so long as their children emerge as rounded, happy, confident and competent adults who can be successful in their lives?

I suspect, in many ways, that is what we are all asking for from education. The trouble is, we have become bogged down with the current measures. Exams were supposed to tell us how successful schools and students were at moving from unformed child to this ideal adult. Somehow, along the way, we now see the exam itself as the outcome, as the measure of success.

So what if we started measuring long-term outcomes? What do you think the results would be if we could devise a measure of happiness and success in adults (and how would we do it)? I think it would be revolutionary.

If the government could produce this measure, and scrap all others, then you could set schools and teachers free to produce the adults that we are all after. Tweaking measures of exams will make barely any difference at all. What we want are long-term measures, like the NHS. Where is education’s version of the 10-year survival rate?

Swallow your pride, and follow your enemies

First of all, pop quiz. Which well-known educator has 7,212 Twitter followers and follows 5? Can you find a more extreme example?

Education is a rather tribal affair. You have reformers, bureaucrats, unions, innovators, personalised-learning lovers, etc. Here is a pretty standard Twitter exchange.

@teamA_leader1: “We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers”.

@teamA_leader2: RT @teamA_leader1 “We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers” <– So true! #edchat #edTeamA

@teamB_leader1: RT @teamA_leader1“We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers” <– Here we go again, #pathetic.

@teamB_leader2: RT @teamB_leader1: RT @teamA_leader1“We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers” <– Here we go again, #pathetic. <– agreed, disgusting #edTeamB #edchat

This will generally be followed by more abuse thrown around within each team, until someone gets a bit extreme. At this point someone in the opposing ‘team’ will retweet this extreme abuse and add on “<– see! bunch of unprofessional, rude morons”

It’s very easy to do this. In fact it makes you feel better about yourself and your beliefs, and avoids any of that unpleasant cognitive dissonance. In fact, as I’ve written before, the whole process just gets you more entrenched in your own views, and makes it significantly less likely that the two sides will engage constructively with each other.

Look at any conflict or disagreement, and you’ll be unlikely to find anyone who won the argument by repeatedly shouting one-sided arguments. In fact you’ll find that everyone has to compromise just a little, examine their own beliefs, and find common ground.

So whether it’s educators in the USA hurling abuse at Michelle Rhee or Diane Ravitch, or UK teachers and politicians making fun of Michael Gove or Christine Blower, then this pattern doesn’t move us on.

Go and take a look at your Twitter follower list now and find 10 people who specifically disagree with your most fundamental beliefs. Then, actually take some time to understand them, and even engage with them.

In the end, there is no answer that will improve everything for everyone. Education is, and will always be, a compromise. Perhaps you may need to concede that e-learning may not be the best way for all students to learn. Maybe you might concede that there are some legitimate cases where tests and grading might just help students progress, or perhaps you may have to admit that focusing even harder on data might not actually make your school a better learning environment.

Whatever you decide, don’t be an education fundamentalist.

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Have faith in schools – don’t prescribe the curriculum

I’m going to risk being controversial but the avalanche of commentary in the last few days has really made me think. Since Michael Gove announced the new slimmed-down curriculum there has been a huge clamour:

Yet in the past few years and we were hearing “the national curriculum is too prescriptive” and “2/3rds of teachers think it has too much content“.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know some of the current complaints are about an enormous increase of prescription in History and English, and I can entirely sympathise with that. However, possibly controversially, I’m afraid I don’t sympathise with all those people seeking to have their subjects made mandatory. In fact, I’d quite like to have just English and Maths in the core curriculum (and this comes from a Science teacher).

Choice is great! Schools should be entirely free to set their own projects, do their own assessments, and let kids follow their interests. I’d love to do project-based science, create portfolios of interesting research and experiments, and really get kids following their noses and exploring areas of interest to them. Put it in the curriculum and we’re back to standardised testing for all, set ‘must-learn’ topics, and a big lid on the fun.

Of course a great school will get kids to be creative and follow their artistic ideas. They’ll inspire them with incredible ideas about using technology, and they’ll engage in fascinating comparisons and debates about religion, ethics and philosophy. A great school will create informed, engaged citizens with an interest in language, literature, and music.

Try and write a one-size fits all approach on paper and you’ll stifle innovation. Just because an expert couldn’t have got to where they were today without learning about Electromagnetic induction at age 15 really doesn’t mean its the right thing for every 15 year old to do. Just look at the amazing things going on a places like Big Picture learning and the way they create personalised curricula for their students. Just think how inspired kids can be when they follow music because they love it, and take exams when they’re ready. Nobody would argue we’d create more musicians and a better country by making everyone learn the same music, on the same instrument, at the same age.

Have faith in the schools, trust the teachers, and let the kids follow their interests. Don’t prescribe.

Am I right? All disagreements and comments very welcome – I love to learn.

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New ways of learning, same people.

I have enthusiastically embraced new technology this term. So far I have tried

  • Jing videos to explain algebra to my year 9 Maths class
  • Blogs and Wikis for my A-level Physics (year 12)
  • A good practice blog for staff

I just finished preparing an online unit for GCSE Physics for students to learn about sources of energy/power stations and help prepare them for a debate on the future of energy. It’s all exciting.

Sometimes though, despite being a great advocate of there not being any miracle answers in education I still get carried away with these things. So I guess I was just a little crestfallen when:

  • Half of my year 9s failed to log on to see the videos or had difficulties with Flash.
  • 5 staff put some entries on the good practice blog and the rest haven’t seen it as enough of a priority to do anything yet.
  • Some of my sixth formers found the wiki inspired them to write crazy things, but not a great deal of content.

So, amazingly, I discovered that:

  • Not everyone is enthusiastic about the same things,
  • That some students can be lazy,
  • And that sometimes computers don’t work.

In this brave new world of technology, which I still find ridiculously exciting, despite this, it’s rather reassuring to know that just as many things can go wrong with new ways of doing things as with old. I suspect, just like any good teaching, that perseverance, enthusiasm and patience will get my students and colleagues there in the end.

If you have encountered some of the above problems and have suggestions, I would very much welcome your comments below. Come on trusty Twitter and Blog – you won’t let me down now, will you?

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Turning exams on their head

I’ve had an idea buzzing around my head, and I need your help.

I was fortunate enough to attend Be Bettr last Friday, a conference which brought together all sorts of thinkers about technology, education, and learning. The first two speakers were Paul Miller, CEO of School of Everything, and David Jennings speaking about Agile Learning. Interesting ideas, particularly for a teacher, like me, brought up and entirely used to teaching in institutions, and having the whole thing dictated by exams.

Both of these interesting gents brought up the same issues – that informal learning can only go so far, but eventually people are forced to do something formal in order to get accreditation. So I started daydreaming and doodling, and wondering why do we even need that?

So I think there are two reasons:

  1. To show that you have a certain level of competency or skill.
  2. To demonstrate that you are ready to progress to the next level.

Ok, so everyone knows you get your exams and your degrees and your first employer looks at them very carefully, then the second employer doesn’t care so much, and by the time you’ve reached the third employer they take very little notice. Why?

Because we trust their judgements. Essentially, by hiring you, they have vouched for your skills. In fact, we get references from them, and from colleagues, to vouch for our skill levels and more. We get people to vouch for our work ethic, our personality, our skill, and our ability to learn.

The massive problem with exams is that, in the end, you only do well at them if you’re good at doing exams. In fact, in the UK, the strongest predictor of success in any A-Level exam is the average of how you did in all the exams at GCSE, no matter what subject. Damning indictment – no wonder schools become exam factories!

So here’s my idea. Please don’t steal it, but tell me how I can improve it.

I’ve just registered the name vouch4.me. I want to build a website where I state my skills and qualities, and provide a portfolio of evidence for my work and my abilities. I then have various people who are vouching for some or all of those qualities or pieces of work. These people, in turn, have their own portfolios, and have many other people vouching for their skills and judgements, and so on.

So I have a list of people directly vouching for me, I have the number of people directly vouching for me, and I also have the number indirectly vouching for me (i.e. vouching for the people vouching for me). A little wizardry would weed out closed groups of people all vouching for each other, but in essence that’s it.

As an employer I get to see evidence of skills, I see references from people (much like “recommendations” on LinkedIn I suppose), and I can also get a feel for how well-regarded each of the ‘recommenders’ actually are.

As a school, I stop forcing my kids to do exams, and start building their portfolios, though these can still match the prescribed syllabus. Each teacher is vouched for by colleagues, by the school, and by the training courses they go on, giving them weight to vouch for their students.

As a lifelong learner I can now go an acquire skills from anywhere, and build my portfolio. I can sit exams if I wish (and get vouched for by the exam boards who will have had hundreds of people vouch for them), or I can learn entirely informally, and make sure I have impressed people who will vouch for me.

I’ve spent a few hours wrapped in a duvet on my sofa suffering from a cold, googling around this idea. Is this mad or is it revolutionary? Maybe I haven’t explained it well? I hope my sick-day has achieved something!

Your thoughts extremely welcome.


@exam_writer said “Collusion between the student and their vouchee could be a problem” though “As self-employed most jobs got on experience/recommendations & not exams”

@CreativeEdu said “I like the concept a lot but am slightly concerned that instead of measuring exam performance it measures a different subset of skills namely ability to social network and sell oneself. We have all written our own references to be signed off by an employer at some point..That said, it’s an interesting idea and I agree that a skills\vocational approach would be refreshing. Good luck!”
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English Baccalaureate

I am an eternal optimist, and as such I believe that there is some value to the new English Baccalaureate. However, this is only true if it is used to recognise achievement rather than highlight the lack of it. Many schools fear it will be used as another measure to brand them as failures, and are angry that the goalposts have shifted. This is just another cycle in the endless story of data and education.

For those who don’t know, the new UK governing coalition has introduced a new yardstick against which to measure school success. This is, the proportion of students who, at the age of 16, achieve a grade C or higher in their exams in all of the following:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • A foreign language (modern or classical)
  • A humanity

Previous published measures included the proportion of students gaining 5 or more exams in any subject at a grade C or above, and the number gaining 2 or 3 or more grade C’s plus the same standard in English & Maths.

Inherently there is nothing wrong with any of these measures. In fact they were all brought in to reflect various different ideas about what represents a ‘good’ outcome. I similarly believe there is nothing wrong with the new English Baccalaureate measure. Any new piece of data tells you something new, helps suggest areas of particularly good practice, and opens up new questions.

So how should these data be used? Ideally, as a package of measures, publicly available, along with contextual information, and an internal self-evaluation by the school. It is reasonable to be able to compare these measures against other schools, but only if equal weight is given to each piece of data. The culture set by the government should then be to highlight and recognise schools with particularly outstanding achievement and ethos and supportively challenge other schools to share, collaborate, and learn from these schools.

The concept of “awarding” the baccalaureate suggests that it should mark out particularly hard work and excellent achievement:

“If you get five GCSEs in those areas, I think you should be entitled to special recognition,” Gove said.

This was the excellent spirit in which the education secretary announced the new award in September in The Guardian. His aides followed with:

The education secretary was not seeking to tell pupils what exams to take, but the baccalaureate would be a way of rewarding those who took a wider range of subjects.

These are all positive statements. Unfortunately the spirit in which the English Bacc. was launched hasn’t entirely been maintained:

“We are publishing more information which shines a light on the last Government’s failure to give millions of children access to core academic knowledge in other subjects”
(Michael Gove in the Daily Mail, 8th January 2011)

Data should be used to highlight good practice and raise aspirations, but never for a witch-hunt . I would love our government to follow the classroom example and aim for a ratio of at least 5 pieces of praise to each negative statement made publicly. I genuinely believe that a culture of positivity and innovation coupled with tough challenges and high aspirations will make an order of magnitude more difference than league tables, criticism, and persecution.
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New initiatives

After my inspiring training day on Tuesday I have been trying to put some of my new ideas in to practice. The three main aims were

  • Start getting my students to produce their own learning materials
  • Produce some flipped-learning resources for the kids to study before the next lesson
  • Encourage some sharing of good practice at my school

So far, a very inspiring week. I’ve made some examples of rearranging formulae for my Maths class using Jing:

I’ve got my A-level Physics class to produce some simulations of wave superposition in Excel which they are putting on to our school Moodle, and I’ve set up a Sharing Good Practice blog in school, where we’ve already got some ideas on:

  • Giving students questionnaires to get their feedback on the teaching and learning, with some previously-used examples.
  • Setting A-level Maths questions in chunks before lessons, doing targeted help during the lesson, and setting a mini-assessment in the next. This helps improve independent learning and reduces homework-marking load.
  • A huge set of innovative ideas for getting all year-groups to reflect more deeply on History.

Everyone I’ve asked to contribute has been genuinely thrilled to hear somebody thinks their practice is worth sharing. It is a pleasure to ask them, and it is a pleasure to see their ideas. I can’t wait to see more ideas and share them with you – hopefully I’ll get everyone’s permission to share the link to the school blog.
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Why you think your theories about education are right (and why you’re probably fooling yourself)

You’re WRONG

Ok, so hands up please, who felt ever so slightly annoyed when they read the title of this post? Sorry about that. It’s really not very nice to be told that your ideas are wrong. Much more fun is when you see a post or a tweet where someone tells you something like

“David’s post was just so spot on, it rang so many bells. What a pleasure to find a like-minded individual. This is so definitely the way to improve schools, I just don’t understand how some people can disagree?!”

Ok, nobody has actually written that about me, but even if you imagine that it was written about you I bet you can feel a rush of pleasure at the mere thought. To get all neurosciency on you, you’ve just experienced a rush of dopamine in a part of your brain.

Wasn’t that nice?! But why did it happen?

I recently read a truly superb book by Jonah Lehrer called “The Decisive Moment” (now re-released as How We Decide). In it he explains what is going on in your head, and I’m afraid it might not be such good news for you.


Your brain is a massive pattern-spotting machine. From a tiny baby we start assimilating every pattern of nervous impulses, decisions and senses that we experience. Each learned pattern turns in to something like a children’s toy:

children's shape/hole toyEvery new experience (the shape) is passed rapidly over all the memories (the holes) and you get little burst of dopamine released as it passes each hole – the better the fit the bigger the burst. The brain selects the hole which produces the greatest pleasure, and if the shape fits  it then ‘upgrades’ that hole a bit, so that it produces an even bigger burst next time. Decision made, learning strengthened. Hoorah.

Through trillions of these processes occurring as we develop, we gradually start to recognise things, to learn facts, to behave instinctively (e.g. walking, catching a ball etc.), and to develop our moral compass.

This process works amazingly well in so many ways. As we learn to walk, it learns to always compensate for overbalancing, for gravity, for bumps in the road. We avoid obstacles without consciously thinking, and so on.

A pattern too far

So this is all great, but what has it got to do with your chronic overconfidence? (Sorry, there I go again…)

Ok, find a convenient nearby 8 year old, and show them a video of someone throwing a coin. On the video this person will throw 6 heads in a row. What does the 8-year-old say?

But I know that it changes between heads and tails, and it hasn’t done for ages, so it must be about to change to to tails now?

Ok, you found a very literate 8-year-old, but you know why they said it. It’s rather like your Auntie Gertrude who scrutinizes the lottery numbers every week and is convinced that 35 and 43 occur more often on days where it rains, and has a great feeling about it this week. If you were a bit of a science geek like me, then it’s the feeling you got when someone told you about ionic and covalent bonding at school. We love patterns, and we love the dopamine response as we anticipate another example that satisfies us.

Now imagine the face of the 8-year-old when the next throw is another head. Next, think about how Dear Auntie Gertie feels when it rained all day but her numbers didn’t come up. Indeed, why not sympathise with the sinking feeling I had when someone told me that atoms might not actually have a fixed number of electrons in each shell.

Ouch. Disappointment. Brain doesn’t like it! “You must have fixed it – it’s a trick!” shouts the 8-year-old, searching for some other logic. Poor Auntie Gertie feels sad until she concludes that it must be because she didn’t write the numbers with her lucky pen (she tells you, searching for some logic). I shan’t even tell you what I said to my classmate when my chemical principles crumbled around my feet.

The New Panacea

So, let’s go back to your new education theory. Perhaps you’ve been persuaded that:

  • All online learning and new technology will improve everyone’s learning.
  • More rigorous application of business principles and testing will save education.
  • All testing and data is completely evil and wrong and bad for children, and only destroying it all will save education.
  • Twitter is the best way for all teachers to improve themselves.

Go on, admit it, at least one of them rings some bells. Or rather, it releases some dopamine. If a government minister stands up and present data that contradicts your pet theory you’re going to be angry, and you’ll search around for reasons why you’re still utterly right and they’re still utterly wrong. (And let’s face it, we’ve all seen a lot of that)

Why? Because being right is pleasant! People agreeing with you gives you actual physical pleasure. Disagreeing with you is painful, and unpleasant, as it breaks our pattern, and we never get our anticipated dopamine release.

Think of a cigarette smoke defending their habit. They produce some ridiculous excuses to convince themselves that their logic is sound. Think of the government minister insisting blindly that their new curriculum and testing arrangements are the magic way to improve your teaching. They don’t like listening, they don’t like admitting they’re wrong, and neither do you.

Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong to attack theories, to question things. Quite the opposite – you should always question things! Be brave, have courage, challenge your own beliefs. Don’t jump at the easy first answer but listen to criticism. Maybe that complete enemy may be speaking some truth?

If you know what I do,  you know I love data. I love new theories. I love passionate people. But do yourselves a favour. That wonderful new idea is just not going to be perfect for every student. How can it? Every teacher, and every student is a wonderful unique, chaotic, and random mixture of skills, talents, and weaknesses. One method cannot be equally deliver, and one size does not fit all.

There are many excellent ways to improve education.


There is no panacea.

(But feel free to contradict me, of course. I may well be wrong…)

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The perfect training day at school

The first day back at work after the Christmas break is not traditionally a time to look forward to. It’s dark, it’s cold, and the next holiday is weeks out of sight. But today, for me, was no ordinary first day back. In fact, having just finished, I’ve just driven back home down the motorway to my home in London in a fairly dreamy state. I don’t think it’s good for road safety, but I also don’t think my teaching will ever be quite the same again.

So what exactly made this day so special? Well, here’s how it went – you be the judge.


The reason I bounced out of bed this morning was that my head is full of inspiration. I joined Twitter on 22nd December 2010, and I feel more enthused in the past 2 weeks than any time I can remember before. I have read about teachers using technology in exciting ways, I have heard from teachers who value independent learning as much as I do, and I have heard the results of experiments in many other classrooms around the world. I am in touch with educators I could never have heard about before, and my professional network already spans the globe.

I have already told several members of staff at school. I intend to try and persuade key members of senior management to join, and the head of Maths has promised to have a dabble. For a school that is struggling (although currently succeeding) in maintaining its staff training budget in the face of harsh cuts (particularly in sixth form funding), this could well be just the way of improving teacher-learning we’ve been looking for.

Learning and sharing

This year my school has set sixth form (that’s 16-18 year-olds) learning as it’s professional development priority. We had an interesting survey and talk from Villiers Park last year on ways to improve our lessons. Today all staff sat in cross-discipline breakout groups. When we first arrived, in the typical British cynical way all talk was about “Oh what a waste of time”, and “How quickly can we finish this?”. However, even just a few minutes later I discovered my colleagues have some amazing ideas under their belts as fevered discussion and sharing ensued:

  • One occasionally sets chapters from the Maths textbook as a homework in advance of teaching it, and asks students to collaborate and teach each other. In the next lesson he sets a quiz between the four class teams to assess what they have learned, and to correct any misconceptions.
  • Another teacher sets passages from English texts as homework, and asks students to come in with 10 questions for their peers, or 10 subtle true/false statements, or 10 plot points in the wrong order to be sorted. They swap, mark, and then she assesses both the questions and the answers.
  • A Chemistry teacher rewrites the specification and, over time, gives one to three students a section to prepare for the next lesson, with handouts. They present at the start of the next lesson, and must go through a Q&A with the rest of the class.

There were so many more brilliant ideas, from students self-assessing their effort, through regular “how is my teaching” questionnaires, to students blogging/saving outstanding work on Moodle, our VLE/LMS/CMS (take your pick of acronym!). This was just one of 7 groups that included someone from most departments and a couple of learning support and special needs assistants. I can’t wait to hear what the rest of them came up with!

In our subsequent science department meeting we decided to focus on expanding blogging during and after lessons, moving to some ‘flipped teaching’ for topics that suited it, and expanding our online resources. For a department with reputation for cynicism, this is wonderful and inspiring, and I can’t wait to get started.


My final excitement today was from a discovery that I read about, of course, on Twitter. Jing is an insanely easy to use way of recording a video of a portion of the screen, with sound from an attached microphone. I borrowed a microphone from our language department, plugged it in, installed Jing, fired up our interactive whiteboard, and away I went. I recorded 10 worked Maths examples for my year 9 class on using formulae this afternoon, and intend to try them out as a homework for my set tomorrow, with questions from the textbook to follow. It is so easy! I can’t wait to share it with my colleagues – this could absolutely revolutionise our teaching.

Education can be so creative, so rewarding, and so exciting. Now I’m looking forward to putting it in to practice, then carefully assessing its effect on student understanding and engagement, and finally discussing, improving, and sharing the ideas with others.
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What it takes to be a great employer

Harvard business review has a superb article by Tony Schwartz on how any company can be a great employer. Education officials, school leaders and teachers can all learn from these four principles which he talks about.

1. Sustainability (physical)

The most basic need he talks about is that our physical needs our met. Are we getting good food, is the working environment safe, and are we comfortable? How many schools ask teachers and students to work in unpleasant buildings, on uncomfortable seats, and eating sub-standard food? The article’s author, Tony Schwartz says this:

How crazy is it that companies are willing to invest in preventative maintenance on fixed assets such as their machinery, but typically won’t make a comparable investment to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of their employees?

2. Security (emotional)

The second need is that employees are valued, recognised, and appreciated. If your schools are appreciated only for their test scores, employee’s perform less well. If you never give any recognition for achievements of your teachers, they will feel less motivated to achieve. If you concentrate your efforts on students’ mistakes and under-performance then they won’t feel intrinsically motivated to push themselves. As Schwartz says:

The vast majority of employers fail to recognize a simple and immutable truth: how people feel at any given moment profoundly influences how they perform.

Everyone knows the sure-fire way for a teacher to demotivate a class is to spend your time shouting at them and criticising them, and yet government and media seem remarkably enthusiastic to concentrate solely on the negatives of schools and teaching.

3. Self-expression (mental)

The third need is to innovate, be independent, and set your own path. Think about the time you enjoyed learning something most. Perhaps it was a game where you found your own way through a puzzle. Perhaps it was a book where you chose when and where to start reading. Perhaps it was a mathematics problem where you struggled and found your own way through.

This is a widely recognised truth, with such eminent psychologists such as Ryan and Deci, and Carol Dweck, who have conclusively shown that being cajoled and forced into work is less successful and sustainable than being inspired to do it. We enthuse our students with great literature, fascinating experiments, with trips and visits, and we know that extra curricular activities chosen by the student will be some of their most inspirational learning experiences.

Somehow legislators feel that the way to improve teachers and schools, on the other hand, is to hand down dictats about “three part lessons“, effective grading, and so on. Just as bad, sometimes, our own enthusiastic colleagues’ blind insistence that their solution is the only way. (e.g. “data is king! fire the bottom 10% of teachers on this basis” or “all data, all tests are terrible, remove them all completely”). Give people choice! As Schwartz says:

Treated like children, many employees unconsciously adopt the role to which they’ve been consigned. Feeling disempowered, they lose the confidence and the will to take real initiative or to think independently.

4. Significance (spiritual)

The final need is for significance of purpose. Schwartz again:

Once our survival needs are met, most of us long to feel that what we’re doing truly matters.

We are incredibly lucky that nobody in education ever really needs a “mission statement”. Any teacher who has ever guided their students to “A-ha!” moments knows forever more what their mission is. It isn’t for them to get some test scores, it is to inspire them, to enable them to lead fuller lives, and to enthuse them for lifelong learning.