OperateFirst: a new six week course for aspiring brain surgeons?
You may have read or heard somewhere that to really master a skill you need to practise it for 10,000 hours. The source of this story goes back to an article published over 20 years ago and has been the inspiration for a number of books and further studies.
With the current obsession with Myth-busting, it’s perhaps not surprising that this is one of the myths that’s being challenged: The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Wrong and Perpetuates a Cruel Myth
At one level, the message of the original study – that anyone can master any skill given 10,000 hours – is of course inaccurate and misleading. But what is important to grasp that even if you have the interest and ability it will still take an awful lot of practise to become a master of your trade or profession. And we’re not just talking about in music or painting or sport, but in just about every area of life.
It’s worth applying this thought to teaching. Clearly there are many people who are quite unsuited to the classroom and even if they spent a lifetime, let alone 10,000 hours in a school, they would never become proficient at it. Fortunately however there are also many people who can teach. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose a teacher spends 42 weeks a year working for 50 hours a week – that’s 2,100 hours a year, which, if we follow the 1000 hours guidance suggests that for most teachers it’s going to take around five years before they are really on top of their game in the classroom. There will be exceptions of course, at both extremes, but generally that sounds about right.
So the notion that someone can undertake a six-week summer holiday course and then be successfully let loose on a class-full of children is highly suspect. We clearly need to see the process of becoming a professional teacher as a five-year experience, and that’s not including the years spent at university gaining a first-degree in an academic subject.
Knowing stuff is not the same as being able to teach it. Amongst many other things successful teaching requires adept classroom management and the acquired ability to engage and inspire children, plan effective lessons, set achievable targets for all and assess individual progress and achievement – and those are things that can easily take five years to master. A few newcomers might achieve quick results, but in most cases for a whole academic year their pupils are going to be deprived of the quality of teaching and learning they need and that parents rightfully expect.
There are many other professions where a similar ‘fast-track’ approach would be deemed totally unacceptable. And with that in mind, here are some suggestions to that effect from who else but Tony Wheeler:
“I suggest we urgently press for similar rapid entry courses for all Upper Second graduates in the following areas:
• OperateFirst for brain surgeons
• GlowFirst for nuclear power station managers
• CrashFirst for pilots (with a 3 week short course for those flying helicopters military jets and all air traffic controllers)
• BetFirst for bankers and financial advisers (with a subsidiary StealFirst short course for senior bankers and hedge find managers)
• LieFirst for politicians (with a BullyFirst short course for cabinet ministers and CEOs)”
Meanwhile back in school, during those first five years new teachers need to be monitored and supported far more closely than they are at present. Over that time they also need to be regularly attending further professional development courses, reading widely on approaches to pedagogy and moving around between a number of schools, and perhaps undertaking some practical school-based research. At the end of the five years they should be rigorously assessed by an external agency and, if they have reached the required standard, achieve some form of Master Teacher status coupled with extra pay. Until then they should not be let loose on our children.
None of the above will ever happen of course, but All Change Please! just thought it should mention it, along with the following:
“The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teacher.” Sarah Blaine
And just to prove her point, if you’d like to swear at Tristram (no relation) Hunt, here’s your chance:
And if more proof is needed that ministers have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, this will really make you Nash your teeth!
Image credit: Flickr/slimjim