As this is my first blog post on education, it feels strange to me to be writing something for a (possible) wider audience without first a critical friend and then a couple of anonymous peer reviewers checking my writing before it is ‘published’. I have been reading, writing and thinking about the ‘post-truth’ world and its influence on education policy and practice, so I decided I had better join in by writing a blog!
When I was a school teacher I was too busy to write for other people, I wrote schemes of work and teaching materials which were used across the teaching team. I did complete a part-time Masters course at Leeds University so that involved writing, but the audience was only the poor suffering tutor who had to mark my work. When I became an academic I again wrote shared course plans and teaching materials but completed my part-time doctorate and started to write for publication. I was determined to become a professor so focused mainly on publishing research papers in international peer-reviewed journals. I always used a critical friend to read my drafts and I mostly worked with co-authors so we had peer feedback built in. Then, even if it was a chapter for a book, but especially when it is a research journal paper, I had to become familiar with the process of getting sometimes challenging feedback from anonymous reviewers, and revising my paper if I wanted to pursue publication in that journal.
So why have I started to write blog posts? Actually my first education ‘blog post’ was published recently on the BERA Blog. The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has had a blog for the last 6 years and has posted more than 1000 blog posts. But is the BERA Blog really a blog? To post on the BERA Blog you work with an editor and at least two peer reviewers to get your draft blog revised and ‘approved’ prior to publication. So in a a way it is not really a raw unconstrained blog post like this one, with no filter on what I write. My BERA Blog post is called ‘Being a Subversive Teacher Educator’ and is available at: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/being-a-subversive-teacher-educator
I intend to write in more detail in further blog posts, but in a nutshell I think that teachers have to use a good measure of professional judgment in deciding what and how to teach. They do also need to critically engage with ‘research’, meaning published educational theory and empirical research. But they need to use professional judgment and their accumulated practical wisdom to decide how they should interpret and apply lessons from research to their particular context and learners.
So, if teachers are using professional judgment then the post-truth world becomes a possible influence. There is now a body of online accessible material about teaching, for example written by bloggers who are or have previously been teachers, that claim to be informed by practical wisdom but also underpinned by research. The term ‘post-truth’ was Oxford Dictionary ‘word of the year’ in 2016 although late night commentator Stephen Colbert argues that ‘hyphens are for the weak’ and prefers his 2006 term ‘truthiness’ which he defines as: ‘the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support’. Its worth a watch a 7 minute watch to see him make this claim on his late night tv show during the Trump transition into the presidency at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck0yqUoBY7M
How does a teacher decide what and how to teach? Education is complex and includes values, purposes, relationships and motivation as well as technical strategies, it is complex. We need teachers who are research literate and able to make professional judgments within their setting.