Teaching and Learning: Introduction – Garry Smith

Teaching and learning is a vast subject, let me declare at the outset of this series that I do not claim to be an expert. My formal interest, when I began to study it as a subject, began around the age of thirty when I entered Further Education as a full time student on an access to education course. The course was Social and Community Studies and covered the humanities, my own previous ‘failure’ in the state education system in the UK contrasted sharply with my experience as an autodidact post compulsory education. My interest grew and I went on to study Sociology and Education at the University of Warwick, when I graduated I was employed back at the college where I did my access course as a research officer for the principal’s office, soon becoming a tutor and not long after managing a programme area that went on to be responsible for half the colleges enrolments, I built a mini empire. During this time I also completed my Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Management.

I did not complete the full masters as I was becoming disillusioned with the creep of bureaucracy that was undermining what I felt education, teaching and learning were about. I wrote my masters dissertation on the tension between bureaucracy and creativity in education. It did not follow the academic conventions and whilst my MA staff loved it, it needed lots of revision, or rather it did not. I had actually written a 15,000 word resignation letter.

My personal and career journey after this period, the dates are irrelevant, saw me engage time and again as a learner and a teacher in many different settings including a training agency for unemployed adults with literacy and numeracy problems, helping at my daughters school, learning and teaching Ju jitsu, attending many seminars by different martial artists, setting up my own company teaching self defence and resuming my career as an autodidact. The latter involves a wide range of subject interests and I still regard myself as an avid lifelong learner.

Recently I have spent a great deal of time working in secondary schools covering for absent teachers. This has been a revelation to me as whilst mostly positive for the first time I have come across those who do not want to be there. Those who are not going to play the game and attend only due to compulsion. Almost all my previous experience was with people who, one way or another, had elected to be there. As a result I continue to learn, observing the multifaceted nature of what goes on in class, in widely different schools with widely different social groups attending them, I have also in recent years been commissioned to work in public schools (private fee paying institutions) and the differences are huge, a positive social gulf exists between state and public school education.

OK so much for the pre-amble, for that is what it is, a brief resume of why I feel that I am in a good position to write a series of articles exploring some of the key issues in teaching and learning as I see them.

Tonight I will stand before a class of juniors then one of seniors, wearing my Gi with my black belt tied around my waist. They will look to me to guide them through the syllabus they are studying. They expect to learn, they expect me to teach. Not one of them has questioned my authority to teach the class, this is after all my school, I run things around here. Nobody has asked to see if I have any qualifications to teach they see the authority vested in the belt with its 3 red bars and that is enough. Good job, I do not have any formal teaching qualifications as such, I do have a Sport England coaching qualification and some certificates for coaching courses attended with the British Combat Association, I keep them in a nice folder almost nobody looks at. How many of you do the same?

For many involved in conflict management, self defence and bystander intervention we arrive here having been in the game, experience and the street and/or dojo our university. Many have had no formal

opportunity to even look at theories of teaching and learning let alone study them and relate them to the work they do. There are some superb, great, good practitioners out there and they may also be superb, great, good teachers with a sound underpinning of what constitutes effective teaching and learning guiding them. There will also be more people who do not.

These articles are intended to help you gain an understanding of key issues in teaching and learning and place them in a SD/MA/CM context. They will include raising many questions that you the practitioner may need to ask yourself, your answers to these questions will guide your future development if that is what you are seeking. This is not a series of lectures, none of these articles intends to be an exhaustive discussion of its subject area. Each is a review of key theories, concepts and arguments, they provide a framework for you to examine your practices and for you to decide how to become a more effective and efficient teacher if this is what you want.  Remember the CRGI motto, you’re good, we will make you better. By improving your skills you will become able to pass deliver a more effective learning experience to your students and as a result increasing their enjoyment and learning gain. Everybody can be a winner.

So the articles will be concise, thought provoking and will identify further reading on the subject. The aim is to create a learning journey that we make together, we will create a cadre of fellow travelers interested in genuine continuous professional development.

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