Authority, Trust and Teachers - Panel Debate 2 Evidence-based Pedagogy -Teachers' Authority Reborn?

A podcast of the opening presentations can be downloaded here

What is the basis and state of teachers’ authority today?

Not so long ago it was simply assumed. Teacher knew best and mum and dad would typically agree – in public at least. It certainly would have been rare for a pupil to have directly questioned a teacher’s right to teach.

Not so now, although the situation is complex. Recent opinion polls reveal that teachers are held in high regard by the public, with levels of professional trust that are second only to doctors. It is also generally agreed that the young benefit from being taught by authoritative adults.

Today, however, teachers’ authority is increasingly being challenged, by pupils, parents and other teachers. Routine classroom activity is now scrutinised by a battery internal and external inspectors. And the promotion of student voice means that pupils and students are actively encouraged to question their teachers’ pedagogic decisions.

Maybe there is no real crisis here. The UK Coalition certainly seems to think that teachers have nothing to fear from new approaches. Recently it invited Ben Goldacre to investigate pedagogic decision making. His report, Building Evidence in Education, argues that teachers have a lot to learn from changes in the medical profession. It proposes an evidence-informed approach to learning and suggests that this would give rise to more enlightened and effective classroom decisions.

Is the authority of teachers actually in crisis and will a more scientifically-oriented approach to learning allow it to be reborn?


Louise Bamfield, Associate Director, Education, RSA, author of Born Unequal: Why We Need a Progressive Pre-Birth Agenda

Francis Gilbert, Teacher, founding member of the Local Schools Network and author of I'm a Teacher Get Me Out of Here,  

Professor Dennis Hayes, University of Derby, co-author of The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education

Dr Jonathan Sharples, Senior Researcher at the Education Endowment Foundation and author of Evidence for the Frontline