Thursday, 16 December 2010

Do as you would be done by...

Lead by example. That's what I've always believed, even if I've never quite lived up to the ideal. But ideal it is. I really do believe that the most powerful learning tool is demonstration: as a trainee teacher, I was shown the single most important lesson that I think I ever learnt - to model the behaviour you expect. That doesn't mean wearing a school uniform, waiting in the playground for the bell to go and so on; teachers aren't pupils and can't be expected to do the same things pupils do. But teachers - by the very nature of their job - expect pupils to behave a certain way. And believe me, you can tell them till you're blue in the face and adopt any number of reinforcement strategies, but if you don't model the behaviour that you want then you're a loser. Nothing more simple, nothing more true (to paraphrase Philip Larkin).

I remember standing at the back of an assembly hall at my last school, desperately frustrated as a senior member of staff nattered to a colleague while at the same time expecting silence from the serried ranks of school boys waiting for the main event. But it just doesn't work that way.

I was teaching Albert Bandura on Tuesday. People who know the name think it's all about the effect of violence (as in films) on children's behaviour. And in a way, it is. But it's also much, much more. As the following film show, children see and children do. The single most powerful influence on what we all do comes from what we see others doing. It can work both ways, of course. As adults, we're as likely to react against something we see as to do it. But children - malleable, impressionable - take what they see more at face value.

No lesson is more effective than that which can be seen to be true. No amount of story-telling, shouting, instructing, cajoling or persuading can match what a child sees with its own eyes. We've evolved that way. It's what makes us what we are. And it means we've got to take care.

They don't call them role models for nothing...

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