Much has been written about the need for teaching and learning that develops the critical thinking, media literacy and enquiry skills needed for the 21st Century. The term "powerful learning" has been used to describe this agenda. What knowledge do teachers need to empower students to become "powerful learners"? How can teachers themselves become "powerful learners"? Should we be advocating for “slow education” or “weak education” as some people have argued?
Professor Tim Rowland
Professor in Mathematics Education
School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia
The question “What is powerful mathematics teaching?” can be approached from a number of perspectives, focusing for example on exposition, problem solving, planning, reflection, technology use, assessment, and so on. In keeping with the conference theme, I shall address it with a focus on Knowledge for Teaching, and specifically from the perspective of my own research into the ways that mathematics knowledge is enacted in teaching. One of the four dimensions of the Knowledge Quartet (a framework for analysing mathematics teaching) captures the reality of the mathematics classroom as an unpredictable space, where teachers' ability to "think on their feet" is constantly tested in real time. Notwithstanding careful preparation, the teacher cannot predict the flow and development of the lesson as it unfolds, and ‘contingent’, unexpected events are commonplace. More often than not, such events are triggered by a student's response to a question or task. My contribution to this conversation about 'powerful teaching’ begins with accounts and analyses of contingent events from authentic mathematics classrooms, considering their demands on mathematics teacher knowledge and their potential as a stimulus to develop it.
Faculty of Education, University of Oxford
Tim's distinction between knowledge for teaching and knowledge in teaching seems to me to be very important. It picks up the idea that teacher knowledge is dynamic rather than static, and that teaching and learning become powerful when contingent, or some might say teachable, moments are acted upon. This highlights the central role of the teacher, not as someone who makes learning as smooth or enjoyable as possible for students, but as someone who asks provocative and challenging questions. As Gert Biesta says in describing The Beautiful Risk of Education teachers do not shy away from "difficult questions and inconvenient truths [but] work consistently on the distinction between what is desired and what is desirable". Some issues that arise for me are:
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