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Educational psychologist argues for more freedom for teachers

11 January 2018

Teachers must be given greater freedom to operate with creativity and autonomy if they are to develop students as humans, Dr Simon Gibbs will argue today at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology’s annual conference in Brighton.

Simon Gibbs wonders if education is still capable of helping people to become human, and focuses on his concerns that education has become merely a process of teaching facts.

With the recruitment of teachers becoming more problematic in recent years, he also suggests that this is due to the threats to their autonomy and identity as schools become more commercialised.

He argues that educational success is now only measured by what can be counted, not necessarily by what really counts.

He offers a number of practical suggestions that could be implemented to prevent the continuing dehumanisation of education:

  • Abandon standardised national testing of children Respect teachers as professionals and members of learning communities.
  • Encourage collaboration, both within schools and between schools.
  • Enhance the status of teachers and their initial professional education. Abandon the punitive inspection and grading of schools.
  • Support and enable school and staff development.

Simon Gibbs said:

“It is my view that educational policy in much of the western world has become confused and confusing, leaving us unable to focus on the central purpose of education.

“That purpose should be to help people to learn how to be human, rather than just to acquire knowledge and pass tests.

“My presentation and book seek to both offer psychological and philosophical explanations for this, but also some suggestions that could help to reverse the current trend.”

Simon Gibbs’ presentation at the conference is drawn from his upcoming book Immoral Education: The assault on teachers’ identity, autonomy and efficacy, to be published by Routledge in March this year.

Dr Simon Gibbs is Reader in Educational Psychology at Newcastle University. He will be presented with the Division of Educational and Child Psychology Distinguished Contribution to Educational and Child Psychology Award 2017 at the conference tonight.

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