Why the Humanities need more subject-based professional learning

The growth of knowledge-focused professional learning in Maths and the Sciences has been a notable and welcome feature of teacher education and development in recent years.

This STEM emphasis is hardly surprising given, among other factors, the significant difficulties experienced by many schools in recruiting and retaining teachers with the appropriate degree qualifications in these subject areas. Successive governments, employers and professional bodies have, rightly, worried about the impact that non-specialist Science and Maths teaching may have on national competitiveness in areas such as industry, research and the technology sector.

However, there is just as much need for teacher knowledge enhancement in the Arts and Humanities. In order to ensure that as many young people as possible have access to inspiring and textured teaching, there is an imperative to unlock the very best of Humanities subject knowledge to be found not only in universities, but also in the highest performing schools and colleges, of all types.
Whereas teacher knowledge enhancement in the Sciences can be dependent on facilities that may be costly to access or to commit to such purposes, in the Humanities there are perhaps fewer barriers to professionals accessing and sharing knowledge, especially given the ease and low cost of online forms of exchange.
There is surely an opportunity for the best resourced Humanities departments to share subject knowledge with professionals in other schools, where there may be lighter concentrations of specialism. (I am not, however, implying any crude or automatic relationship between absence of specialism and quality of teaching and learning, but merely noting that this may be an inhibitor, in some instances, to pupil progress in these contexts, particularly at sixth form.)
Teaching School alliances, and other partnerships and networks of varying types, working with universities, and the great libraries and museums, could be the mechanisms for  powerful exchanges of professional and subject knowledge in the humanities.
If, through local and regional collaboration, and the better networking of teacher knowledge, professionals can support each other in deepening their subject confidence, then perhaps more pupils from a wider variety of contexts will have a richer and more profound experience of learning, with a potential benefit of widened access to the most competitive humanities degrees courses.

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