We have been exploring the development of a Virtual Advisory service with LTS. LTS are responding to requests from teachers and local authorities for some sort of personnel resource to replicate the subject advisory service of old. Subject advisers were traditionally employed to develop their subject in local authority schools. This model had much to commend and many outstanding Scottish educators have been subject advisers who have had a significant impact upon their curricular area.
There are two models being considered:
The first model tries to aligne itself with the traditional model of subject expert. In this form the teacher would post a question on a website and await a response from a subject expert employed by LTS. In due course the advice would be dispensed and the teacher would have their answer. For example a teacher might have particular query about how to teach an aspect of maths to P6 pupils.
The second model builds upon the practice which is emerging through the Exc-el experience. Here a group of teachers are asked to keep a blog and focus on a subject area – both at primary and secondary level. In the first instance this would create a community of learners who could share their practice and support each other. The ‘subject expert’ adopts a very different role from the first model in that they do not attempt to dispense advice but point people towards those who are tackling the same problem. The ‘expert’ asks questions, points toward resources, identifies emerging practice. In some ways this does pick up on one of the strengths of the old subject adviser system who often helped to develop very strong and successful networks of professionals dedicated to developing their subject.
So which model do I prefer – well that’s probably fairly obvious given my less than impartial description of the two. But If we take Craig Stebbing’s work as an example of what can be done in a subject liike maths – which is not known for creative approaches towards teaching and learning (apologies all maths teachers) – then I think we gain an insight on the future.
My key point is that we don’t want to create a dependency culture where people’s problems will be ‘sorted’ by someone who supposedly knows more than they do. In some ways this just reaffirms the traditional approach we sometimes see in the classroom where learners all too often adopt an essentially passive role.
What do you think? – is there a need for subject expertise to be presented in the form of the first model? Should we try to develop the second model? Or are there combinations of the two models we might consider?