Sunday, 18 March 2012

Becoming Our Own Experts: a remarkable book

"  Becoming Our Own Experts was first published as a fat printed book with a red cover in 1982. It is the bringing-together of papers written between 1974 and 1979 by a group of teachers, self-styled the Talk Workshop Group, at Vauxhall Manor School, an 11-18 girls’ comprehensive school whose buildings were on two sites in Vauxhall and Kennington, south London. The papers constituted an example of teachers researching the interactions of language and learning in their own classrooms, a process sometimes known as ‘action research’.  "

That's the preface to the second edition of 'Becoming Our Own Experts', now published as a free onliine resource here:

If you're a teacher, a student teacher, a trainer of teachers, anyone interested in education, can I please implore you to take a look at it. My involvement with the project revolved around the fact that I was a 'writer-in-residence' at Vauxhall Manor School in the late seventies when the work that is being written about in this book was taking place. It was perhaps one of the most informative, mind-changing experiences I have ever had in my  professional life. The combination of the life, thought and intelligence of the pupils (all girls),the passion, commitment and work of the staff was all powerful stuff. At the time, it just seemed 'exciting' or 'interesting'. Looking back on it, I can see now that it was indeed something very, very special indeed.

In an ideal world, teaching would not only involve teacher-training, teaching and INSET and 'courses'. It would also involve all kinds of 'action research' and sharing - at school level as well as local, national and international levels. Whenever I have seen it take place - and I'm in a very privileged place at the moment in that I am supervising teachers, teaching assistants and librarians through an MA module doing just this - I have seen that it is a transforming experience for everyone. Discoveries are made, attitudes change (mine too) and there is a real sense of optimism about the relationships between teachers, education and pupils.

So please take a look at 'Becoming Our Own Experts'. If I could speak on their behalf, I'm pretty sure that the editors and driving force behind it - John Richmond, Stephen Eyers, Helen Savva et al - would want anyone reading it to think: 'Couldn't we do something like this?' The answer is yes.