The ‘Aha!’ moment; hiding the real learning?

 As someone who is responsible for some of the University element of Initial Teacher Education, it troubles me immensely that so many teachers seem to have very little respect for the University element of the courses they studied. 

It is not universal, but not at all unusual, to hear teachers saying they learnt far more in the classroom than in their time in University, that trainee teachers should spend more time in school, or even that academic study for teachers is a waste of time.

I believe that it is hugely important, and I will explore why in a later post, but I am very interested in why it is that many teachers see the practical training as so much more important than the wider education.

In a conversation with my colleague Steve Caldock I came across a possible reason why. Ask any teacher why they do it and they often start talking about the ‘Aha!’ moments, the moments when learners and they themselves finally get something they have been working on. The moment when a series of learning events fall into place and success is finally achieved is a magical one, which propels many people to follow a career in teaching after they see it in a young person.

So when do the ‘Aha!’ moments of student teachers happen? In school.

Of course they do, that is when they put their learning into practice, that is when they are in the situation they are aiming to work in. School is ultimately what they are training for, so it is naturally when they feel the magical ‘Aha!’ moment.

The problem with that moment is it is so strong it often obscures all the groundwork that made it possible in the first place. Any such moment has a whole catalogue of learning behind it, a great deal of which  for BEd and PGCE students takes place in University. Often it feels like that moment was where the learning happened, when in reality it is just the culmination, the point at which it fell in to place. Without the groundwork there is no such moment. 

We would do well to look again at those ‘Aha!’ moments.


Image: CC BY NC ND MartinPhotoSport





3 responses to “The ‘Aha!’ moment; hiding the real learning?”

  1. Anna Avatar

    I completely agree. It worries me to think of less and less time spent on child development, subject specialism and pedagogy. I did a B.Ed as I went straight into teaching…a PGCE wouldn’t have suited me at that time. I have worked as a school based tutor for Dorset SCITT for the past 8 years and have found the most successful trainees (usually) to be the mature applicants who have worked with children/ are parents to have a real advantage compared to those with no experience of children. Teaching is a constantly evolving profession and I love supporting trainees, but can’t possibly teach my class and train a trainee effectively without excellent partnership. Training exclusively in schools would not give the opportunities afforded in HE institutions.

  2. Julia Skinner Avatar
    Julia Skinner

    I’ve made this comment before I think but I do worry that teachers do not continue to extend their knowledge once they are in the classroom. Even the best university courses can’t possibly cover everything that should be in place. Things also develop across time. Learning to be a teacher is not like learning to drive where you get the basics then develop an understanding of being a motorist. You have to keep adding to that knowledge base both from the past and present thinking.
    Unfortunately, schools do not see themselves as curators of the profession within them so time and status is not given to this very important aspect of being a teacher.

  3. Dr Ted Bailey Avatar

    Yes, I concur and you might be interesrted in my recently published book, cloincidentally entitled: Aha! Teaching by Analogy, Trafford Publishing. Id be interested in your comments.


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