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Bayley in the USA

Part of the series Teaching with Bayley

  Screen capture from Bayley in the USA


A dynamic headteacher in North Carolina faces major challenges despite working minor miracles at her troubled school. Behaviour management expert John Bayley spends a week discovering the issues at Olympic High School.

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When Pam Espinoza took over seven years ago the school was in crisis. Results and behaviour were the worst in the district, with staff morale low.

But Pam has worked a minor miracle in her time there, and last year took the dramatic step of splitting the 2000-student complex into five small schools, each with its own principal.

Olympic now faces a new challenge - the decline of America's global economy. Espinoza believes the USA's multi-choice testing system is poorly equipping students for the 21st century, in which skills like creative thinking and team working are essential.

Active learning and project-based teaching are new pedagogical techniques but are proving to be a struggle. Some teachers are finding the changes tough and test scores have taken a worrying dip. Can John provide solutions?


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    • Active Learning
      24 October 2008 - 08:17

      It is clear that whilst active learning engages the student and encourages them to investigate and learn for themselves, this type of learning is "slower" and "shallower" than that delivered in more traditional ways, hence the lower scores in tests and exams, etc. For this type of learning to replace traditional methods completely, whilst still enabling students to achieve high exam scores a whole new approach to education is needed, one in which teachers have more time to prepare these engaging lessons without it "taking over their life" as with the history teacher in this program; this can only be achieved by having additional teachers, teaching less hours and therefore having the time to focus on preparing and delivering high quality lessons. This alone would not work though, as the students themselves would also need more time in lessons in order to cover the curriculum in the breadth and depth required in order to also achieve good exam results.

      It's no good "playing" with this sort of thing, especially if teachers are still to be judged by exam results; a substantial change to the whole approach to education is required to make it work! Essentially we need to decide what is the most accurate indicator to how much a student learns; if that is exam results, then surely traditional methods are best! If it is some other indicator, then shouldn't we identify what that indicator is first and then see if the active learning techniques show up as best using that indicator? We should not just follow blindly, as so often seems to happen in this country! If active learning techniques are actually enabling students to learn less and fail exams, how can it possibly have a place in the education of our future population without further de-skilling them? This HAS to be done RIGHT if it is to be done at all!

    • muffin
      14 March 2008 - 17:26

      This programme is been excellent and worthwhile to watch. I have taken down lots of notes for my future lessons. I really like the whole idea of the Active Learning but I was still worried to put in action until I watch this.

      The history teacher I must say, is the best I have seen so far but it is sad to see how many hours of his private life spends in teaching.

    • Stan Terry Stan Terry


      Active learning
      5 July 2007 - 10:00

      I applaud thier attempts to change the system and involve their students in active approaches to learning. The reality is that any good teacher would be seeking to develop strategies which involve the students and contribute to deep learning. My feeling is that this should be compulsory viewing for all leadership team members to hep them question their present practice in school and develop the courage to say the scores on the door are not important. But parents and the press are fixated with scores now in the UK. We opened Pandora's box but can we close it? Somehow I doubt that's possible but frankly we have to try! How can we call ourselves a "Profession" if we don't take control of the process.