The way forward: Changing how we teach our students

Jim Baker

Jim Baker, a self-identifying maverick, is a teacher of over 40 years who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has written for the Guardian, and prides himself on finding the best teaching methods for each student. The majority of his career was spent as a chemistry teacher at Lincoln Christ's Hospital School; during his time there, he reached the final 13 in the Salter's ‘Chemistry Teacher of the Year’ award. He is a freelance educational consultant, and acted as Chemistry Expert for The Chemistry Journey Project’s Virtual School Initiative. He is a contributory author of Teaching Secondary Science, Constructing Meaning and Developing Understanding, 4th Edition BlogFacebook | YouTube |

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Despite the frequent, outstanding advances in edtech we see daily, there are still certain areas of education that have stayed mostly unchanged for some time. Here, veteran teacher Jim Baker discusses the problem that he sees with the traditional lesson format, and how it can easily be changed for the better.

From my biography, you’ll see I’ve been in the classroom for 43 years so am speaking from first-hand experience, not to court votes or to agree with what is ‘flavour of the day’. My presentation ‘The Way Forward’ will give you an idea of what my passion is: to educate students into becoming independent learners. I don’t like the word ‘teach’ so I avoid it whenever possible. When asked my profession I say I’m an entertainer. Check out comment #42 in my guestbook by a former colleague back in 2005, who was pleased to see I was “still blurring the boundaries between teaching and entertaining”.

I now feel I’m completely on the side of entertaining – that way students learn. In the words of Einstein; “I don’t teach my students, I just attempt to create the conditions in which they can learn”.

In the words of my presentation, conventionally students read a chapter in class (something they can do without the aid of a teacher - but the teacher is there) and are set the ‘end of chapter question’ to do at home (this is when they need a teacher but the teacher is not there to help them). This is a nonsense.

My students have their whole year’s work, whole key stage work (2 or 3 years’ work) mapped out on their twiducate page BEFORE they start their course. Twiducate complements the flipped classroom well. For each topic there are a variety of resources (notes / games / videos / interactives) to cater for the different learning styles.

Their learning time (conventionally called ‘homework’ – another word I avoid whenever possible; check out my presentation ‘Evidence that Homework does NOT Improve Learning’) is spent reading / viewing up on the next lesson from their twiducate page. I prefer to call it ‘Prep’, as in preparation for the next lesson. Students can post questions on their twiducate page that can be answered by their peers or the teacher/s, who receive/s an email whenever a post is made. The students receive feedback when they need it, not days after.

This all helps foster and maintain their ‘love of learning’. The bright / gifted / motivated student has plenty of resources there and the lessons are spent as they should be: discussing the topics they have read and me answering their questions, ones they want answering (this is active learning, giving them ownership of their learning) and correcting their misconceptions.

It is not spent with them answering questions I am going to ask because I’ve researched the answers beforehand. How can I ‘Ofsted-plan’ lessons when I don’t know what questions my students will ask or where the discussions may lead? The only criteria for me is the learning achieved by my students. This approach results in more learning because the students are happier as they are more in control of their learning.

I said previously that my passion is to create independent learners. The resources from which to learn are already out there. Our job is to help our students manage their way through these resources by using the valuable class time to work interactively with them.

A main failing at present is the lack of funding to creating a sound infrastructure. A quality internet connection in every school should be standard.

A key advantage of the flipped classroom approach is that if a student does not immediately understand some information, s/he can rewind the video (as many times as necessary), whereas one cannot rewind the teacher in a lesson.

Imagine a world where every student had his / her scheme of work for every subject together with resources on a tablet. That would allow for 24/7/365 learning. South Korea could be that world by 2015 – check the article ‘South Korea to digitize all textbooks by 2015, provide tablets for school kids’.

I’ll always remember my professor of education telling us way back in 1969: ‘You are entering education at a very interesting time’. How right he was, and how right he still is. The Next Generation Global Education (NGGE) represents the next frontier in learning. Check it out and join at

I’ll leave you with one question. 50% of maths and science teachers leave in their first three years. Were I the CEO of a company in which 50% of its employees left in their first three years, I’d seriously reconsider my company policies. Should not, therefore, we reconsider how we run our schools?

For those interested, I’ve given you below, login details to access my KS3 twiducate page:


On the drop down menu choose 'student'

Class Code is ssppks3j

Password is 1000

Don't forget to enter the text in the box.

Are you a believer in flipped learning? Let us know in the comments?

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