Inspiring teachers: how teachers inspire learners

Michael Blaylock

Richard Churches
Fiona Gowers

Neil Mackenzie

Declan McCauley

Martin Pye

This report contains the findings from an enquiry that looked at 36 ‘inspiring’ teachers nominated for the project by headteachers and principals of CfBT Schools Trust schools and academies.

The researchers considered that the teachers who were part of the study consistently taught lessons with many features that would receive the highest classification using external review frameworks such as that used by Ofsted and other school quality review bodies. However, simple classification of the quality of the teachers’ teaching was not the purpose of the research. Rather the aim was to look at those features that appear to take the learning beyond effectiveness and into the realm of the inspirational.

While crossing a threshold of high effectiveness, well documented in the academic literature and in various quality assurance frameworks, it appeared that the teachers demonstrated additional common characteristics. It seemed to the researchers that several aspects of leadership and management within the schools were important in creating the conditions that are necessary for inspirational teaching to both emerge and thrive.

Rather like a highly trained, knowledge-enabled and experienced taxi driver in a city such as London, the teachers knew the possible ‘routes’ of teaching extensively. They went beyond this and were able to adapt to the conditions in their classrooms on the day, in the same way that a London cabbie is able to adapt a route instantly and automatically to avoid roadblocks and congestion. Indeed, just like an experienced and knowledgeable taxi driver, the teachers remained goal focused, the destination clear in their mind and with an understanding of the need to drive with pace and efficiency. At the same time, learners (just like the customer in a well-driven taxi ride) had the perception that this was all pre-planned on the teacher’s part. The exceptional teacher’s extraordinary flexibility and moment-by moment adaption of the lesson plan as unnoticed by the children as the change in route on a previously untravelled journey in a taxi.