Why knowing your “subject” is so important.

Getting-into-Secondary-Teaching-front-web (1)

We all remember that teacher don’t we.

The one that we dreaded going to lessons because of. The one that made it impossible to stay awake in class. The one that just read out of a textbook.

Our book ‘Getting into Secondary Teaching‘ highlights the importance of being enthusiastic, energetic and, most importantly, informed about your “specialist” subject to ensure that your learners are engaged and eager to learn!

As a teacher it is important to “know your subject”, as quoted in the book- it makes it easier to teach, to translate and to encourage understanding.

Read this great extract to see what happens when you don’t have good subject knowledge.

The effects of not having good subject knowledge

Subject knowledge is identified as an important indicator of the quality of teaching. If you have a high level of specialised subject knowledge you will have:

  • a vast range of factual knowledge about your subject;
  • a deep understanding of the theoretical aspects of your subject;
  • a conceptual framework for organizing your knowledge;
  • knowledge of the ‘big ideas’ in your subject;
  • a range of ‘stories’ about your specialist subject which aids the giving of explanations.

At the time of writing the current School Inspection Handbook, OfSTED (2015) notes that outstanding teachers ‘…demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach’ (p 46). Your depth of subject knowledge therefore has a clear impact on the quality of your teaching.

However, it is a different story if your subject knowledge is not strong. In a study carried out by McCarthy and Youens (2005), they identified a lack of robustness in the subject knowledge of student teachers. Further evidence comes from Richardson (2006), who observed that in some lessons, early career teachers’ misunderstandings were evident and misconceptions expressed by pupils went unchallenged.

Sanders et al (1993), writing about experienced teachers, report that teaching outside one’s subject specialism appears to have an impact on the quality of lesson planning. Such issues include difficulties in structuring lessons, lack of confidence and depth when responding to pupils, lack of creativity and lack of challenge that extends the pupils’ thinking and use of what they have learned in a lesson. The overall impact is a narrowing of the range of activities, analogies, models and illustrations that help develop pupil understanding. Consequently lessons can become more rigid, constrained and less creative. Childs and McNicholl (2007) agree and add the feature of selecting and using resources. Even with extensively resourced schemes of work, teachers operating outside their specialism can be disadvantaged by not having the specific subject knowledge to make an informed choice of resources.

[F] Reflective task

  • Think back to some of the lessons you had at school where you struggled to understand what was being taught.  Why do you think it was?  Was it because the subject content was too difficult?  Was it because of the way in which it was presented?
  • Now put yourself in the place of the teacher. How might you avoid the same thing happening in your classroom when you are teaching?

To know more about how to keep your learners engaged in your subject area then visit this link here.

For more details on this book then go to our website where ALL titles are currently 15% OFF.

Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Andy and Mel at hannah@criticalpublishing.com

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