Wasyl Cajkler

  • Tuesday 8 May 2018
  • 5.30pm-6.30pm
  • Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1
  • Professor Cajkler and Professor Griffiths will each present a half-hour lecture.

A life in teacher education and research, glimpsing the complexity of the classroom

My inaugural lecture reflects on an academic career, working with pre-service, recently qualified and experienced teachers to grow their expertise in teaching, often in the face of increasingly performative professional demands. Instead of treating learning to teach as the acquisition of pre-determined skills and techniques, I argue that all teachers need to have opportunities for exploration of what we call ‘the pedagogic black box’ (Wood and Cajkler, 2014). Learning to read each classroom, skills of noticing and giving attention to what is salient are central to pedagogic understanding and growth in teacher expertise (Ainley and Luntley, 2007).

Since the late 1980s, some centrally-mandated, perhaps well-intentioned, teacher education initiatives in England have focused on approaches for which the supporting evidence was, at best, flimsy, occasionally mythical, and even misrepresented. Examples include a Department for Education training pack which, arguably, contributed to schools identifying individual learning styles and labelling children accordingly, or the incoherent National Literacy Strategy prescriptions for the teaching of grammar and punctuation.

Parts of this lecture may derive more from the heart than the head, born of a ‘passion’ for the importance of inquiry in teacher education. Working with my colleague, Phil Wood, we have coined the term ‘pedagogic literacy’ (Cajkler and Wood, 2016) in an attempt to capture some of the endless aspects of what it means to be a reflective teacher, committed to continual inquiry. Determined to reinforce the abiding importance of theory and research, we have used this concept to argue for less standards-driven and less simplistic approaches to initial and continuing teacher education.  That argument has been made in the face of facile claims that teaching is a craft, best learned by observation, imitation and observation. Learning to learn to teach (Hiebert, Morris and Glass, 2003) is much more complex and far more rewarding than that.

Professor Wasyl Cajkler

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I am a teacher educator, specialist in second language learning, and an educational researcher. I am also a qualified teacher with primary and secondary experience, member of several academic bodies, Governor of a primary school in Leicester and a former chair of Governors. I have a BA Honours in French and Italian from the University of Wales, a PGCE and Diploma in Teaching English Overseas (University of Manchester, with distinction), an MSc in Teaching English (Aston University) and a PhD from the University of Leicester. I am a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I began my career teaching in a pre-University college in Eastern Nepal, very happily despite quite limited resources. Following that, I spent ten years teaching modern languages and English in the Manchester area, a very rewarding, although challenging, experience.

Since appointment to the University of Leicester in 1990, my work has focused principally on second language teacher education (Applied Linguistics, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Modern Languages Teaching). I have developed a number of face-to-face, distance learning and work-based programmes, which have widened participation in postgraduate study nationally and internationally. In addition, I have had the immense good fortune to work in research and development projects with colleagues from many countries: France, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland and Argentina in the 1990s and more recently, with academics from Brazil, Turkey, Norway, Spain, Austria, Germany, Pakistan and Japan.

My most rewarding experience has been working with teachers to explore the complexities of the classroom in a quest for learner-responsive pedagogies. The privileged opportunities afforded by an academic career have enriched my understanding of learning and teaching, most recently in the use of Japanese lesson study, through which the University of Leicester, School of Education has had significant impact, locally and internationally.

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