'First day, first class' is an experience that is as formative for teachers as it is for students. Yet while it is much commented upon, there is little rigorous research to back up the anecdotes, admonitions and advice teachers give and receive, about doing it well. This is set to change, with BGS leading the way.
On the first days of class this year, 17 'day one, class one' teachers were observed and filmed by Professor Erica McWilliam (Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Education, QUT) and BGS' Dr Peter Taylor, Special Advisor Teaching Development.
This marked the start of a research project that is tracking how highly effective teachers initiate classroom routines from the first day, first class, of the year and then reinforce and sustain those routines that enable students to learn in a safe yet challenging classroom environment.
Other schools from around Australia are expressing interest in joining this work, so that by this time next year there could be observations from as many as 10 schools. This will assist in developing recommendations that have value well beyond BGS.
Getting through the classroom door has been fraught with difficulty for would-be researchers of 'day one, class one' teaching practice and with good reason. If there was ever a time when teachers would want to ensure against any distraction in their classrooms or feel vulnerable in their practice, it would be the first time they teach a new class.
It took a strong on-site relationship between the research team and the School to lay the basis of mutual trust on which the study has been built. That relationship was enriched by school leaders with the capacity to foresee the value of the research findings within the School and beyond. Without such a special relationship and vision, 'day one, class one' practice would remain the subject of entertaining anecdotes rather than systematic research.
While still early days for the project, a paper documenting the process has been published in the Australian Education Leader (2017, Vol 39: 1).
Dr Peter Taylor
Special Advisor – Teaching Development