Teachers, as a general rule, are continually seeking to improve their practice. Ideas are sourced from colleagues in school or through Inset activities, visits to another school or, for some, Teachmeets and Twitter or other social media.
Some teachers, in my experience, have called this a magpie approach. I’d use the jackdaw, largely because the spelling of magpie-ing can be tricky, whereas jackdawing follows conventional spelling rules, and, to me jackdaws are more sociable birds! Personal preference?
Teachers tend to pick up ideas that complement the generality of their approach, seeking to refine and improve specific aspects. There are polarised stereotypes of education, child centred and traditional, with adherents at both ends of the spectrum, both able to find research evidence that backs up their approach, and by extension, that shows they are right. Most teachers would probably see themselves as oscillating between the poles, choosing the methodology which best suits the learning needs of the topic and the learners.
If one is seeking coherence in approach across a school, it is right that the school should be able to describe the parameters within which teachers are expected to teach, to avoid a free for all of individual approaches creating learning hiccups between teachers. The school approach is likely to embed the headteacher/SLT vision for the school and may reflect the classroom approach which was their own style. This can become a limiting factor at some stage, so the act of seeking and acting on collected ideas is important if schools and teachers are to continually develop.
Just copying an idea is likely to result in failure. Just because it works in one classroom, doesn’t mean that it will work in another. The creativity of one teacher can’t rub off on another, unless the developmental thought processes and preparation are followed. Even then the copied approach will be an interpretation of the original.
If, however, as a result of reflecting on an idea, a teacher makes a change to their class approach, whether in terms of space, resources, organisation of time, or incorporating a particular approach within a lesson, keeping a track of the impact of the change will be an essential ingredient in supporting the next stage of reflection. In a school which encourages this approach, peer to peer conversation is a useful constituent in refining approaches and ensuring the success of change. A log book approach can be a useful dialogue tool, talking with oneself. Some very committed colleagues are using similar approaches in MA studies or in NPQML/SLT. The teacher researcher model is a powerful stimulus to school development.
Sharing this with colleagues can be very powerful CPD, for the presenter, who has to unpick their own journey of thinking, but also the colleagues who may benefit from the knowledge.
Education is littered with discarded or overlooked research, as personal preference isolates one approach above others. An example would be the Leverhulme project, run by Ted Wragg and Neville Bennett form Exeter University (1987-93), which resulted in a series of books describing different aspects of the teaching craft. This project would have had resonance in both the Rose review outcomes (2009) and the Cambridge Review (2009), as well as with a number of other researchers, eg Wiliam and Pollard.
It is the evolution of practice which has longer term impact, rather than a revolving door of speculative approaches. Reflective teachers make better teachers. Equally, the teacher standards 2012 have two standards which, to me, hold the potential to empower this approach, namely 6&5, assessment and adaptation, which can be interpreted as thinking on your feet and doing something about issues spotted. The spotting is often due to learning behaviours which demonstrate concern, or perhaps that the challenge is too easy. Adapting or tweaking the task demand is a reasonable response, but then provides food for thought.
Teaching is a thoughtful, reflective interaction between teacher, learner and context. The teacher role, to interpret the context to the needs of the learner is fundamental and develops with a range of experiences.
Even then, every new class is a voyage of discovery, which made a very long career very interesting.