An Interview with Chris Husbands: What is an Institute of Education for?

Dec 5, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) Professor Husbands you recently delivered your Inaugural Directorial Lecture in London. What brought this about?

Chris Husbands Director of the Institute of Education and Professor of Education

I took over as Director of the Institute of Education, University of London in January 2011. This was my opportunity to set out my own intellectual agenda for the development of the institute. Over the last 20 years, we have learnt a vast amount about the characteristics of successful teaching, but the mechanisms for translating that into successful practice have not developed as quickly or as clearly.

2) Now, where exactly in London is the Institute of Education, University of London located, in case I want to visit the next time I am in London?

The Institute of Education (IOE) is a full, autonomous college of the University of London. Our location is fantastic: in the heart of Bloomsbury, behind the British Museum and a few minutes’ walk from the West End. The IOE was established in 1902 – a sister college of the London School of Economics (LSE) – and is the UK’s leading centre for education research and development.

3) Your lecture spoke about teaching and learning in the 21st Century. I am going to paraphrase Winston Churchill hereto discuss education and indicate that ” never in the course of human events, have so many teachers, been asked to do so much for so many students with so little support”. Would you agree or disagree with my paraphrasing?

No! The expectations on teaching and teachers have become huge – that’s true. In the 21st Century, either you develop a successful education system which builds high excellence and high equity or your collapse economically and socially. But the support structures are there: the challenge is to make them work – to build school-school collaboration, to build university-school collaboration

4)Let’s talk about what an Institute of Education should be doing as we enter 2012- What will you be focusing on ?

The themes of the lecture were about knowledge creation, knowledge mobilisation and knowledge engagement – translated that means focusing on developing knowledge to improve practice, finding ways to translate it into practice and engaging with practitioners to design the questions which need answering to build further improvement.

5) Now, what will be your relationship with the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) for example?

Ofsted are- in part- our regulator, and they take a view on our standards. In 2010 they declared our provision in teacher education to be outstanding. But we also work with them on a range of things: we provide a Masters degree in inspection and regulation for OFSTED; we advise them on research; we help them become a more effective regulator of the system.

6) In Britain, is there too much assessment of pupils going on, too little or does it need to be changed?

There is probably too much assessment, but we should never go back to the under-assessment of the 1980s. The trick is to ensure that assessment is fit for purpose – or purposes. That means 2 things – assessment FOR learning – assessment to help teachers design better learning experiences for learners, which has huge potential to drive improvement, and assessment OF learning – and getting the balance right between those two is critical. We have probably worried too much about assessment OF learning and not enough about assessment FOR learning.

7) What about teacher evaluation- what needs to change and what needs to stay the same?

The evidence on this is very clear: most teacher evaluation systems drive ‘gaming’ behaviours and do not produce improvement. We need to make sure that teacher evaluation is built into a programme of lifelong career learning and development.

8) Illegal immigration appears to be a major problem in Great Britain, as it is in the United States. Should an Institute of Education be taking a political position?

No. We are a research and teaching institution.

9) I doubt that you will be lecturing at Speaker’s Corner but do you have future lectures and speeches planned ?

I do a lot – since January 2011, about two a week – on teaching, learning, education policy and schools, and I try to respond positively to as many as I can.

10) What publication endeavors will you be fostering over the next few years?

The Institute of Education, University of London is the UK’s leading centre for research in education and related areas of social science. We have a strong publication profile – we undertake something like 25% of all education research in the UK – my job is to develop the quality, impact and relevance of that.

11) What things need to be investigated ?

At root, the big questions – the relationship between education and economic growth, the relationship between education and social cohesion. The knowledge base for teaching. I have a particular interest in the education dimensions of climate change: we understand the science; we know what causes climate change – the key issues now are all behavioural – what do we do And that means education – how do we design knowledge and action which supports positive changes.

12) What role will the Institute of Education, University of London play in terms of examining mainstreaming and inclusion?

This is a good question; for too long, education in most western societies has been predominately concerned with the quality of education offered to elite groups – but the key lesson of economic and social change in the 21st Century is that education for all matters – so then you get into complex technical questions about how that pans out – our research portfolio addresses that, at the moment, in sub-Saharan Africa, in India, in the Pacific Rim. We are concerned to understand and to contribute to education as a driver of individual and social change

13) What have I neglected to ask ?

The classic interview question! I think you have covered some very interesting ground…..

14) Where can interested readers get a hold of your book?

This book is available to pre-order in North America from Stylus Publishing and can also be ordered from all online book retailers such as Amazon and The Book Depository.

In the UK it can be purchased from John Smith’s Education Bookshop and all good bookshops and online retailers.

15) Could you provide a brief bio about yourself ?

I am the director of the Institute of Education, University of London. I am currently a Board Member at the Training and Development Agency for Schools and a member of the advisory Learning Panel at the National Trust. My research interests are in teacher education and education policy. I have written widely on aspects of education policy and on curriculum and teacher development and retain an interest in the teaching and learning of history.

16) Could you tell us a little bit about the Institute of Education, University of London?

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute’s research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be “world leading”. The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its “high quality” initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students “to want to be outstanding teachers”. The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.

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