The Exercise Bike Principle

You know what I mean. Towering hopes and lofty intentions. The shiny bike that will change everything. You’ve heard about it from others; it comes highly recommended from people you should respect. You’ve even seen it in action at the training day; great examples from highly satisfied customers. So, after walking about with a big dream bubble above you for a few days, you go out and spend your budget on it. This is what you’ve been waiting for. This is the answer to your prayers.

The introductions to Aifl and Co-operative learning were a bit like that. We were all gathered into a big room to see how it worked. We were given examples of fantastic ways to use it, ways it would make us fitter, stronger, better teachers. It was a guarantee that our students would be fitter, stronger, better learners. So we headed back to our classrooms with this shiny new bike which would change everything. And it all started reasonably well, didn’t it? First couple of days, the memory of the enthusiastic sales pitch still fresh in our memories. Then things start to go wrong.

So what happened? Like countless hack golfers up and down the country, because we’re not proficient at cycling in our bedrooms immediately, we give up when we encounter difficulty. It wasn’t like this in the manual. It wasn’t like this on the training day. We’re not used to being in that position of weakness, we teachers. We like the comfort of the known, the familiar. We’re  happy with the things we know we can do, things which have served us well. They’ve perhaps not served our students that well at times, but we like them…

The problem with the Exercise Bike Principle is that it fails to inform us that buying the bike and playing about with it for a while will be ultimately fruitless. What it should be about is habit changing and teachers are the worst at that. As the joke goes:

‘How many teachers does it take to change a light bulb?


What we need to do – like those exercise and diet programmes do so successfully- is work together as teams to change long term approaches to Aifl and co-operative learning. ( add your own here) We need to avoid going back to our own bubble and peddling away alone. The future of Professional Development in Education needs to see a radical overhaul in approach to how we, as educators, learn.

What have attempted to do over the last year is to gather like minded teachers to try and do just that; to change our approach to CPD and maybe change our habits. We want teachers to come together and change long term approaches to learning and, ultimately, change habits. We organised the Scottish Leaning Festival Fringe event because many teachers were finding it more and more difficult to get out of school for a day. We are gathering one hundred educators in a room, on a Saturday, to share ideas and strong opinions. It’s not that we don’t have to work in a bubble any more, it is that we must not. We need to stop cycling away in our rooms on our own and, lest face it, going nowhere.

2 thoughts on “The Exercise Bike Principle

  1. Very eloquently, and painfully accurately, put. I can see myself and a few colleagues in that post. We teachers really do like our comfort zones and the ‘tried and tested’ ways of doing things. I work with ASN children and many of them don’t like change, but we have to help them get past that, its probably long past time we started helping ourselves get over it too!

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