Is There a Matthew Effect for Teachers?


Most teachers I know are working themselves into the ground. Under difficult circumstances they commit themselves fully to the children in their charge and balance this with full lives outside school. They have suffered for years from poor CPD provision and, despite this, teach well and have children achieve great things. They care not for social media, never consider going to a Teachmeet – they might be totally unaware they exist – and wouldn’t think to pick up a book about education. And, because of this, there is an increasing disconnect between those who blog and use Twitter and those who don’t.

For, while some of us engage in a self-styled CPD sought out in the Blogosphere, things don’t change much in schools. CPD is still delivered to teachers rather than by them; discussion of the impact of that CPD is mostly non-existent. In a sense, we create a form of the Mathew Effect where the gap in engagement with new ideas or, wait for it, research, becomes ever more wider. And, while we continue to blog, attend or even present at Teachmeets, we start to see the same faces and hear the same voices. Preaching to the converted, in many ways.

So our ‘wee world’ gets further and further away from the majority of classroom teachers. New research is disseminated to those with an inkling of an idea of who the researcher is – e.g. Hattie, Whittingham – with nothing much filtering down into the staffroom.  We play to our own audience. I sometimes get a bit too comfortable with that though. Knowing that I can prattle on in my blog and receive some nice comments and nods of agreement, reasonably unchallenged. Things might be a little different if I were to share my blog in school.  It’s all a little too easy, isn’t it?

The aim for me then is not to ‘be right’ about things – I’m very often not – but to engage others in the discussion; not to worry about how many retweets I get for my blog but that I make more teachers aware of what I want to say. I aim to pass on articles and blog posts which I think are relevant to everyone, regardless of the negativity that that might send my way; to ‘talk up’ teaching whenever I can to whomever I can. Fearghal Kelly got it spot on in his analysis of Pedagoo in his recent blog post. Instead of fighting negativity:

‘Let’s instead continue to focus on developing and sharing our classroom practice positively and professionally and as a by-product perhaps we’ll influence the wider picture.’

Twitter has been great for my career. I’m asked to speak at events now and to review educational books. I’ve seen some of my favourite bloggers – and now friends – write those educational books and become established speakers on what can only be described as a ‘circuit’. But there is a danger that we allow that gap between where we are now and where we were to get too wide. We can get a bit up ourselves at times. Remember that, regardless of what we achieve, we are but a tiny minority of the teaching profession. Let’s develop our audience through the positive vibe we create and share in our own staff rooms too.


5 thoughts on “Is There a Matthew Effect for Teachers?

  1. I think it was Ian Stuart that said we should be ‘organic’ and just let the fact that we as a group are seeing/hearing/gaining extra ideas/knowledge/CPD /whatever and by simply using these things in our daily practice and then telling people about what we saw/heard at pedagoo events then The Word will spread. It might be slower but it will be based on careful steps and not just throwing tons of stuff at people who are already busy enough. I have people who come to my room at 0720hrs in a morning before school and we sit eating croissants, drinking coffee and talking/chatting about things we’ve done, or heard about. Last week we were engrossed in a discussion on Vygotsky and his ZPD! At 0730 in the morning! We also have a wee grumble to get any negative feelings about things otu of the way before we start teaching. Works for us 😎

  2. Hi – just because we don’t tweet or go to Teachmeets does not mean we are not interacting with current thinking and research.
    Debbie Woodland

  3. Pingback: Is There a Matthew Effect for Teachers? | Just Trying To Be Better Than Yesterday | The Echo Chamber

  4. The blogosphere and all that goes with it is a double-edged sword. It has done much good to my professional awareness too – but at the expense of sucking in ever more of my precious non-working life.

    It’s a great thing and is helping generate the professional discourse that I’ve long felt was needed. But those who are ‘education addicts’ should never forget that the majority quite reasonably seek a different balance and level of commitment. This job takes more from people that it reasonably has a right to – and it doesn’t always treat them well in return. I don’t blame people for whom that is enough.

    There’s no need to force this on people – let them take it on their own terms

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