Developing a Generation of ‘Selfie Teachers’

Selfie: an image of oneself taken by oneself

I was asked to give a talk last week to new academics coming to the end of their new academic programme and I was specifically asked to talk about the future of teaching.

The first part of my talk was very much about the usual link of psychology to teaching and the shiny new names that are increasingly given to fairly well established psychological principles. So, I talked about dual coding, interleaving, cognitive load and spaced retrieval whilst also warning about fads and how evidence can be used to inform teaching.

The main point however that I tried to make was related to the real danger that we have in producing a future generation of teachers who become, or are required to become, specialists in creating images of themselves through an increasingly metrics dominated world. Accordingly, the danger is we create a ‘selfie generation of teachers’ looking to secure tenure and promotion through a greater emphasis of their signalling of the limited measured outcomes of their teaching rather than the authentic learning experiences of their students. As such the relationship between the student and the teacher is now much more complex due to the increasing over reliance on narrow ‘perception’ surveys being used in increasingly high stakes contexts.


Therefore, in a marketised system of the future progressively dominated by NSS, TEF and a future Office for Students the requirement to continually externally signal ‘excellence in teaching’ is in danger of undermining the authentic and less virtuous everyday grind of teaching. Navigating a career in teaching will therefore become a balancing act between meeting the authentic needs of students and the virtue signalling required in an increasingly scrutinised and marketised sector.


Whilst I don’t doubt that many new teachers will rise to the dual challenge required of external signalling and authenticity, it does however appear that higher education is in danger of being hit by the same meteor that has damaged the delicate teaching eco system of the school sector.

Lots of research tells us that the link between teaching behaviour and student learning is complex and at times tenuous. More significantly learning is part of a wider system of influences that is often difficult to disentangle. As such we need to be continually engaging in more informed discussions about the complexity of teaching rather than moving towards promoting a ‘selfie teacher’ based upon simplistic, high stakes and narrow performative perception oriented measures of teaching.