Turning Teaching On Its Head- An Interview with Jim Baker

Education & Technology Interviews Webinars

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

– Confucius  

These words suit Jim Baker to a tee. A science teacher for the past 43 years, Jim’s passion for sharing knowledge has not faded a bit. In fact, his enthusiasm for teaching has grown stronger.

Following a tenure of 38 years as a full-time teacher in Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School, Lincolnshire, Jim began to promote learning in a more independent way. In 1997, he was nominated for Salter’s ’Chemistry Teacher of the Year’ award and has also been recognised for his contributions to the field of education with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

After realising the immense potential technology has to impact education, Jim created a website of his own to connect with learners. Within a short span of time the website became immensely popular, with students and teachers worldwide using it to access his resources and study material.

On March 17 at 7pm UTC, Jim will deliver a free webinar on WizIQ entitled Turning Teaching On Its Head. This webinar is part of the Featured Teachers series, hosted by Fluency MC. To sign up, click here.

In this interview with WizIQ, Jim discusses how his teaching strategy is helping learners and educators to promote learning in its true spirit.

1.  How would you say you are different from other science teachers?  

I am different from other teachers in that I teach/entertain as I see fit: not as I am told by others.  If a school wants me to teach/entertain in their establishment I do it on my terms or not at all.  Fortunately, the school in which I entertain one day a week is happy to give me a free hand rather than not have me at all.  I do not set ‘homework’ as such.  My students have ‘prep’ as in preparation for which they read up for the next lesson so they come prepared.  The lesson is then spent interactively with me answering their questions, ones they want answering, and being there for them to help when they do questions on the work.  Just over a year ago I was approached by a trainee teacher who said to me ‘you’re the guy who does not plan lessons aren’t you?’ ‘Correct’ I said ‘How can I plan lessons when I don’t know what questions my students will ask me?’  Also many teachers like their students to take copious notes.  This is a waste of their valuable time when they already have notes and resources.  What the students should be doing are questions testing their understanding of the work.  Many teachers say to their students ‘you must learn this for the exam’.  Once the exam is over it is forgotten, many times before the exam too.  It is not about ‘learning’ it is about understanding.

2.  What’s the easiest way to explain ‘flipped learning’ to teachers and students?

Flipped learning is doing at home what is traditionally done in the classroom or lecture theatre (ie. giving information) and doing what is traditionally done at home (ie. questions on the information) in the classroom or lecture theatre.  An advantage of this methodology is the amount of class time/lecture time freed up by not having to feed information to the pupils.

This ‘freed up’ time can be used for greater interaction between teacher/lecturer and pupils/students in order to help them ‘make sense’ of what they have read.

I am told by the majority of students I ask that they go into a lesson ‘cold’, not knowing what they will be doing until they get there. When they arrive they are force-fed information, often by powerpoint, without understanding what is going on.  This is the reason private tuition is the fastest growing industry in the UK.  By preparing for the lesson beforehand they understand far more from the lesson than going in ‘cold’.  Also, when they do their prep, if they do not understand something, they can reread the passage or replay the video as many times as they like until they do understand. If the information is given by a teacher in lesson, one cannot keep replaying the teacher until the points are understood.  If a point early on in the lesson is not understood, then everything that follows is ‘lost’ too.  Many may think flipped learning is fairly new but back in the 80s before the World Wide Web I would give my students notes to read on the next lesson so that lessons could be spent interactively.

3.  What is Twiducate and how do you use it in your teaching?

Twiducate is described as ‘social networking for schools’- http://www.twiducate.com. Flipped learning relies on the learners having access to their course and resources beforehand, ideally at the start of the course. The platform I use for delivering the course and resources is Twiducate.

Here is my Yr 12 chemistry twiducate page – http://goo.gl/f3KfVb

I put the whole year’s/3 years’ course together with resources on Twiducate so my students have access to the whole course and resources from day one.

The advantages of Twiducate are:

  • Whole course and resources available from day 1
  • Can be accessed by any device with an internet connection
  • Many teachers/lecturers can be assigned to a class
  • Pupils/students can interact with their peers and staff so making learning fun
  • Teachers/lecturers receive an email when a new post has been added
  • Provides 24/7/365 learning

4.  You talk a lot about ‘nonsense’ in teaching compared to ‘what really works.’ Can you elaborate on this?

Conventionally, students read a chapter in class (something they can do without the aid of the teacher – but the teacher is there) and are set the ‘end of chapter questions’ to do at home (this is when they need a teacher – but the teacher is not there to help them).  This is a ‘nonsense’.

After being at the chalk-face of education for 44 years I KNOW teachers are being asked to teach what they are not trained in. We often hear about lack of passion, but passion is something that students sense and comes with knowing your subject thoroughly so you are at ease in the classroom. Just as students sense passion for the subject they also sense inadequacies in subject knowledge and this is the cause of many discipline problems in the classroom. It is not the fault of the teachers but of systems that have lost focus on what they should be doing. The focus is now on keeping Ofsted at bay and appeasing regulators, not about educating students to become independent learners. In my opinion, what happens in most schools is a nonsense. Relationships and a relaxed environment underpin effective learning: the current climates prevent the relaxed environment. Teachers are too tired through focusing on unnecessary tasks and so arrive in the classroom preoccupied. The way forward is to start with a blank canvas and decide what we, as educators, should be doing (educating our students to become independent learners) and put things in place which promote this.

Were I the CEO of a business where 50% of its employees left in their first three years, I should seriously question my policies.  As 50% of Maths and Science teachers leave the profession in their first three years should not the government be seriously questioning its educational policies?

5.  What can teachers who attend your webinar expect as ‘take-aways’?

Access to my website, blog, presentations ‘The Way Forward’ and ‘Flipped Learning’ and articles ‘The Way Forward: Changing the Way we Teach our Students, ‘Using the Cloud to make Learning Fun’ and ‘Turning Teaching on its Head’.

We hope to see you in this Featured Teachers webinar with Jim Baker. Click here for more information and to sign up for free. If you cannot be there for the live session, be sure to sign up anyway to have lifelong access to the recording.


Amanjot Kaur

A marketer by profession and an explorer by nature. I love to read, learn, travel, experiment with new music and food, and have a good laugh.

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