Q&A with SET22 speaker Geoff Petty

Geoff Petty, author and consultant with 28 years of experience in teaching and teacher training, returns to speak at SET22 this year with his talk on teaching values. Here, he gives us a taste of his talk, and explains what he’s looking forward to about this year’s conference, taking place in January.  


Why is it important for educators to teach values, as well as knowledge and skills, to their learners? 

If you teach knowledge and skills your students will know what to do, and how to do it. But they will ask, why should I bother, it all sounds like a bit of a faff: “Why should I bother to tie up a ladder, or source local ingredients for a dish? Why is good management practice important?”  

When students get into the workplace they will see people taking shortcuts, ignoring safety advice, not considering sustainability issues, adopting bad management practices and so on. Our students are the growing tip of our vocation and they will need to be persuaded to do things properly so they deliver best practice and can persuade others why it really is best practice. So, we need to teach very persuasively why best practice is important, and the importance of the values underpinning our vocational skills. 

The good news is that the teaching methods we can use to do this don’t take any more time, are hugely enjoyed by students, and also teach the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ at the same as time as teaching the ‘why’ so persuasively. The methods discover misconceptions that students have about good practice and put these right. They also provide students with the arguments to persuade others. They are lively, active and fun. 


Our two keynote speakers this year address sustainability as a key theme in their talks. As an environmentalist yourself, how would you encourage educators to embed sustainability in their teaching? 

Sustainable practices are much more crucial than most people realise. The science is emphatic that we have less than 10 years to halve greenhouse gas emissions if we are going to keep clear of tipping points that could lead to runaway climate breakdown. As educators we need to lead a culture change in our vocations, and as a teacher you are the growing tip in your profession. This isn't easy, but the future of our climate depends on it. Minimising the damage done by floods, droughts, storms, and sea level rise to our lives, food production, and civilisation all depends on professions adapting and adapting fast. Net zero means everyone, means every workshop, profession and business.   

This may sound over-dramatic to you, but I used to teach physics and I follow the climate science. Worsening extreme weather was predicted in the 1980s or before. But the reality has been worse than the models predicted, for example our recent UK 40C heat wave was not expected this decade. The recent floods in Pakistan have been massively worse than predicted with 30 million affected. Wildfires have been ‘off the scale’. The issue is urgent. But again, there are great teaching methods to persuade students to value sustainable practice and to persuade others of their advantages, not just to the climate, but directly to our pockets and lives. 


As a returning speaker at the SET conference, what are you most looking forward to this year as we return for our first in-person event since 2019? 

I’m looking forward to the conference buzz, to a real room with real people in it, to meeting colleagues I know and new ones I don’t, and to touching base with developments in our sector. 


What do you hope attendees will take away from your talk at the SET22 conference in January? 

I hope they will be rejuvenated and inspired to continue their vital work, and they will know the practicalities of how to do it. 

image of SET Conference 2018 main conference room

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