Blog archive

/Blog archive/

If you tolerate this then your children will be next

What kinds of poor behaviour should we tolerate? How much should we tolerate? There's a wellspring of opinion that zero tolerance is too much, that we ought to tolerate some poor behaviour, but how much? I don't think anyone would be prepared to argue that we should tolerate 100%, so is 50% OK? 25%? 10%? Clearly, having a discussion about the percentage of poor behaviour which we ought to tolerate is absurd. Maybe we'd be better off debating whether some kinds of poor behaviour are just 'high spirits'? The trouble with this is that it's devilishly difficult to distinguish between good-humoured [...]

2019-03-20T10:50:02+00:00March 16th, 2019|behaviour|

Ofsted and deeper learning: it’s like learning, but deeper

Recently, I was contacted by a school who wanted some help working on 'deeper learning'. I asked them what they meant to which they replied, "Oh, we were hoping you'd tell us!" According to the school's last Ofsted report, the school is not outstanding because, "Teaching is not consistently of the highest quality because deeper learning is not promoted across the curriculum". In order to improve, the report offers the following advice: "Improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment across the curriculum by leaders and managers ensuring that effective strategies are in place to enhance deeper learning across the curriculum". Now, [...]

2019-03-13T17:40:43+00:00March 13th, 2019|Featured|

What do students think about marking?

Over the past year or so, I've been doing some very informal research into students' attitudes and opinions with some of the schools I work with on an ongoing basis. Two years ago I wrote 2 posts summarising the problems with marking and suggesting an alternative way forward: Marking is an act of folly Less marking, more feedback: A challenge and a proposal Since then I've been recommending that one of the ways schools can seek to reduce teachers' work load is to move away from the expectation that teachers must write extended comments in response to children's written work and [...]

2019-03-05T15:03:29+00:00March 3rd, 2019|Featured|

How do children learn to speak?

In chapter 2 of my book, Making Kids Cleverer, I discuss, David Geary's theory of biologically primary and secondary knowledge. Human beings seem to have various universal behaviours and characteristics in common regardless of the specific culture into which they're born. Geary's theory suggests that such species-wide traits must have some root in evolution and he argues that the capacity to learn 'folk knowledge' is a biologically primary evolutionary adaption. This means that we tend to pick up the knowledge of how to interact with our environments quickly and easily through mimicry without the need for instruction. When considering what should [...]

2019-02-08T07:39:29+00:00February 8th, 2019|language|

The Epistemology of English

For some time now I've been thinking about how epistemology* - how knowledge is accumulated and divvied up - in English as an academic discipline. While I'm not at all sure that I've accomplished anything particularly profound or useful, I've identified four distinct areas which I'm calling metaphor, story, argument and pattern. These concepts underlie an understanding of what knowledge is in English. They are, broadly speaking, the lenses through which literature and language can be viewed and by which meaning is made. Metaphor Arguably, most if not all thought is metaphorical. Whenever we substitute a concrete meaning to shed light [...]

2019-02-07T15:53:11+00:00February 7th, 2019|English|

What’s wrong with Ofsted’s definition of learning?

As everyone already knows, Ofsted have published a draft of the new Inspection Framework which is currently undergoing a process of consultation. Amazingly, one of the most contentious aspects of the document is definition given to learning: Learning can be defined as an alteration in long-term memory. If nothing has altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. However, transfer to long-term memory depends on the rich processes described above.[1] In order to develop understanding, pupils connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. Pupils also need to develop fluency and unconsciously apply their knowledge as skills. This must not be reduced to, [...]

2019-02-05T20:42:51+00:00February 4th, 2019|Featured|

Does creativity have a dark side?

Of course it’s desirable that students are able to identify problems, generate potential solutions, evaluate the effectiveness of those strategies, and then communicate with others about the value of the solutions. If you want to call this 'creativity,' so be it. But it may be that creativity isn't always desirable. Kaufman and Beghetto argue in their wonderfully titled paper, In Praise of Clark Kent: Creative Metacognition and the Importance of Teaching Kids When (Not) to Be Creative, that teachers need to encourage restraint in students and that often it is much more efficient to follow well-established processes rather than trying to think of [...]

2019-01-30T21:28:15+00:00January 30th, 2019|Featured|

Can ‘creativity’ be taught?

The way ideas come to fruition is often mysterious; while we may remember consciously thinking a few things, we are unaware of all the ingredients simmering away in the pot of thought. I like the image of placing a pot on the back boiler on a very low heat and allowing flavours to develop over time. It seems, at least to me, that some of my favourite ideas have emerged in this way. This article on creativity by Paul Carney appeared in Schools Week a few days ago, criticising my ideas about how creativity works. It says: [Didau] argues that creativity is [...]

2019-01-29T12:34:31+00:00January 29th, 2019|Featured|

Why smart people say stupid things: a response to Jack Ma

In case you're unaware, I've just published a book that explains the role of knowledge in thought. Rather than rehash the arguments in depth (there are a series of chapter summaries here) suffice it to say that no one, no matter how intelligent they believe themselves to be, can think about something of which they have no awareness. It's literally impossible, but I'll pause for you to give it go if you're unconvinced... We can only think about things we know, and, the more we know the greater our capacity for thought. It therefore follows that if we want young people [...]

2019-01-24T14:36:07+00:00January 24th, 2019|Featured|

Leading literacy masterclass: 1st March 2019

Since the publication of The Secret of Literacy back in 2014 I've been asked to visit a lot of schools to talk about how teachers can make sure they're focussing on reading, writing and speaking as well as teaching academic content. In that time I've learned an enormous amount about how schools can successful implement policies that support children's ability to use academic language with burdening teachers with pointless frippery and tedious gimmicks. It's become increasingly clear that I should really condense all this thinking and experience into a new version of the book but, as is so often the case, [...]

2019-01-23T09:46:43+00:00January 23rd, 2019|Featured|

Skill = knowledge + practice

Over the years I've thought a lot about whether we should be teaching knowledge or skills. The debate has moved on a lot in recent years and today it's rare to find anyone arguing against teaching knowledge but there are many who would still advocate for a balance of knowledge and skills. The more I thought about it, the more I've realised just how meaningless this distinction is. Knowledge and skills and two sides of the same coin. Or, to attempt another analogy, think about teaching as cooking: 'knowledge' is the ingredients, 'skills' is (are?) the prepared meal. This is in [...]

2019-01-25T08:25:22+00:00January 11th, 2019|learning|

Making Kids #Cleverer – Conclusion: Shifting the bell curve

This is the final post in a series of chapter summaries of the arguments made in my new book, Making Kids Cleverer. The rest of the series can be found here. And so, we finally reach the conclusion. Here I explicitly take on the arguments of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve. They argue that the normal distribution of intelligence across a population is more or less immutable and that "the story of attempts to raise intelligence is one of high hopes, flamboyant claims, and disappointing results." According to the data, they're pretty much correct. Or at least, it would be correct [...]

2019-01-11T10:10:47+00:00January 11th, 2019|Featured|