Blog2020-07-15T11:13:15+01:00

A reading curriculum: Gap-widening vs gap-narrowing

The idea that education acts as a Matthew Effect that disproportionately benefits those who start with most is an uncomfortable but well-understood phenomenon. Everything we do in schools either widens the advantage gap between the most privileged and least privileged students, or narrows it. This is, I think, a real dichotomy: anything that, on balance, appears net neutral is in fact acting to keep the gap a yawning chasm of [...]

By |March 21st, 2021|Categories: Featured|2 Comments

How should writing fit into the English curriculum?

I think like many English teachers I've long been conflicted about the position of writing in the curriculum. On the one hand, of course writing is central to students' experience of studying English. Not only should we aim to make them technically proficient, but we should explicitly teach them how to master a range of written styles and genres. But, on the other hand, writing units are turgid. Although I [...]

By |March 3rd, 2021|Categories: Featured|5 Comments

Making Meaning in English: An exploration of the role of knowledge in language and literature

I'm pleased to announce that Making Meaning in English is available now. (Quote MME20 for a 20% discount) The book is a discussion on the role of English as a school subject: What is it for? How has it been shaped? What’s been done in the past? What’s gone wrong and what’s been successful? It particularly examines what knowledge means in English. Clearly the approaches to acquiring knowledge that work [...]

By |February 9th, 2021|Categories: English|Tags: |0 Comments

Reforming GCSE English literature and language

Seeing as all sorts of folks have decided now is a good time to try to get rid of (or at least, reform) GCSEs, I thought I'd offer up my opinions. I should start by saying that, on the whole, I'm in favour of retaining exams. If the last two years have taught us anything it's that for all their problems (and despite all the noisy rhetoric to the contrary) [...]

By |February 8th, 2021|Categories: Featured|9 Comments

Making Meaning in English: Book launch

My new book, Making Meaning in English - the final fruits of the burst of productivity I enjoyed during the first phase of lock down - will be available for your delight and edification on 10th February. It is (although you may feel this is a low bar) the best thing I've written. So much so that I'm reluctant to forego the opportunity to mark its entry into the world [...]

By |January 31st, 2021|Categories: Featured|3 Comments

Educational dog whistles (and how not to blow them)

As in every sphere, there are certain phrases or topics that act a dog whistle in education. When people use terms like 'progressive,' 'knowledge-rich,' 'no excuses,' 'deep dive,' or 'fronted adverbial' they are  tapping into a groundswell of - usually negative - opinion which stirs up like minded folk into predictable paroxysms of fury and outrage. What happens is, I think, something like this: for some people 'fronted adverbial' stands [...]

By |January 21st, 2021|Categories: Featured|Tags: |6 Comments

Using grammar to make meaning

As a writer I know that I must select studiously the nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, etcetera, and by a careful syntactical arrangement make readers laugh, reflect or riot. Maya Angelou, Conversations with Maya Angelou Every human culture has developed a spoken language and, by inference, a system of grammar. No one ever sits us down and teaches us how to speak, we just soak it up from our environment. All [...]

By |January 19th, 2021|Categories: English, writing|Tags: , |0 Comments

The best 3 sentences in education?

I slide I used in a presentation on the ideas in my book, Making Kids Cleverer has been getting a bit of love on Twitter, with New Zealand school principal referring to it as containing what might be "the three best sentences in education". This could be the three best sentences in education. Thanks ⁦@DavidDidau⁩ pic.twitter.com/cXn37GTeZG — John Young (@JohnYoung18) December 9, 2020 Apart from the missing apostrophe in the [...]

By |December 10th, 2020|Categories: Featured|Tags: |11 Comments

Curriculum related expectations: the specificity problem

If we are going to use the curriculum as a progression model, it's useful to build in checkpoints to ensure students are meeting curriculum related expectations. So far I written about replacing age related expectations with curriculum related expectations, and another on replacing grades more generally with curriculum related expectations. But how specific do these expectations have to be in order to be useful? If they're too specific we risk [...]

By |November 21st, 2020|Categories: assessment, curriculum|Tags: , , |0 Comments

High jump vs hurdles: Replacing grades with curriculum related expectations

I've recently argued that one way to ensure schools are explicitly using the curriculum as a progression model is to assess children against curriculum related expectations. Briefly, this means that if your curriculum specifies that students have been taught x, they are then assessed as to whether they have met a minimum threshold in their understanding of x. So, for instance, if I've taught you about, say, the differents of [...]

By |November 18th, 2020|Categories: assessment, curriculum|Tags: |3 Comments

The problem with grades: Are they worth keeping?

Grades are so much a part of the educational landscape that it's hard to imagine what schools would be like without them. In the debate over whether or not we should retain exams this year, no one is suggesting we should do away with 1-9 GCSE grades. But what if we did? Clearly, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, but maybe it's worth conducting something of a thought experiment. In [...]

By |November 15th, 2020|Categories: myths|Tags: , , , |4 Comments

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