The purpose of a system is what it does

Following a recommendation from Sam Freedman, I've recently devoured Dan Davies's The Unaccountability Machine. It's an attempt to analyse 'what's gone wrong' in what we might call The West over the past decade or so through the lens of cybernetics. I know, right? If your first thought is to assume that this must have something to do with tech (or Dr Who) you can be forgiven as the term [...]

By |June 20th, 2024|Categories: leadership|0 Comments

Why bother with ‘turn & talk’?

Beyond the notion that it's nice for students to chat, or 'do oracy,' is there any real merit in getting them to talk to each other during lessons? Recently on Twitter, Barry Smith got in touch to go over all the things he sees that regularly go wrong with 'turn & talk': Kids don’t know a lot & simply aren’t able to articulate anything meaningful in the time given. [...]

By |June 7th, 2024|Categories: Featured|1 Comment

Messy markbooks: monitoring participation in (and across) lessons

Since taking the plunge with mini-whiteboards (see this post) over the past few years my ability to know whether students are paying attention, thinking and practising has dramatically increased. Because I'm usually teaching groups of children I've not met before, I always draw out a seating plan and make sure I have everyone's names recorded. With access to MWBs, it made sense to jot this information onto a whiteboard [...]

By |January 20th, 2024|Categories: Featured|Tags: , , |1 Comment

Attention, meaning & consolidation: matching technique to purpose

It's become increasingly clear to me that training teachers on how to use pedagogical techniques is of limited use. Over the past year or so I've lost count of the times I've watched a teacher act on feedback, improve how how they are, say, cold calling, or using a visualiser or mini-whiteboard, and yet still somehow the lesson is a series of missed opportunities with students failing to learn [...]

By |January 12th, 2024|Categories: English, reflection, training|Tags: , |3 Comments

Earned autonomy and shared responsibility

Having just gotten around to reading Matthew Evans' blog, The Earned Autonomy Trap, I feel moved to break my blogging silence of the past few months. In my book, Intelligent Accountability, I present earned autonomy as one of the principles required to balance trust and accountability and help create the conditions for teachers to thrive. In it, I argue the following: What if, no matter how hard a teacher [...]

By |January 5th, 2024|Categories: Featured, leadership|Tags: , , |3 Comments

In defence of accountability

This weekend saw Joe Kirby publish a thoughtful blog in which he calls for an end to Quality Assurance. I agree with Joe's analysis of the causes of poor accountability - or QA - but not his suggested solutions. In his blog, Joe says that "QA warps time, trust, thinking, teaching, leadership and learning." There's no doubt that this can  sometimes be true, but it runs the risk of [...]

By |March 19th, 2023|Categories: leadership|Tags: , |2 Comments

OAT English curriculum project

Since January 2020 I've been working for Omiston Academies Trust as their Senior Lead for English. Over that time I and the amazing team of lead practitioners I lead have created what we think is a fantastic English curriculum. Not only have we been working on a book which will explain the entire process from intent, to implementation to impact, we've just launched a website - OAT English - [...]

By |February 26th, 2023|Categories: English|Tags: , |2 Comments

When retrieval practice goes wrong (and how to get it right)

Whenever a practice becomes mandated there seems to be a tendency for it to lethally mutate. When I first started writing about retrieval practice (or the testing effect as we used to call it) many people were surprised by the finding that attempting to dredge something up from memory was a more effective way to learn it than simply restudying it. Today, this has become something new teachers are [...]

By |January 28th, 2023|Categories: English|Tags: , |10 Comments

Should we seek to balance teacher-led and student-led lesson activities?

For as long as I've been writing about education, many commentators have argued that teaching should seek to balance teacher-led and student-led activities. Although this is often presented as self-evidently obvious, it rather begs the question. What's so great about balance? Should we seek balance for its own sake, because it's intrinsically valuable, or should we consider what we want to balance? Despite balance sounding - well - balanced, [...]

By |October 29th, 2022|Categories: Featured|Tags: , , |7 Comments

Gapless instruction vs ‘teaching to the top’

Over the years I’ve recommended that teachers ‘teach to the top’ on too many occasions to count. For the most part, I’ve caveated this by included the need to ‘scaffold down,’ but, honestly, I’ve come to believe that the phrase ‘teaching to the top’ has the capacity to do more harm than good. I spoke at a conference recently where I asked participants to discuss what they understood by the [...]

By |October 15th, 2022|Categories: Featured|6 Comments

Using mini whiteboards in English

According to TeacherTapp, 72% primary and 45% secondary teachers use mini whiteboards (MWBs.) There are big variations between different subjects in secondaries with 69% of MFL and 57% science teachers claiming to use them but just 28% of English teachers. Why might this be? Are MFL and science lessons just better suited to using MWBs? Are English lesson much more concerned with the kind of extended writing that best [...]

By |October 9th, 2022|Categories: English|Tags: , |10 Comments

Making Meaning in English

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