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Blog2019-05-09T08:57:13+01:00

Why ‘just reading’ might make more of a difference than teaching reading

Few people would disagree that improving children's reading ability would make a good thing. Not only would it open up greater opportunities in life, it would boost their cognitive development and increase the likelihood of them being able to access an academic curriculum. One barrier to children being able to comprehend what they read is the finding that an estimated 20% of children leave primary phase each year unable to [...]

By |June 22nd, 2019|Categories: Featured, reading|0 Comments

A few thoughts about teaching poetry

It is, I hope, uncontroversial to say that poetry is not a popular art form. While it's wonderful to hear the sales of poetry rose by 12% in 2018, with over 1.3 million volumes sold, that's dwarfed by the 190.9 million books sold in the UK in the same year, and is still a lot less than the 3.4 million copies of Michelle Obama's autobiography, Becoming. Why is it that [...]

By |June 3rd, 2019|Categories: Featured|0 Comments

What’s the big deal with Big Questions?

You might know them as Fertile Questions, Enquiry Questions, or plain old, Big Questions, but the idea that the curriculum ought to be organised around broad, disciplinary, substantive enquires is a popular one. It seems to be an especially popular approach with the history teaching community. Christine Counsell goes so far as to say that such questions are "vital in history because without [them] you can't learn how the second-order [...]

By |May 31st, 2019|Categories: Featured|0 Comments

Do detentions work?

When I was a student I was given a lot of detentions. After some particularly appalling behaviour on a French exchange trip I was given two months of 1 hour after school detentions. This was a big deal as I lived about 15 miles away from my school and needed to get two buses home. Because I wasn't able to catch the school bus, I had to walk to the [...]

By |April 29th, 2019|Categories: behaviour|Tags: |0 Comments

Should we scrap SATs? Cautiously, yes

Earlier this week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned up at the NEU annual conference with some crowd pleasing ideas. The most eye-catching of these was that he would, if elected, scrap SATs, saying, "We need to prepare children for life, not just exams". Cue rapturous applause from the assembled trade unionists. None of this is particularly surprising, but what does intrigue me is why Corbyn and the NEU want to [...]

By |April 20th, 2019|Categories: assessment|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments

Three animated films about learning

Back in December I gave a lecture to the staff of BBC Bitesize about how learning works and how they might go about making more effective learning materials. This talk has been turned into a series of three short animated films by the production company Mosaic. I think they're pretty good. Here they are. Film 1: How learning works: A quick guide to how we store and retrieve information Film [...]

By |April 9th, 2019|Categories: Featured|52 Comments

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 4: Instruction

This is the final post in a series looking at how we can be sure that students are making progress through the curriculum. The whole purpose of knowing whether students are making progress is to be able to design appropriate instructional sequences. We may believe children are motoring through our wonderfully constructed curriculum but if empirical data reveals this not to be the case, we need to know. If my [...]

By |April 7th, 2019|Categories: assessment|3 Comments

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 3: Assessment

In Part 1 of this series I set out the problems with making predictions about students’ progress by drawing a ‘flight path’ between KS2 and KS4, then, in Part 2, I explained how thinking about the curriculum as a progression model is essential in making judgments about whether students are making progress. In this post we will turn our attention to issues of assessment. NB. This might feel a bit technical [...]

By |March 26th, 2019|Categories: assessment|Tags: , , |25 Comments

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 2: The curriculum

In my last post, I set out the problems with making predictions about students' progress by drawing a 'flight path' between KS2 and KS4. Instead, I will argue, we should address three interlinked aspects; curriculum, assessment and instruction. In order to make a meaningful statement about where students are right now and what they need to do next, we need to be very clear about where we are hoping they'll [...]

By |March 24th, 2019|Categories: curriculum|Tags: |5 Comments

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 1: The madness of flight paths

Schools are desperate to find ways to predict students' progress from year to year and between key stages. Seemingly, the most common approach to solving this problem is to produce some sort of 'flight path'. The internet is full of such misguided attempts to do the impossible. Predicting a students' progress is a mug's game. It can't be done. At the level of nationally representative population sample we can estimate [...]

By |March 23rd, 2019|Categories: assessment, curriculum|Tags: , , |9 Comments

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 [...]

By |March 16th, 2019|Categories: behaviour|Tags: , , |6 Comments

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