Here follows a selection of some of what I consider to be my best posts of 2016. I’ve learned not to be surprised that what I think is my best writing is rarely appreciated by others and this is certainly reflected in the selection below; almost all of these posts went largely unnoticed by the reading public. In a desperate attempt to rectify this injustice I once again foist them before you for your consideration.


Can anyone teach? Well, that depends on what you think education is for – The role of the teacher is a continual battleground between the various traditions of educational ideology. This post argues that it’s much easier to see what teachers should be doing if you first decide on what you think the purpose of education should be.

What’s the difference between character and personality? – Some traits are stable, some aren’t. This post explores what schools can and can’t reasonably expect to achieve when it comes to teaching character.


On bullshit: the value of clarity, precision and economy – There’s little I find as irksome as deliberate obfuscation – education research is often blighted by this tortured approach to writing – here I set out an alternative manifesto.

What are they learning? – Asking whether children are learning is, I think, a trivially low bar. Much more important is to ask what are they learning?


The revolutionary wisdom of the tribe – On the need for an uncomfortable marriage between traditionalism and progressivism.

7 habits of genuinely expert teachers – My take on the well-worn 7 habits meme based on the little-known work of Robin Hogarth.


What I know about whether ‘no excuses’ behaviour systems work – a response to John Tomsett’s argument that no excuses behaviour systems don’t work.


A marked decline? The EEF’s review of the evidence on written marking – in which I vent my irritation at what turned out to be a very disappointing report on marking from the EEF.

The limits of growth mindset – There might be some good stuff at the heart of the three ring growth mindset circus, but there’s also an awful lot of guff. This is my attempt to separate the baby from the increasingly grubby bathwater.


Top Gun for Teachers – a discussion on where now for teacher training based on the research of Anders Ericcson.

“There are no wrong answers!” There really are. On the value of informed opinions.


10 Misconceptions about Comparative Judgement – CJ was one of my ‘big things’ of 2016 – in all I wrote 7 posts about this streamlined approach to assessment – this one represents probably the most thorough explanation.

School improvement: Can you buck the trend? – In a previous post I’d argue that the school improvement agenda is no longer what it once was and continuing with what we’d done before was unlikely to be effective. This post sets out some alternative ideas.


On report – why I don’t think putting students ‘on report’ is likely to solve behaviour problems.

The Capital Letter Problem – Part 1 and Part 2 – on the power of habit and how to break bad ones.


What Dr Fox teaches us about the importance of subject knowledge – it really is what you know.

What causes the gender gap in education? – It might not be what we think.


Call and response – In which I discuss what we could learn from Nigerian education.

Robots, evolution and why schools shouldn’t worry about innate skills – The number of otherwise sensible people calling for schools to teach so-called ’21st century skills’ shows no sign of reducing. This is my response.


Making kids cleverer – If we want children to be cleverer – and why wouldn’t we? – then there’s some stuff all teachers should know about developing intelligence.

Bottom sets and the scourge of low-level disruption – why bottom sets are often a pernicious blight on the school system and how we might alleviate some of the worst excesses.


Is criticising learning styles an attack on the poor? No. But saying so probably resulted in a brief Twitter ban.

PISA 2015: some tentative thoughts about successful teaching – The story the mainstream media ignored: discovery methods are negatively correlated with achievement.

I’ll also put together a most popular posts round-up so if you don’t like any of these lesser known gems you can at least remind yourselves of ones you probably read first time round.