Do children succeed despite or because of what we do?


One of the most beguiling assumptions in teaching is that children succeed in school because of what schools and teachers do. We feel this to be true because we're acutely aware of all the things we've done; all the hours of teaching, marking, planning, pastoral support and everything else we do. We know these things are what make the difference to young people's lives. But how do we know? It would be obviously unethical to test this assumption using a randomised control trial with some children assigned to a control group in which they experience none of things schools do, but [...]

Do children succeed despite or because of what we do?2018-12-03T12:39:44+00:00

Breadth trumps depth


According to Teacher Tapp, 56% of teachers reckon their schools start GCSE courses at some point during Year 9. Part of the justification for this approach is that Key Stage 3 has sometimes had a reputation for being a bit of an intellectual wasteland. In 2015, Ofsted publish a report entitled Key Stage 3: The wasted years? which argued that "in too many schools the quality of teaching and the rate of pupils’ progress and achievement were not good enough." Clearly, doing something purposeful is an improvement over three years of colouring in, poster making and young adult class readers. The other [...]

Breadth trumps depth2018-12-02T20:53:30+00:00

Teaching knowledge is teaching skill


We can call everything stored in our long-term memories knowledge. All knowledge is biological - stored in the organic substance of our brains - and everything stored biologically is knowledge. If you call some of the stuff that occupies our minds anything other than knowledge then you have to explain how it would be stored. This is hard to do without getting into debates about 'ether' or some other insubstantial stuff. Occam's razor assures us that pursuing such a line of reasoning is both unnecessary and likely to be counter-productive. But then, what of the common sense observation that knowledge and [...]

Teaching knowledge is teaching skill2018-06-17T08:10:01+00:00

Teaching to make children cleverer – Part 3


As discussed in Part 1 of this series of posts, it seems probable that the best way to use education to increase children's cognitive capacities is to increase the quantity and the quality of what they know. In Part 2 I discussed ways we might increase the quantity of what of what children know about the world, and in this post I want to explore how we might go about selecting what to teach with an eye for quality. Any attempt to discuss improving the quality of children's knowledge will be, inevitably, subjective and partial, but every effort ought to be made to reduce [...]

Teaching to make children cleverer – Part 32018-01-10T15:11:02+00:00

Why I don’t think emojis should be studied in school


I have nothing against emojis, just as I have nothing against kittens, turpentine or billiards. I'm more than happy for anyone who's minded to stroke kittens, drink turps and swan around with a billiards cue. Equally, I have no problem whatsoever with people peppering their texts or tweets with smiley faces or grinning turds; each to her own. But, despite my laissez-faire approach to emoji in general life, I'm afraid this easy going, live-and-let-live facade melts away when teachers argue that emoji - or any other essentially transient pop culture phenomena - ought to be used or studied in the classroom. [...]

Why I don’t think emojis should be studied in school2017-07-20T16:49:31+00:00

What is a broad and balanced curriculum?


Historically, the curriculum schools have taught hasn't really mattered that much. Then, when the National Curriculum was introduced in the late 1980s, committees of experts had made all the decisions for us. As more and more schools have academised and won free of the strictures of  the National Curriculum, you might have expected a flowering of thought about how best to structure and select what children should be taught, but far more effort has been expended on the how of education. This may, in part, be due to Ofsted's long preoccupation with judging the quality of teaching and learning provided by [...]

What is a broad and balanced curriculum?2018-02-26T09:18:51+00:00

Why what you teach matters


I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that within the next two years Ofsted will stop grading the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as part of their overall judgement on schools' effectiveness. This will probably be replaced with a judgement on a school's curriculum and assessment policies and practices. If I'm right, how a teacher teaches will become less and less important, instead, schools will be increasingly held to account for what they teach. Even if I'm wrong, I think it's still very important to think carefully about what we teach. Judgements on how teachers teach are primarily  concerned with whether children [...]

Why what you teach matters2016-11-05T15:11:11+00:00