Learning is liminal

2016-02-10T21:51:34+00:00February 10th, 2016|learning|

I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move. Tennyson, Ulysses I offered my definition of learning here, but there is, I feel, something more to be said on the subject. Learning is a messy, complicated business. Imagine yourself standing before a dark, ominous doorway. Through it you can glimpse something previously unimagined, but entering and crossing through entails a risk – anything might happen. Not passing through, while safe, means you will never know what’s on the other [...]

What’s the starting point for all learning?

2016-02-08T12:52:13+00:00February 7th, 2016|learning|

"No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious." George Bernard Shaw UPDATED 7th February 6.30pm This morning in answer to a question about whether children should be taught to challenge 'neat interpretations', I suggested that it's usually a good idea to know something really well before you start questioning it. In response I was told by a Head of English who has now asked for her tweet to be removed from this post that my opinion was "Rubbish," and that, "Asking questions is the starting point for all learning." She went on to say, "If only [...]

Scripts: whose lesson is it anyway?

2018-10-02T08:35:24+01:00January 31st, 2016|learning, planning|

When I was 16, Whose Line Is It Anyway? first aired on UK television. The show, hosted by Clive Anderson, asked four comedians to ad lib responses to various prompts and scenarios, much of it shouted out by audience members. The whole thing was completely unscripted with the comedians having to make everything up on the spot. The results were anarchic; always daft and often hilarious. I'd never seen anything quite like it and I was in awe of the quickness of their brains and the way the could conjure a laugh out of almost anything. Here's a taste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7LVv-X2UEc As you can see, it's [...]

A definition of learning

2016-07-21T19:49:18+01:00January 28th, 2016|learning|

"For a man to attain to an eminent degree in learning costs him time, watching, hunger, nakedness, dizziness in the head, weakness in the stomach, and other inconveniences." Cervantes Learning (n) 1. the retention and transfer of knowledge 2. a change in the way the world is understood I'm often asked what I mean when I talk about 'learning' so, although I've written about it many times before, I thought it might be useful to have a post dedicated to my definition. Learning is tripartite: it involves retention, transfer and change. It must be durable (it should last), flexible (it should be applicable in [...]

Is it a ‘sin’ to tell teachers how to teach?

2016-01-28T09:42:01+00:00January 27th, 2016|learning|

Half the vices which the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderated use rather than total abstinence. Samuel Butler According to a recent TES article, Professor John Hattie, "one of the world’s most widely quoted education academics," has been telling teachers that it's a 'sin' to tell teachers how to teach. I'm sure the irony went unnoticed. Is he right? He apparently he said 80 per cent of what happens in the classroom remains unseen and unheard by teachers – only the pupils are aware of it. “So why would I give a damn about reflective [...]

Is it a 'sin' to tell teachers how to teach?

2016-01-27T17:32:21+00:00January 27th, 2016|learning|

Half the vices which the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderated use rather than total abstinence. Samuel Butler According to a recent TES article, Professor John Hattie, "one of the world’s most widely quoted education academics," has been telling teachers that it's a 'sin' to tell teachers how to teach. I'm sure the irony went unnoticed. Is he right? He apparently he said 80 per cent of what happens in the classroom remains unseen and unheard by teachers – only the pupils are aware of it. “So why would I give a damn about reflective [...]

Why 'mastery learning' may prove to be a bad idea

2016-01-24T19:12:26+00:00January 24th, 2016|learning|

"It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us." Disraeli What could be wrong with wanting students to master difficult content? Nothing. For the most part, the aims of mastery curricula are admirable. Ensuring all students have fully grasped conceptually difficult content is a hard but worthy aspiration. My problem is that, in practice, mastery values the here and now over the future, and in so doing may be in danger of short circuiting the outcomes it seeks to embed. The research conducted so far shows some promise. The EEF Toolkit report concludes that mastery learning [...]

Student voice: windmills of the mind

2015-12-12T23:27:30+00:00December 12th, 2015|leadership, learning|

Pray look better, Sir … those things yonder are no giants, but windmills. Cervantes Does it matter if students like their teachers? Is it worth knowing if students don't maths or hate PE? Should students be asked to evaluate the quality of their lessons? It sometimes seems that the clamour of 'what students want' drowns out even the presumed demands of 'what Ofsted want'. Students' opinions might be interesting but should they be used to judge the effectiveness of teachers? Certainly some school leaders appear to think so. An anonymous blog on the Labour Teachers site* reveals the extent of the rise of this [...]

Cargo cult teaching, cargo cult learning

2017-03-27T22:54:04+01:00December 10th, 2015|English, learning|

…it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives… Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, Aphorism, 1620 Cargo cults grew up on some of the South Sea islands during the first half of the 20th century. Amazed islanders watched as Europeans colonised their islands, built landing strips and then unloaded precious cargo from the aeroplanes which duly landed. That looks easy enough, some canny shaman must have reasoned, if we knock up a bamboo airport then the metal birds will come and lay their cargo eggs for us too. This is the [...]

Why I struggle with learning objectives and success criteria

2019-08-02T12:21:08+01:00December 6th, 2015|learning|

A strenuous soul hates cheap success. Ralph Waldo Emerson Broadly, I’m in favour of sharing with students the intention behind what they are being asked to do. Anything that adds clarity to the murky business of learning is probably a good thing. However, an intention (or outcome, objective or whatever you want to call it) along the lines of To be able to [inset skill to be acquired or practised] or, To understand [whatever the hell the teacher wants her students to learn] is unlikely to be of much help. All too often our learning intentions are lesson menus; here is [...]

Is mimicry always a bad thing?

2015-12-06T07:13:03+00:00December 5th, 2015|learning|

Make not your thoughts your prisons. Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra Mimicry is the conscious or unconscious copying of experts in order. To understand the potential dangers of mimicry, it helps to understand the difference between learning and performance. Perhaps the differences can be summed up like this: Performance is inflexible, short-term and easy to spot, whereas learning is flexible, durable and invisible. Much of what we do in classrooms is geared towards maximising students' performance (because it's easy to spot) whilst ignoring whether learning is taking place (because it's very hard to correctly infer). Increasing student's performance is widely regarded as an acceptable [...]

What is 'transfer' and is it important?

2015-09-17T22:19:53+01:00September 17th, 2015|learning|

Very kindly, Greg Ashman posted his thoughts on #WrongBook on his site yesterday - if you haven't seen his 'review' you can find it here. I really like both the style and the substance of Greg's piece, but I do want to take him up on the way he's interpreted my use of the term 'transfer'. In the book, I define learning as, “The ability to retain skills and knowledge over the long term and to be able to transfer them to new contexts.” Greg is unhappy with the inclusion of transfer in this definition and argues the following: It sets the bar [...]

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