Is displaying students' work worth the effort?

2015-05-16T09:47:29+01:00May 16th, 2015|myths|

Of all the observations I made about Michaela School, one which proved particularly controversial was their decision not put display children's work. The rationale given for this was twofold. It takes teachers time to put up, refresh and replace classroom displays and it takes children time to create work for the purpose of such displays. I've spent the week mulling this over and have arrived at a few thoughts. I'm all for not wasting teachers' time in forcing them to engage in extraneous activities, but then, this is enshrined in legislation. The 2012 workload agreement says that teachers cannot be routinely [...]

The fetish of marking

2015-05-10T14:49:34+01:00April 30th, 2015|assessment, myths|

Even the most valuable fetishes will turn into dusts and ashes! Mehmet Murat Ildan Fetishism hasn't always been about rubber and high heels. The word originates from the Portuguese feitico, meaning an object or charm of false power. When explorers first encountered native religions in West Africa, whatever talismans or totems the locals revered were dismissed as fetishes. A fetish has since come to mean an object or practice onto which power has been displaced from the original source. Marking seems a good example. At the most basic level, marking is a totemic symbol for the power of feedback. What we want is [...]

Right brain/left brain bollocks

2017-06-14T23:19:49+01:00April 20th, 2015|myths|

I'm frequently sent unsolicited emails from chancers and PR companies asking me to guest post this or publicise that. Some even go to the trouble of addressing their requests to me personally rather than some generic pleas for attention. My normal practice is to ignore this unwanted correspondence unless it seems to come from an actual human being who has actually engaged with the content of the blog, in which case they get a polite refusal. Never have I been moved to actually post any of the guff I've been sent. Until now. Today this dropped into my inbox: Frankly, I feel [...]

Does ADHD exist?

2019-11-11T13:03:27+00:00January 14th, 2015|myths|

One of the few things I remember agreeing with when I heard Ken Robinson talking about changing educational paradigms was his observation that diagnoses of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) fall as you travel across America from West to East. Not the map Ken refers to, but something very similar. He calls this modern epidemic the "plague of ADHD" and claims it is "fictitious". He clarifies this by saying, Don't mistake me, I don't mean to say there is no such thing as Attention Deficit Disorder. I'm not qualified to say if there is such a thing. I know that a great majority of [...]

5 questions to guard against availability bias and made-up data

2014-08-18T20:41:15+01:00June 8th, 2014|myths|

The cost of bad data is the illusion of knowledge - Stephen Hawking What's more likely to kill you? A shark or a hot water tap? We've all heard stories of killer sharks, but as yet Spielberg hasn't made a thriller about killer plumbing. We reason based on the information most readily available to us. We assume that the risk of dying in a plane crash is greater than the risk of dying on our sofa because plane crashes are so much more dramatic. But we're wrong. This is the availability bias. We make decisions based on the most readily available information [...]

A request: Have you experienced any craziness in your school?

2014-05-25T22:41:32+01:00May 24th, 2014|myths|

If there's something you really want to believe, that's what you should question the most. Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller) So. I've started work on my next book, provisionally (and provocatively) entitled, Why Everything You've Been Told About Teaching Is Wrong. Contrary to expectations I want to make is fair-minded and as lacking in ideological slant as I'm able. To achieve this I need your help. The chapter I'm currently writing is on cognitive bias, and I'd really like to use some examples of the sorts of blinkered thinking which we can be drawn into in schools. Obviously I've got lots [...]

Intuition vs evidence: the power of prediction

2015-01-26T12:37:57+00:00May 8th, 2014|myths|

I wrote earlier in the week about why, despite it's limitations, research is better than a hunch. Since then, I've been reading Daniel Willingham's article on Real Clear Education; he says that it's not that people are stupid but that science is hard. He refers to the nobel prize winning physicist Carl Weiman whose interest in science education came from many years of working closely with physics undergraduates and observing that "their success in physics courses was such a poor predictor of a student’s ultimate success as a physicist." Or in other words, performance was not a useful indication of learning. Weiman argues that rigorous eduction [...]

What works is a lot better than what doesn't

2014-05-03T00:05:35+01:00May 3rd, 2014|myths|

Teachers often talk about the vital nature of their work and the fact that for the young people we teach there are no second chances. I've heard teaching compared to air traffic control and the risks in the classroom compared to the risk involved in miscalculating the landing of a plane. These kinds of comparison are made to alert us to the importance of what we do, but clearly they're over dramatic and, in a very real way, untrue. I don't want to make out that what we do is unimportant but if we teach algebra badly no one dies. But what [...]

The dark art of creativity

2014-04-12T12:32:29+01:00April 11th, 2014|myths|

I was recently reminded of the 'schools are killing creativity' trope that was so prevalent a few years ago. Tempting as it may be to nod along with Ken Robinson and his cronies, it's worth contemplating the creative power of constraints. Without clear knowledge of forms and ‘rules’, creativity is inevitably stifled. Ideas become a kitchen-sink soup with everything chucked into the pot with little regard for structure or purpose. Children’s imaginations are already pretty vast and the younger the child, the greater the depth of their imagination. We don’t need to teach this, it just is. Sir Ken claims that children arrive [...]

Why AfL might be wrong, and what to do about it

2014-04-25T09:31:57+01:00March 12th, 2014|myths|

Some cows are so sacred that any criticism of them is fraught with the risk of bumping up against entrenched cognitive bias. We are fantastically bad at recognizing that our beliefs are often not based on evidence but on self-interest, and it’s been in everyone’s interest to uphold the belief that AfL is the best thing that teachers can do. When confronted with ‘others’ who disagree with our most fervently held beliefs, we tend to make the following series of assumptions: They are ignorant They are stupid They are evil When in the past I have been critical of AfL (or [...]

Everything we've been told about teaching is wrong, and what to do about it!

2014-03-09T11:19:44+00:00March 9th, 2014|myths|

It was great to be back at the IOE for Pedagoo London 2014, and many thanks must go to @hgaldinoshea & @kevbartle for organising such a wonderful (and free!) event. As ever there's never enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to, but I particularly enjoyed Jo Facer's workshop on cultural literacy and Harry Fletcher-Wood's attempt to stretch a military metaphor to provide a model for teacher improvement. As I was presenting last I found myself unable to concentrate during Rachel Steven's REALLY INTERESTING talk on Lesson Study and returned to the room in which I would be presenting to catch the end [...]

Old Hat(tie)? Some things you ought to know about effect sizes

2014-05-17T17:39:45+01:00January 24th, 2014|myths|

Ever since Hattie published Visible Learning back in 2009 the Effect Size has been king. For those of you who don't know, an effect size is a mechanism for comparing the relative merits of different interventions. Hattie pointed out that everything that a teacher does will have some effect but that there will also be an opportunity cost: if you're investing in time in one type of intervention you will be neglecting other types of intervention which might have a greater impact. He therefore used effect sizes to try to establish what has the greatest influence on student learning so that we [...]

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