research

/research

Can grammar teaching improve pupils’ writing?

2017-12-13T09:10:51+00:00

Let me begin with an anecdote. The first time I ever really encountered the meta language of grammar was after finishing my degree in English Literature and embarking on a six-week course to qualify to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). I had to cram a whole host of previously unknown terminology in order to pass the course and it all seemed pretty pointless. Not knowing this stuff hadn't made a jot of difference to my ability to read and write as far as I could tell. After I got my certificate I bounced from place to place using my [...]

Can grammar teaching improve pupils’ writing? 2017-12-13T09:10:51+00:00

Differences and similarities  

2017-08-21T21:47:56+00:00

To deny that people differ from each other is patently ridiculous. We are all unique and our uniqueness is endlessly fascinating. Our physical differences are readily apparent; some of us are taller, heavier, stronger, paler, hairier and more appealing to look upon than others. No one denies these differences; to do so would be to deny the evidence of our own eyes. We also know that people’s personality and character vary enormously – some people we are drawn to, others we instinctively dislike. We know too that not everyone has the same intellectual capability. Schools divide children into ability groups and [...]

Differences and similarities   2017-08-21T21:47:56+00:00

Two fallacies to avoid

2017-08-15T07:41:59+00:00

Avoiding logical fallacies can be tricky and, as responses to some of my recent posts has made clear, anyone who spends time debating evolutionary psychology, behaviour genetics or science in general will find themselves having to hack through thick swathes of them in their attempts to get a little closer to truth. Two particularly prevalent and egregious fallacies we must strive to avoid are the naturalistic fallacy and the moralistic fallacy. The naturalistic fallacy, first coined by the philosopher G.E. Moore, is similar in construction to Hume's 'is/ought problem'. The fallacy, in essence, confuses what's natural with what's good and leads [...]

Two fallacies to avoid 2017-08-15T07:41:59+00:00

Do schools matter less than we think?

2017-08-12T17:44:15+00:00

Disturbingly for all of us involved in education, it seems as if schools and teaching may matter a lot less than we would like to believe. Before setting out the arguments I want to make it clear that this is a struggle for me and I really don't want it to be true. That said, being professionally sceptical requires that we doubt what we want to believe as much - more - than the stuff that's obvious guff. In order to understand what comes next, I'm going to take the liberty of providing a quick refresher on the mechanics of behaviour [...]

Do schools matter less than we think? 2017-08-12T17:44:15+00:00

What's the point of parenting?

2017-08-11T18:40:03+00:00

As an aside in a recent blog, I made the statement that, "shared environmental effects like parenting have no effect on adult’s behaviour, characteristics, values or beliefs." This excited quite a bit of handbag clutching so I've decided to delve a little more deeply into the evidence supporting this contentious claim. It is, I hope, unlikely to upset anyone to point out that identical twin share (virtually) 100% of their genetic material*. It's also uncontroversial to note that despite this, there are often observable differences in the behaviour and personalities of identical twins. What accounts for these differences is referred to [...]

What's the point of parenting? 2017-08-11T18:40:03+00:00

What’s the point of parenting?

2017-08-11T18:40:03+00:00

As an aside in a recent blog, I made the statement that, "shared environmental effects like parenting have no effect on adult’s behaviour, characteristics, values or beliefs." This excited quite a bit of handbag clutching so I've decided to delve a little more deeply into the evidence supporting this contentious claim. It is, I hope, unlikely to upset anyone to point out that identical twin share (virtually) 100% of their genetic material*. It's also uncontroversial to note that despite this, there are often observable differences in the behaviour and personalities of identical twins. What accounts for these differences is referred to [...]

What’s the point of parenting? 2017-08-11T18:40:03+00:00

What causes behaviour?

2017-08-24T17:29:34+00:00

The age-old debate as to what causes human behaviour - nature vs nurture - shows little sign of running out of steam, despite having been emphatically resolved as far as science is concerned.  Although all knowledge is contingent and no scientist worthy of the name would ever say there are no facts established completely beyond doubt, the mountains of evidence that have piled up in favour of genetic causes for behaviour as opposed to environmental ones is solemnly impressive. No one argues that genes are wholly responsible for how we behave or that the environment has no effect on how we [...]

What causes behaviour? 2017-08-24T17:29:34+00:00

Are you fooling yourself? Education and epidemiology

2017-04-29T19:00:32+00:00

Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard Feynman Epidemiology is the science of trying to find out what makes people healthier. Epidemiologists look at data to identify causal links between improved health and other factors. It is a correlational science which means that it can never really prove a causal link it can only suggest that a connection between two or more variables is unlikely to be caused by chance. Correlation is a tricksy business. Perfect correlations tend not [...]

Are you fooling yourself? Education and epidemiology 2017-04-29T19:00:32+00:00

What do teachers think differentiation is?

2017-07-15T22:11:41+00:00

In Why Knowledge Matters, ED Hirsch Jr sets out the case against differentiated instruction, saying, "the attempt to individualize the content of the language arts curriculum has been a quixotic idea that has put teachers under enormous pressure to achieve the impossible." He explains further: When a teacher is attending to the individual needs of one student  in a class of twenty, nineteen are not receiving the teacher's attention. all sorts of techniques conspire to obscure that fact - group work, isolated seatwork on boring work sheets, and "independent study' with choice of books from the leveled-reader bin.(p. 72) In What If [...]

What do teachers think differentiation is? 2017-07-15T22:11:41+00:00

What do teachers believe?

2017-03-16T20:49:30+00:00

It's well-established that various 'myths' about how students' learn are remarkably persistent in the face of contradictory evidence. In 2014, Paul Howard-Jones' article, Neuroscience and education: myths and messages revealed the extent of teachers' faulty beliefs: In the UK, 93% of teachers believe that matching instruction to students' preferred learning style is a good idea, 88% believed in some form of Brain Gym, with 91% being convinced by the left-brain-right brain hypothesis. He concludes with the following: Neuromyths are misconceptions about the brain that flourish when cultural conditions protect them from scrutiny. Their form is influenced by a range of biases in how we [...]

What do teachers believe? 2017-03-16T20:49:30+00:00

Unprofessional misjudgement

2017-03-01T14:50:08+00:00

No, I’m not using evidence, but I’m not using prejudice either. I am exercising my professional judgement. Sue Cowley It doesn’t make a difference how beautiful your guess is. It doesn’t make a difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. Richard Feynman A few days ago I wrote about why we shouldn't credulously accept evidence, and that it wasn't as simple as suggesting that teachers either use evidence or prejudice to inform their decision. We are all guilty of using prejudice whether or not we use evidence. [...]

Unprofessional misjudgement 2017-03-01T14:50:08+00:00

Evidence and disadvantage: How useful is the EEF Toolkit?

2017-02-27T09:01:15+00:00

Although everyone's education is important, the education of disadvantaged students is, arguably, of much greater importance than that of students from more advantaged backgrounds. The more privileged your background, the less it's likely to matter what happens at school. Conversely, the more socially disadvantaged your background, the greater the impact of what does, or does not happen at school.Sadly though, access to education is more than likely to experience a Matthew effect. Those who have the best chance in life are the most likely to get a great education. That being the case, it seems reasonable to suggest that whilst all children deserve that the [...]

Evidence and disadvantage: How useful is the EEF Toolkit? 2017-02-27T09:01:15+00:00