Attention, meaning & consolidation: matching technique to purpose

2024-01-13T11:27:09+00:00January 12th, 2024|English, reflection, training|

It's become increasingly clear to me that training teachers on how to use pedagogical techniques is of limited use. Over the past year or so I've lost count of the times I've watched a teacher act on feedback, improve how how they are, say, cold calling, or using a visualiser or mini-whiteboard, and yet still somehow the lesson is a series of missed opportunities with students failing to learn what was intended. A few years ago I read (or at lest, skimmed) Mary Kennedy's 2015 paper, Parsing the Practice of Teaching and being struck, like so many others, by her [...]

#BackToSchool – free webinars

2020-08-26T20:48:29+01:00August 26th, 2020|Featured, training|

Over the next few weeks I'll be hosting a series of five 'back to school' webinars on a range to topics aimed at early career teachers, those with a mentoring responsibility and anyone who simply feels they could do with a refresher of some teaching basics. And this year, of all years, who couldn't do with a refresher? Each of the webinars is focussed around a particular area of teaching and would make ideal CPD. Each webinar will be going out at 4pm and registration is FREE for those who need it to be, while those who feel able to pay [...]

Modelling and observation: a low threat model for teacher development

2020-08-03T12:09:59+01:00October 7th, 2018|training|

For some years now I've been of the opinion that while lesson observations can be useful learning opportunities the person doing the observation learns far more than the person being observed. This is a bit of a problem as, in the main, the people who observe the most teach the least. This means many schools end up with a class of teachers who know an incredible amount about teaching but don't do all that much of it. Consequently, I usually advise school leaders to use some of their non-contact time to free up colleagues to be able to observe more. As [...]

Leading literacy in schools

2018-05-03T14:05:07+01:00April 25th, 2018|literacy, training|

Leading on literacy can be a thoroughly thankless task. It can often feel like you’re working incredibly hard to produce resources and strategies which colleagues at best ignore and at worst resent. Part of the problem is that we’re expending effort in the wrong place and trying to persuade teachers to do the wrong things. Frustratingly, there’s very little guidance about how best to spend your precious time and it can be hard to find clear information on what approaches are likely to be most successful. My advice is to minimise the amount of time spent on apostrophe worksheets and spelling [...]

5 things every new (secondary) teacher should know about writing

2016-09-03T10:49:22+01:00September 1st, 2016|training, writing|

Academic success is dependent on students being able to communicate their understanding of a subject and, sooner or later, that communication will be written. For many secondary teachers writing is something that just happens; some students do it well, others poorly and there's precious little you can do about it. In secondary schools teachers teach subjects and although some effort will be put into essay writing skills in some subject areas, by and large, the ability to write effectively is left to chance. Back in 2006 I marked Paper 2 of the AQA English Language GCSE and one of the prompts students were given to [...]

5 things every new (secondary) teacher should know about reading

2016-09-03T16:17:18+01:00August 31st, 2016|reading, training|

Reading's a funny old business. Generally, secondary school teachers  expect kids to come with a pre-loaded reading module. If they have it, all well and good. If they don't, we're stuffed. Luckily, the vast majority of students can read by the start of Year 7, even if they say they can't. But being able to read and being able to access the kind of material required to be academically successful are not at all the same thing. When I started teaching I knew next to nothing about reading, and I was meant to be an English teacher! Because it was something I [...]

Five things every new teacher needs to know about behaviour management

2017-01-15T18:57:18+00:00August 19th, 2016|behaviour, training|

Managing students' behaviour can be the most terrifying aspect of becoming a teacher. Although it's the nightmare scenarios of being told to eff off on your first day, or having a chair hurled at your head that tend to keep new teachers awake at nights, these are - in most schools - relatively rare events. More often than not it's the small stuff that undermines lessons and erodes the best efforts of teachers and students alike. In my eventful (and often unsuccessful) picaresque to discover what actually works I've made scores of mistakes and wasted countless hours trying to tackle the horrifying banality of [...]

What do new teachers need to know about behaviour management?

2016-07-27T14:35:37+01:00July 26th, 2016|behaviour, training|

Full disclosure: this article appeared first on the Teachers Register blog. Teachers Register is an online solution for schools needing supply teachers without wanting the hassle of going through a supply agency. You can follow them on Twitter here. When I first resolved to train as a teacher – and worse still, a secondary school teacher – everyone I informed of this momentous decision would stare at me aghast and ask, with varying degrees of pity and horror, “What do you want to do that for?” Then they’d sigh and mutter something along the lines of, “Well, rather you then me.” Teenagers [...]

Developing expertise #4 Acknowledge emotions

2016-07-16T14:57:53+01:00July 16th, 2016|Featured, training|

In previous posts I've discussed how creating the right environment, seeking better feedback and creating 'circuit breakers' could help us the develop the kind of expertise required to hone our intuition. This post discusses the role of emotions and how we could change the way we respond to our feelings. Our emotions provide us with important and useful data, but much of this information is misleading and requires conscious processing. We tend to be all too willing to go with our guts, trust hunches and do what 'feels right' without much understanding of where our emotions comes from or what they might be really telling us. Whilst our emotions can feel more [...]

Developing expertise #3: Circuit breakers

2016-07-01T22:29:31+01:00July 1st, 2016|training|

We've already seen how creating the right environment and seeking better feedback might help us the develop the kind of expertise required to make genuinely intuitive judgements and this post I'll discuss how imposing checks or 'circuit breakers' on our thinking might be another way to develop expertise. Many, perhaps most of the decision teachers make are made before conscious thought. As soon as we achieve a measure of familiarity with teaching the curriculum we’re responsible for covering, we move steadily from the deliberate, conscious phase of practice to the automatic, unconscious phase. Thinking about all the decisions we make is exhausting and so, to [...]

Developing expertise #2 – Seek feedback

2016-06-30T11:09:32+01:00June 30th, 2016|training|

In my previous post I suggested the first step for teachers to develop expertise was to find ways to change the environment so that the feedback we get is unbiased. In this post we will consider why much of the feedback we do get is unhelpful and how to get more of the helpful stuff. Many of the decisions we take  - in life generally and as teachers - are based not on reason and logic but on vague, nebulous feelings of 'rightness'. Why did you buy the car you drive, the toothpaste you use, the shoes you wear? Why did [...]

Developing expertise #1 Create the right environment

2016-06-29T13:28:00+01:00June 29th, 2016|training|

In this post I discussed why teachers' experience might not translate directly into expertise. This is the first of a series exploring some of the different ways we could increase the likelihood that teachers are able to develop reliably intuitive judgements about how children learn and how to help them learn better. The theory is that experience will only lead to expertise in a 'kind domain'; in 'wicked domains' experience seems more likely to lead to over-confidence. If teaching comprises some 'wicked' aspects, then what can we do to change that? The main difference between these domains is the quality of the [...]

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