It wasn’t THAT bad!

Well, it’s the end of another year and as the past month has seen me too drained to write anything even vaguely coherent, I’ve decided in true cheap TV style to round up the year’s most popular posts. I’ve written 59 of the buggers in 2012 (not including this one) and obviously some of them have chimed with an audience much more than others. This isn’t a list of my personal favourites or of the posts I think are the most powerful or best written, they’re merely the most read.


So, in reverse order (in some vain attempt to build tension) here’s the top 10 most viewed posts on The learning Spy according to Google:


10 . How effective learning hinges on good questioning – 4th February

Whilst researching hinge questions for my book it became clear that there was precious little available on the internet on this seemingly arcane teaching technique. I collected together what I could find, played around with it in my lessons and dumped the result into a blog post. As is so often the case, one of the comments left added some very useful information on percentages. I know, right?

9. The Matthew Effect – why literacy is so important  – 30th September

This post, which shamelessly steals all its best ideas from Headteacher extrordinaire Geoff Barton, is an attempt to spell out (get it?) just how easy it should be to transform teaching and learning so that every teacher accepts and understands their responsibility to be a teacher of literacy.

8. Feedback it’s better to receive than to give – 20th February

The more I’ve looked into the efficacy of feedback, the more I’ve come to realise just how tenuous the process of getting students to learn stuff actually is. This post was written after pouring over the pages of Visible Learning for Teachers and trying to slot together what I was reading with what I saw in the classroom. It also has my favourite educational cartoon ever.

7. Myths – what Ofsted want – 17th March

I can still taste the bitter gorge I had to swallow on first reading Ofsted’s latest English subject report, Moving English Forward. This post was written angry and looking back it still seems a little raw. As the year progressed, this message on what Ofsted now expect (or don’t expect) has been reiterated several times by Sir Mike Wilshaw and the shock has faded somewhat. But my goodness, it caused quite a stir back in March.

6. Go With the Flow – the 2 minute lesson plan – 17th November

Despite the somewhat gimmicky title, this post was a serious attempt to get teachers to think carefully about why they plan and who they’re really planning for. I maintain that we spend far too much putting lessons together and that this time would be better spent marking. Hey ho.

5. Slow Writing – how slowing down can improve your writing – 12th May

I’d got so used to teaching writing in this way that I’d kinda forgotten what a step change it was when I first stumbled across it in a Year 11 revision session back in 2008. In fact, it seemed so ordinary that I omitted to put it in the book (I mistake I shall rectify if there’s ever a 2nd edition!) Anyway, lots of people seem to like it and it’s one of only two posts to have its own Triptico app!

4. Learning Objectives and Why we need ’em – 18th February

This is the third post written in February to have made it into the Top 10 – clearly a fecund period. It’s always surprising to me just how strongly some people feel about the humble objective. This post was part of a conversation where their relative merits were batted back and forth.

3. What is Good Behaviour? 1st January

I spent the first day of the New Year in bed drinking Lemsip and writing blog posts. You can perhaps still make out the faint whiff of menthol. I remember Old Andrew getting particularly cross about this post which, depending on your point of view maybe good or bad.

2. Hexagonal Learning – 28th January

Coming across the idea of using hexagons to help students connect their learning was the point at which SOLO really started to make sense for my students. I haven’t used them nearly so much since September but there are still few techniques as guaranteed to make students’ progress startlingly visible. Although they were my idea, writing about hexagons on the blog seemed to send them viral. Lots of Tweeter were introduced to the joys of the HexagonBot, David Riley wrote a Triptico app, and the Bull Academy even started ridiculing me. What an endorsement.

1. Outstanding Teaching & learning: missed opportunities and marginal gains – 14th October

Like so many others, my imagination was captured by the simplicity and effectiveness of Dave Brailsford’s Team Sky training methodology and, riding in the wake of Zoe Elder and Alex Quigley’s peloton, I started thinking about how to apply making marginal gains to my own teaching practice.

Thank you so much for reading this year’s varying output. As ever, it’s been enormously helpful for me to write them and even more so to get your feedback. I hope you’ve found at least some of the posts interesting or useful. And, if not, maybe you can suggest some topics which would interest you.