PISA 2015: some tentative thoughts about successful teaching

//PISA 2015: some tentative thoughts about successful teaching

Despite all the eminently sensible caveats offered by Sam Freedman, PISA provides a fascinating lens through which to view the world of education. The most interesting of the PISA documents I’ve had a chance to look at today is Policies and Practices for Successful Schools. It’s a long document and a great many policies and practices are addressed, but the most interesting to me is the section on how science is taught (pp 65-77).

As the report says, “How science is taught at school can make a big difference for students.” In order to work out what sorts of activities regularly occur across the countries taking part in PISA 2015, students were asked about the frequency of four main approaches to teaching: teacher directed instruction, perceived feedback, adaptive instruction and enquiry-based instruction and asked whether they ‘never or almost never happened’, happened in ‘some lessons’, ‘many lessons’, or in ‘every or almost every lesson’.

Let’s have a look at these four areas in turn.

Teacher directed instruction

The report states that this was the most frequently reported of all instructional strategies perhaps because it’s seen as “less time consuming” and “easier to implement”. The report defines the goals of teacher directed instruction as “to provide a well structured, clear and informative lesson on a topic and usually includes the following components:

  • The teacher explains scientific ideas
  • The teacher discusses our questions
  • The teacher demonstrates an idea
  • A whole class discussion takes place with the teacher

Fascinatingly, the report finds that “using teacher directed instruction more frequently is associated with higher science achievement” and students in all countries were more likely to “hold stringer epistemic beliefs” and had higher expectations of “pursuing a scientific career”. This suggests that using teacher directed instruction is more likely not only to increase students’ performance in examinations but also give them a better understanding of how science works and make them more enthusiastic about being scientists. By far the most positively correlated of the our aspects of teacher directed instruction was explaining scientific ideas, with whole class discussions being slightly negatively correlated. In other words, it seems that the more time the teacher spends explaining and the less time students spend in discussion, the better.


Perceived feedback from science teachers

We all know that providing feedback is positively associated with students’ performance, but more important perhaps is how students perceive the feedback they’re given. It may seem surprising that the report finds that “more perceived feedback is also associated with poorer performance in science”, but this is in line with findings from cognitive science. I’ve written about why it makes better sense to reduce the feedback teachers give here. Weirdly, the report also finds that where students report higher perceptions of receiving feedback they’re more likely to want to pursue science related careers.

This area of instruction broke down into five categories all of which were reported in roughly equal numbers:

  • The teacher tells me tells me how I am performing in the course
  • The teacher gives me feedback on my strengths in this class
  • The teacher tells me in which areas I can still improve
  • The teacher tells me how I can improve my performance
  • The teacher advises me on how to reach my learning goals

Adaptive instruction

This seems broadly similar to the way most teachers in the UK think about differentiation and breaks down into the following three areas:

  • The teacher adapts the lesson to my class’s needs and knowledge
  • The teacher provides individual help when a student has difficulties understanding a topic or task
  • The teacher changes the structure of a lesson on a topic most students find difficult to understand

Although relatively few students (16%) thought their teachers adapted instruction in most lessons, this instructional strategy is positively correlated with better performance, science beliefs and expectations of working in science related fields.

Enquiry-based instruction

The report defines enquiry-based instruction as “about engaging students in experimentation and hands-on activities, and also about challenging students and encouraging them to develop a conceptual understanding of scientific ideas.”

This was by far the largest area, breaking down into nine categories:

  • Students are given opportunities to explain their ideas
  • Students spend time in the laboratory doing practical experiments
  • Students are required to argue about science questions
  • Students are asked to draw conclusions from an experiment they have conducted
  • The teacher explains how a science idea can be applied to a number of different phenomena
  • Students are allowed to design their own experiments
  • There is a class debate about investigations
  • The teacher clearly explains the relevance of science concepts to our lives
  • Students are asked to do an investigation to test ideas

The big news is that “greater exposure to enquiry-based instruction is negatively associated with performance”.

Perhaps surprisingly, in no education system do students who reported that they are frequently exposed to enquiry based instruction (when they are encouraged to experiment and engage in hands-on activities) score higher in science. After accounting for students’ and schools’ socio-economic profile, in 56 countries and economies, greater exposure to enquiry-based instruction is associated with lower scores in science.

As Greg Ashman has explained here, this probably shouldn’t be all that surprising. That said, enquiry does seem to positively correlate with epistemic beliefs and the desire to work in science, although not as much as teacher directed instruction.


Interestingly, when we look at the breakdown of the different areas of enquiry-based instruction, the only one which performs strongly is “The teacher explains how a science idea can be applied to a number of different phenomena”. As far as I understand it, a teacher explanation sounds more likely to be an aspect of teacher directed instruction than enquiry which might explain why it does relatively well.

So, although any conclusions should be cautious, it does seem that if you want to get the best results out of students in science, you ought to minimise enquiry-based methods and embrace teacher direction. My own recommendation that some experimentation and lab work is desirable as it’s what makes science lessons unique, but we should understand that this is probably not the best way for students to learn.

Can we draw any conclusions about teaching subjects other than science? Well, that depends on how different you believe science teaching to be. I’d suggest that the aspects of teacher directed instruction can be fairly easily applied to many other subjects, but of course that might not be true for some subjects.

2017-03-06T08:14:28+00:00December 6th, 2016|Featured|


  1. […] PISA 2015: some tentative about successful teaching by David Didau […]

  2. Richard Needham December 6, 2016 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    What is meant by ‘science performance’ in this context? What are the questions attempting to measure? Which teaching approach correlates with a wish to pursue a science linked career? More analysis is needed before confident claims can be made about how to teach, based on this survey.

    • David Didau December 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm - Reply

      Science performance is measured by how well students performed on the PISA tests.

      As I said in the post, all the strategies (apart from feedback) correlate with the wish to pursue a science career but teacher directed correlates best.

      And the need for further data & analysis is precisely why my claims are tentative (see blog title)

  3. David December 6, 2016 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Given our coversation the other day about Mr. Olsen, this is on page 190:

    “Across OECD countries, the more computers available for educational purposes per student, the lower students score in science, but only before accounting for the socio-economic profile of students and schools. There is a similar number of PISA participting countries and economies where the relationship is positive (7) as education systems where it is negative (11), after accounting for the socio-economic profile of students and schools.”

  4. Adrian BERTOLINI December 6, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Up front, I find the amount of time extended to analysing the results of one test to a group of students in quite disparate cultures, economic conditions, value systems, out of school influences, etc to be meaningless. Having said this I think Larry Cuban’s blog was quite funny when he pointed out how the East Asian countries outperform everyone and what other information can “be garnered” by the “test results” https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/the-less-reported-findings-of-2015-timss-and-explaining-the-east-asian-outstanding-performance-yong-zha0/

    • Chester Draws December 14, 2016 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      Thing is, Adrian, that within countries and cultures that the results still hold.

      People tend to focus on the inter-country comparisons, but PISA do intra-country as well.

  5. darg1 December 6, 2016 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    Though oddly, enquiry based learning has the strongest correlation with schools where science results outstrip literacy and mathematics scores (bottom of p73).

  6. dodiscimus December 6, 2016 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    That seems like an excellent summary David. I particularly wonder about the lack of any obvious validity testing of the student reports on teaching approaches and the one teacher-directed, and one enquiry-based item that correlate the opposite way in particular look dubious in terms of face validity the way they’ve been used. However, I agree that this seems like another, tentative, piece of evidence in favour of direct instruction. Have you also noticed, though, that some countries e.g. USA and Russia seem to do a lot of both, whereas others e.g. Korea and Japan don’t seem to do much of either. I wonder what these student reports are not capturing.

    • Michael Rosen December 7, 2016 at 6:36 am - Reply

      If direct instruction gets good results in a given test that tells us that direct instruction gets good results in a given test (!). That tells us as much about the test as it does about direct instruction. For example, if direct instruction matches up to the format of the test and the nature of the questions – bingo!. We might ask questions of that test like: does it represent the best of what we want children to know in relation to science and/or the application of science? Are there aspects of science that the test does not or cannot show? Is this a problem?

      But as a general rule, the more closely the teaching matches the test, the more ‘effective’ it is. Whether it’s ‘effective’ education is a slightly different matter, isn’t it?

      • David Didau December 7, 2016 at 10:08 am - Reply

        That might be a good point if PISA tests were in any way matched to ‘teacher directed instruction’ (direct instruction is something really quite different) but what you might not know is that OECD is explicitly biased towards enquiry methods and, if anything, designed their test items to reflect what they see as the aims of enquiry, so the fact that teacher direction does better is rather troubling and not a bit embarrassing. Here’s a sample of the test items http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/

        It’s also worth noting that PISA test content is not released in advance and is no stakes for teachers so it’s unlikely that teacher directed instruction could have specifically prepared students to answer these questions.

        As I mentioned in the blog, PISA also try to capture the broader elements of what they consider a good education and TDI does better than EBI on ‘epistemic beliefs’ and ‘desire to pursue a science-related career.

        The point of all this is not all this ‘proves’ teacher direction is better than enquiry, but if enquiry had some advantages then PISA tests ought to pick them up. If TDI does better on all measures then that really ought to give us pause for thought and there should come a point at which what we prefer to be true is trumped by reality.

        To put it another way, what are the conditions in which you would accept that enquiry worse for students? If there a re no such conditions then your beliefs are unfalsifiable and straying into the realms of faith & pseudoscience.

        • Michael Rosen December 7, 2016 at 12:06 pm - Reply

          I’m very interested in everything you say up till the last paragraph. In the last para you are making some assumptions: that I think ‘enquiry’ might be worse or better ‘than’ something else. You then talk about my ‘beliefs’. As I say elsewhere, I’m a beneficiary of direct instruction. I reckon that about 90% of education up till the age of 18 came in that form. I have views about why I was apparently well equipped to access it while all around me from the age of 5 onwards there were kids who weren’t able to. Some went off to non-grammar schools at 11, some left school at 15, some 16. By that time there was only a tiny number of us left.

          Now I look at my children and I can see that they access knowledge via what is actually a great deal of direct instruction very differently and to very different degrees of success. Some of them require enormous amount of top-up discussion, explanation, re-runs, rehearsals, others just fly with it. Meanwhile, when I quiz them about the nature of their direct instruction I can see that it comes out very differently. This morning I asked my daughter (just finished her mock GCSEs) how she is taught Physics, Biology and Chemistry. She contrasted Biology with Physics. She said that in Physics lessons she mostly has worksheets to do which involve questions. The teacher comes round and teaches one-on-one helping students with the worksheets. (My daughter says that she finds this unsatisfactory because she doesn’t feel she gets to understand things.) Her biology teacher does explaining from the front of the class and she prefers this. However, as I pointed out, she ‘gets better marks’ at Physics than Biology. Why’s that? She said it’s because she ‘learned up her Physics much more than her Biology’.

          How does she learn up her stuff? In the time-honoured way: Read, recite, cover, recite, check, read, recite, cover, recite, check till its done. She has also developed the same method as I used of summarising long notes to shorter notes and then summarising those to shorter notes.

          The reason why I am describing all this is because I’m not ‘against’ any of it.

          I think we can however, ask questions whether the activities I’ve described should be (at one end of the spectrum) – all day every day, 90%? 80% 60% etc etc.? Is there room for any other methods? If so, why? What if these ‘minority’ methods had absolutely no impact on results but people felt they were worthwhile for other reasons e.g. that they enabled people to do ‘something else’ that wasn’t covered by the test/exam?

          (Clearly, this applies to ‘the arts’ – which you raised not long ago. In this case, one reason why I think the knowledge model needs modifying there is because a good deal of arts can be practised on the imitation principle. If, for example, we are going to do ‘moving to music’ today, then I would suggest that with a good practitioner, very nearly all of us could move to music in some way or another that responded to that music. It might be through ‘imitation’ of the practitioner, imitation of others we’ve seen move to music. Yes, it’s ‘knowledge’ but it’s also (and often can be) one-to-one imitation into which the person in the class introduces ‘variation’ – which I believe is at the heart of arts practice. At one level this involves ‘direct instruction’ (I do plenty of it by the way all the year round and have done for the last 40 years) at another it can invite ‘variation’, ‘build it in’ if you like, in ways that the practitioner can’t and doesn’t control. All of which leads to the question as to whether there is any point or use in doing such stuff, when there may well be no clear consequence in test scores – other than it might just possibly be the reason why someone sticks with school rather than drifts off…Or, even, decides to go into the huge, lucrative, entertainment industry – but that’s a different matter.)

          • David Didau December 7, 2016 at 1:06 pm

            As I said, direct instruction is something quite specific and something almost no UK teacher ever does. Teacher directed instruction seems a much better term for what you’re referring to.

            Forgive me referring to ‘your beliefs’, read it instead as ‘one’s beliefs’ and it might seem less unpalatable.

            I’ve already said both in this post and in other comments to you that I think that ‘other things’, for instance science experiments, are worth doing in moderation despite the fact they’re negatively correlated with test performance.

            My point about falsifiability is that if you want to encourage practices which result in ‘other things’, you have to be clear about what these things are, why you think the practices you propose might result in these things and how you would measure whether these things had in fact occurred. I think it’s reasonable to say that if these questions can’t be answered, we should resist doing things we are fairly sure might harm students’ academic performance.

        • Michael Rosen December 7, 2016 at 1:46 pm - Reply

          In response to your last point – are you saying that no one in the UK does this: http://study.com/academy/lesson/direct-instruction-teaching-method-definition-examples-strategies.html ?

          • David Didau December 7, 2016 at 11:31 pm

            No, I’m saying that’s a poor definition. This is DI: http://www.education.com/reference/article/what-direct-instruction/

            Less confusing to talk about explicit instruction or, as PISA do, teacher-directed instruction (TDI)

          • Michael Rosen December 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

            Everything that I can glean from the summary in the link you gave me remind me of a) how I do writing workshops in schools and b) how I try to help my kids do their homework (something that can take up to 15 hours a week these days). Thanks.

            Do you think all education should be like this? Most? Or some? What kinds of education should be going on in times when this is not being done?

    • David Didau December 7, 2016 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Validity’s an important question. What PISA say is, “While students may not always recall exactly what happens in their science lessons, students’ reports are often more reliable than teachers’ reports, as teachers will often overstate how much they expose their students to activities that are positively viewed by others.”

      On the question of ‘whole class discussions’ (TDI) and ‘explain how an idea can be applied…’ (EBI0 their apparent opposite correlation seems likely to be due to poor fits with the constructs. I’d say that teachers giving an explanation is more a feature of TDI and discussion are more closely aligned with EBI.

      Finally, the Korea/Japan issue. What’s really interesting is Nick Hassey’s observation here: https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/blog/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-pisa “While there is a correlation between countries where pupils report their teachers focus on direct instruction doing better on average than countries that reportedly focus more on enquiry based approaches, the countries where children claim their teachers aren’t doing much of either score the highest of all.” I’m not really sure what to make of that.

  7. Michael Rosen December 7, 2016 at 5:01 am - Reply

    I think you’ve shown that some kinds of teaching help you pass the test better than other kinds of teaching. If it’s agreed that the test = ‘science’, then that’s great. If there are people who think that ‘science’ should be something not shown by the test, then it’s problematic.

    • teachwell December 7, 2016 at 6:57 am - Reply

      It’s problematic that you continue to advocate for failed teaching methods as opposed to those that actually produce scientists.

      • Michael Rosen December 7, 2016 at 7:21 am - Reply

        It’s ‘problematic’ that you didn’t see the word ‘if’ in my post. In fact I used it twice. Isn’t ‘if’ one of those logical-scientific words which we find useful because they pose possibility rather than certainty? I leave it open that all is hunky dory in the world of science, testing of science education, direct instruction and PISA tables. I’ve never been against direct instruction. I guess about 90% of education was direct instruction. It feels as if my own children get oodles of it too. I try to help them do the work related to it nearly every night. I think you’ll find I was trying to raise a methodological problem with drawing conclusions where they can’t be drawn. As for scientists – I was brought up with someone who is in his field one of the world’s top scientists. I’m fascinated by how he became one and what he does. Thanks.

        • Michael Rosen December 7, 2016 at 7:22 am - Reply

          That should have read ‘90% of MY education’. Apols.

        • teachwell December 7, 2016 at 6:48 pm - Reply

          The problem is Michael that you do spend a lot of time actually arguing against the very methods you were taught to use and supporting those who do too. In addition, like most middle class people, you no doubt send your children to schools where direct instruction is more likely to occur, though I would say even that is less than in the past. The poorest suffer the most as a result of ill thought out methods and ideas. The Pisa tables are not the be all and end all and neither are tests per se, however, tests that lead to qualifications are the way out for most of us from a poor background. I don’t expect you to understand the extent to which it makes a difference to the child of a factory worker who would not have gone to do a masters in politics without these. The same goes for my peers in science. As for “I know a scientist” line, I am marrying one but I didn’t mention it as I wasn’t trying to get one over on you, just expressing my opinion. Thanks.

          • Michael Pye December 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm

            Michael could we go back to your post with the link to the study.com page

            David did not say no one used Direct instruction (Englemann version) he said that almost no-one in the UK uses it (Meaning Engelmann version again). David wants you to use teacher directed so as to avoid confusion with the direct instruction method linked to the Project Follow Through research.

            This is important as your link clearly does not refer specifically to this version of direct instruction and actually uses both terms within the page. It is in general a useful convention to use teacher directed for other forms of explicit teaching in order to avoid unhelpful confusion and add clarity.

            As a side note I would ask you to consider the concept of falsifiability in more detail. One of the reasons David’s blog is an interesting read to me (from old posts to newer ones) is because his background and skills led him to approach debate in very much an argumentative style (likely because he usually did quite well with it). I believe you are familiar with this approach.

            As time has gone on he has started to consider and implement new ideas (luminary concepts, opportunity cost, falsifiability etc) that have very much changed his style . I believe this is because those ideas come from a different tradition and way of thinking to what he was used to.

            I would ask you to consider the possibility that you struggle to accept his points because you have not absorbed those core principles.and placed them (it need only be briefly) at the core of your reasoning. (Consider it a a thought experiment in which you temporarily accept them).

            This is important as it allows you to define the terms under which you would be prepared to change your position.

            As a pleasant side effect it may be that we can avoid unnecessary confusion and irritation and allow the conversation to become more insightful and useful.

            My apologies David if I have taken to much liberty in representing your views. It is my hope that I have presented them faithfully..

          • David Didau December 7, 2016 at 11:34 pm

            No, good job. Thanks

          • Michael Rosen December 8, 2016 at 12:50 am

            1. According to David I wasn’t getting DI when I was at school.

            2. The methods I was taught by suited me. It didn’t suit a lot of other people. Only a tiny percentage of us got through to the 6th form and even fewer to university. That at the very least should cause us to ask questions about how I was taught.

            3. You are anonymous. I have no idea who you are but you feel free to talk about my children. Perhaps you can spot a bit of asymmetry here in our conversation. My children (I have had 5, lost 1, acquired 2 steps) have been at a variety of state schools across Hackney, Islington, Camden and Haringey in London. They have been taught by very different methods in very different circumstances with very different demographics. The chap who died and his step-sister went to a school that was about 80% Bangladeshi. The youngest went to a school that was about one third ‘white’. The teaching styles in both primary and secondary schools that they’ve been to have been very different. I’m not sure what led you to make such a personal and inaccurate comment.

            4. High stakes public exams do indeed offer a way out for some. They also offer a way down for others. When grammar schools come back in, this will be even clearer to see than it is now.

            5. The reason I mentioned my brother was because I was trying to make the point that there is no way I’m anti-science. But clearly you think that’s like the ‘some of my best friends…’ argument and proves nothing. Point taken. There is no way I can prove that I am not anti-science apart from the fact that I worked with the Design Council, the two national associations of Physics/Chemistry (Royal and Institute) to produce a 100 poems that would enthuse children with science themes. I then worked with the Association of Science teachers to produce teachers’ notes to go with the poems and then I I helped turn the poems into a show which we toured with for 2 years, as sponsored and paid for by the Wellcome Institute. The book is still in print with Puffin Books 15 years or so since publication. I’ve put some of the poems up at my own expense on my YouTube channel to keep them in circulation.

            6. Please don’t talk about my children again.

          • teachwell December 8, 2016 at 7:10 am

            I am not anonymous.

            3) and 6) You brought up your children. I responded to the comment where you did. If you don’t want them to be mentioned then keep them out of it in the first place. Instead, you chose to do so then take it personally. In your world that makes sense. Keep them out yourself and then you won’t need to get upset about it. Thanks.

            The hypocrisy of middle class progressives is something I stand by.

            2) I was fortunate to attend schools that did teach explicitly (direct instruction being more commonly associated with Englemann) and where the focus was to enable us to achieve in both academic and non-academic subjects to the best of our abilities. Unlike most working class pupils, I attended a school that was mixed working/middle class. The contrast between them and the schools I have worked in is incredible. Such a difference in aim and expectation should not exist. It certainly should not exist because of poor education theories that are based on faulty assumptions, little evidence and which have replicated the failures that you refer to from the tripartite system instead of rectifying them.

            I don’t support grammars or their being brought back but I doubt you are correct that they will lead to greater division, that is what the comprehensive system has led to, not because of the structure but because of blind faith in ideas and ideology that has led far too many to leave school uneducated or undereducated than what was the potential. It is really a disgrace this has happened.

            In terms of science teaching. I didn’t say you were anti-science. But if what you advocate for leads to a situation where we have fewer scientists then you have to ask yourself what use those ideas are. The facts speak for themselves, progressive teaching has failed and continues to fail millions of children.

            Please don’t mention your children again if you reply. Thanks.

          • Michael Rosen December 8, 2016 at 8:40 am

            “I am not anonymous.”
            My poor research skills are preventing me from finding out who you are. My bad.

            “3) and 6) You brought up your children.”
            This is that old issue of whether it’s OK for me to describe my personal life but not for someone else. Yes of course I describe my children’s education because it’s of this minute, this week, this year. That’s me mentioning them. As far as I know, you don’t know them. You said that they were getting a particular kind of education. I said that that wasn’t the case and – I’ll rephrase it if you like – please don’t make assumptions about what kind of schools the 7 children I’ve had care of have been to – which have been many and various, all within the state sector, all local authority schools.

            re ‘progressive’ education etc. You make some big statements there. My observations of my own children going through the system over the last 38 years is that there have been a wide range of educational methods being tried. I think David would say that that in itself is a problem. If he did say that, I would be inclined to agree.

            re the lack of scientists – I’m not sure that that can be ascribed to one cause. 1980-2016 marks a period in which successive governments have reduced the manufacturing base. In economic terms the economy has been keener on accountants than scientists.

          • teachwell December 8, 2016 at 8:48 am

            If the assumption is the problem then fair enough, I take your point. The impact of progressivism on the poor is something I have outlined here: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/how-progressive-education-patronises-the-poor/17951#.WEkdrZJyfQo

            As for the economy driving curriculum – absolutely no evidence of that – particularly in the early part of the period you refer to as the National Curriculum was not introduced until 1988 and then the committees were headed by people in the education field who chose to dumb down education to a skills rather than knowledge based curriculum.

            There are many reasons why science education is poor – a lack of teaching systematic knowledge just happens to be the main one in my opinion and experience.

          • Michael Rosen December 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm

            A ‘lack of systematic knowledge’ in science? Do you think that describes GCSE science now? I’m in the middle of it now.

          • teachwell December 9, 2016 at 9:30 am

            I would need to check the new GCSE’s and would happily get back to you. What is the board you are looking at?

  8. Michael Rosen December 8, 2016 at 12:32 am - Reply

    So I find a website (first site that came up when I googled actually) that refers to ‘direct instruction’. I find it with an absolute open mind, with no intention to confuse (or indeed to be confused) and you and/or David tell me a) hardly anyone does ‘direct instruction’ in the UK and what I ‘found’ is not DI. This wasn’t some kind of underhand trick on my part. I just googled and gave you the link. I’m happy for you guys to use whatever terminology you want but as you know probably much better than me, there is no control over terminology in these matter. If I wanted to set up a website and say it’s all about DI but my DI isn’t the same as your DI, then confusion reigns. So just to be clear, it wasn’t me intending to sow confusion here. Promise.

    • David Didau December 8, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

      I don’t think you were trying to sow confusion Michael, I’m just recommending that for clarity we avoid the term. Of course, you are free to ignore this suggestion.

      As an aside, that was the least interesting part of Michael Pye’s comment 🙂

    • Michael Pye December 8, 2016 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      Michael your experience researching a new concept is not unusual. It is an example of why the Internet (the most amazing tool of knowledge I have ever been given) is potentially very confusing when researching new ideas.

      If you have a preliminary grasp of a new idea (this means a reasonable context of its use, potential misconceptions, and somewhere to get guidance and clarity you can learn a lot very quickly. Without these conditions you have no method of reflecting upon or calibrating your ideas and you are unlikely to gain understanding and will likely make serious errors. (300 million people have recently demonstrated this for us very admirably).

      This is at the heart of inquiry vs explicit, Direct vs teacher led (keep inserting other similar dichotomies).KEY POINT

      To reinforce my point please consider the following as a thought experiment.

      Someone researches a new point with good intension’s (which likely had no impact on their effectiveness) found an immediate answer (normal when exposed to new ideas) assumed said answer was correct (also normal and usually incorrect based on simple probability).

      Attempts where made to clarify this misunderstanding with clear examples but where rejected actually reinforcing the misconceptions(The backfire effect). These criticisms are seen as personal attacks (fundamental attribution error) rather then good faith attempts to guide.
      A personal character defense is made (reinforcing the attribution error) and all progress stalls.

      End result the world is a little less knowledgeable.

      Before you reply would you consider taking a few days to look up the ideas in this and my previous post. As a prominent poet who is an advocate of a very popular series of arguments against some of these ideas you are in a position to disarm many of the unfortunate misunderstandings and confusions around these concepts.

      FR – Did I over-use brackets?

      • Michael Rosen December 9, 2016 at 5:20 pm - Reply

        Before I get into this, let me clear up some misconceptions you have about me.
        1. I am not against teacher-led teaching.
        2. I am against some very narrow teaching-to-the-test at KS2 particularly as some of the tests are based on misconceptions about language.
        3. I am not against phonics (if you’re referring to that). I have tried hundreds of times to make a distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions required to reach a point where children understand what they’re reading.
        4. I am against a notion of ‘comprehension’ which is based solely on ‘retrieval’ and ‘inference’ because I think ‘reading’ involves something I would categorise as ‘interpretation’. There is plenty of room for debate about different ways we can reach interpretation. I’m of the view that that we can vary this depending on what it is we’re interpreting.
        5. My own practice in relation to children usually involves me teaching them how to write poems. I do not do this one way and one way only. I try out many different ways. I make very effort to make clear to teachers and children that this is because that’s what poets do: try out different ways. Sometimes I try being very directive and move towards being less so. Sometimes I try it the other way round. I think that plenty of art forms offer the possibility of getting to somewhere good very quickly but there are of course others which don’t offer that possibility and require a long and hard apprenticeship. The art forms which offer getting to somewhere good very quickly involve what all art involves: imitation and variation. It’s just that some imitations/variations are more easily achieved than others.
        6. I am not against the ‘knowledge-based’ curriculum per se. However – call me paranoid – I do not believe that we can consider it separately from what governments want to do about selecting and segregating children. Thus: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was introduced to a backdrop of forced academicisation and now to a backdrop of reintroducing selection. This, I believe, simply takes us back to the time when I was at school when ‘knowledge’ was used as a means to segregate children from around 9 onwards. (9 – through selection of 11-plus streaming). This has led me to question why and how some of us could access that stuff and some of us couldn’t.
        7. I’m more than happy to spend some time looking at the materials you’re suggesting I read. As i’ve said elsewhere, I find myself spending up to 15 hours a week helping my children do homework. Much of this – not all seems to involve learning up stuff for tests. In the example of the tests, there is a job to do which is about how in the one on one situation of parent and child – how best to ‘make the stuff on the page stick in their heads’. I am forever fascinated by which methods seem to be best. They have views on that. I have views on how I used to do it – and do it successfully according to the criteria of primary and secondary school education of the 1950s and 60s.
        8. I keep boringly asking David and others, about the proportion of how the school curriculum should work. If you have a particular style of education that you think is successful, how much time per week do you think should be devoted to this style? Let’s say teacher-pupil contact time is 25 hours per week. How much time should be DI? How much time should be something else? None? Some? If, some – how much? And doing what kinds of alternative, other things? If so, why? What is the purpose of these other things/methods?
        9. Thanks for reading this. Shall we proceed by not spending time typifying what we imagine are the beliefs and ideas of the other person?

        • Michael pye December 9, 2016 at 5:58 pm - Reply

          Michael I don’t know if you read my post before your last post.
          The reason I asked you to spend a few days looking up the concepts I covered is to help you understand the assumptions and shared concepts frequently used on this site. (Our cultural capital) not so you automatically agree but so that you can sharpen the relevance and usefulness of your points. Your reply contains nine points many of which are separate questions (some of them very useful) and most of them seem to be sending the discussion in different competing directions.

          I am a big believer in evidenced based decisions. I acknowledge their difficulty, especially when we have to remove ourselves from our own blinkered experiences so we can see the collage created by the shared (and appropriately gathered) experiences of everyone else.

          Please,please,please consider a brief moratorium on using personal experience in your arguments. It’s getting in your way.

          Most of your points are unfortunately not very clear to me or seem straw men that most would not argue against but I have
          A few points for you to consider.

          15 hours a week is a lot of direct contact time and you seem an excellent example of one of the reasons for the achievement gap.(you are of course quite right to spend this time). While I am only guessing I suspect the type of teaching you do with your children is actually very close to the direct/teacher directed practice we are advocating, limited only by the context of larger groups and less contact time.

          As to you question on proportion of teaching time dedicated to each approach the answer is simple,

          We don’t know!

          Good research starts with the simplest and clearest questions it can (inquiry vs explicit) before evolving to more nuanced comparisons.

          We are currently struggling to convince people to except evidence of even relatively clear results.(in general explicit works best, teaching assistants reduce outcomes of supported students, learning styles are unhelpful as a teaching principle).

          We are all aware that the truth will likely be that a mix of approaches will work best.(a follow up and critique of Engelmanns direct instruction supports the idea that experienced teachers can outperform it – CAN ANYONE FIND THIS)

          If you imagine the total possible number of combinations of different approaches you can appreciate this research is much harder.

          Again please, try a different approach in your next post. Look up these ideas and let them have a bit of time before you respond.

          • Michael Rosen December 9, 2016 at 6:16 pm

            This is what you wrote:
            “As a prominent poet who is an advocate of a very popular series of arguments against some of these ideas ”
            My last post was a response to that.

          • Michael Rosen December 9, 2016 at 6:35 pm

            I’ve read the article that David asked me to and looked at the worksheets. Thanks.

          • Michael pye December 9, 2016 at 9:19 pm

            Michael did you read the whole piece of writing?
            I tried very hard to be clear (I didn’t do as well with my last reply).

            I ask because your reply seemed disconnected from what I wrote. The thought experiment was a thinly veiled attempt to try and get you to understand how you misunderstood Direct Instruction by using the first page you came across.

            The terms in brackets are well established concepts that can be researched up via the internet reliably. (And clarified if needed by asking specific questions )You might then be able to reread the responses you get off people on this site in a new light.

            Please check these ideas out they really are important to many of the arguments made here. When you reply consider checking if you are going off in a different direction and avoid using personal examples.(there not always inappropriate but you are really misusing them).

            Not sure what else I can try if you don’t give me something to work with.

            Teachwell tried a point by point rebuttal, including following your diversions and tangents. That also didn’t seem to work.

            Here’s hoping!

          • Michael Rosen December 10, 2016 at 7:44 am

            We’re getting our chronologies muddled here. When I said ‘I’ve read the article…’, that signified that I read David’s link after all the previous posts by you or me! I mean, I joined the site, so that I could read the article – which I did. I read the worksheets – I even did some of them. If you want to throw some more links to me, I’m happy to read them.

            By the way, I seem to remember that someone called Engelmann worked with someone else called Bareiter in the 1960s/70s and I read their stuff then.

          • Michael Rosen December 10, 2016 at 7:51 am

            You seem to be very concerned with precision and my lack of it, so thank you for pointing out where you think I’m being ‘disconnected’. (One person’s ‘disconnection’ is another person’s ‘connection’.)

            On the tiny matter of text accuracy, you may want to know that 4 paras up from the bottom of your earlier post you’ve written ‘except’ when I think you mean ‘accept’.

            In the third para up from the bottom of your most recent post, you wrote ‘there’ when I think you mean ‘they’re’.

  9. […] The most important factor linked with high performance remains SES (soci0-economic status), but teacher-guided instruction was weighted close behind and students taught with minimal direction, in inquiry or project-based […]

    • Michael Pye December 10, 2016 at 10:36 am - Reply

      I am concerned with your lack of precision when posting on this site.(I make no judgment about any other context you write in, it is normal for behavior to be quite different across domains ).

      Because you don’t stay focused and on topic, overuse personal experiences and in general misrepresent others arguments you end up making it very difficult to make any progress. We still have not managed to engage with any key points as you always redirect or refuse to engage. I don’t believe you have gone away and looked at anything I suggested or in anyway challenged your thinking.

      As an aside Michael, I am interested in clarity and accuracy. I was a struggling reader and a diagnosed Dyslexic (interesting since I have issues with this concept) and in my attempt to improve my reading and writing skills i developed habits I find useful elsewhere.

      While i appreciate feedback including on spelling it is considered bad teaching (and socially awkward) to comment primarily on spelling when you were asked to consider clearly presented points of argument.

      Spelling corrections should have been added as a side note and worded so as to acknowledge there irrelevance to the main discussion. If this was not possible it would be acceptable not mention them for fear of derailing the conversation or causing offense.

  10. Michael Rosen December 10, 2016 at 11:03 am - Reply

    As I said, following (not prior to) the correspondence between us that you found so unsatisfactory, I read what you and David asked me to read. I also did the worksheets. I’m not sure what else you think I should do. I’m glad you appreciated the feedback on spelling. I wasn’t commenting on it ‘primarily’. It was indeed a ‘side note’. You’ll have spotted, I’m sure, that I called the matter ‘tiny’. Not ‘small’ but ‘tiny’ as in ‘minute’, ‘not important’, ‘not mattering much’. Given that that’s what I said, I’m sure it didn’t cause offence.

  11. Michael Pye December 10, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Michael all you commented on was the phrase disconnected and the spelling. It was also clear that this did offend me as you had still not responded to the substance of my previous posts. I was merely trying to model a more delicate response to a perceived personal attack than what you are used to.

    Alas I have come to realise why David and some of the other posters on this site strategically ignore your rants.


    • Michael Rosen December 10, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      I wasn’t under the impression that there was anything for me to ‘respond’ to. I thought my homework was to go to the site that David gave me. I did that. What else is it that I’m supposed to do?

      I didn’t even know that David ‘strategically’ ignores my ‘rants’. In our last interchange he was kind enough to point out that a site that called itself ‘Direct Instruction’ was not the direct instruction he was referring to. That was really helpful.

  12. […] benefit far more from explicit instruction and if we’re doubtful we can also look to the surprising negative correlation between discovery learning and science outcomes revealed by the latest PISA […]

  13. […] If we want children to genuinely aspire to work in laboratories it would probably be a mistake (as the most recent PISA data suggests) to imagine that classrooms should – in general – be more like […]

  14. […] is that they ignore the findings of cognitive science, evolutionary psychology and, bizarrely, the results of his own organisations’ international assessments. If the OECD really wanted to focus on “policies that will improve the economic and social […]

  15. […] that you follow in this time. At the academe, you will undoubtedly probably be asked to write a PISA 2015: some tentative thoughts about successful teaching great deal of documents and set your own thinking […]

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