What I got up to at the Wellington Festival of Education Part 1

2014-09-21T22:12:27+01:00June 22nd, 2014|learning|

Sadly, I missed most of the Friday. I spent the morning speaking at a maths conference (I know, right?) on correcting the mistakes made in the name of ‘numeracy across the curriculum’. If you’re interested, I argued that whilst numeracy has a pretty superficial connection with much that goes on in other subjects, mathematical thinking would be a far more powerful way to explicitly teach pupils to filter how they viewed the curriculum. I may blog on this at some point in the future. Then, channeling the spirit of the John Cleese film Clockwise I had to race across to Wellington [...]

Dylan Wiliam's defence of formative assessment

2014-04-25T09:03:19+01:00April 25th, 2014|assessment|

Back in March I wrote a post called Why AfL might be wrong, and what to do about it based, largely, on Dylan Wiliam's book Embedded Formative Assessment (If you haven't already read it, I encourage you to do so as many of the common misconceptions about AfL are specifically addressed). I'm pleased to report that Dylan has taken time out of his hectic schedule to comment on the post and defend the essentials of formative assessment. What follows is, in its entirety, the comment left on the original post. In his post on “Why AfL might be wrong, and what to [...]

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 [...]

AfL: cargo cult teaching?

2015-12-10T13:53:58+00:00August 31st, 2013|assessment, Featured, learning|

OK, so here's a quick summary of the story so far: A few days ago I suggested in a blog post that maybe AfL 'wasn't all that'. Lots of lovely people kindly got in touch to point out that I clearly hadn't got a clue what AfL actually was, and then Gordon Baillie wrote a really rather good response in defence of AfL on his blog. Right? Right. At this point I'm going to tediously catalogue what I know about AfL so no one's confused about what I might and might not be suggesting. Here's a collection of posts I've written on feedback [...]

Chasing our tails – is AfL all it's cracked up to be?

2013-08-29T21:17:40+01:00August 29th, 2013|assessment, learning, myths|

Is it blasphemous to doubt the efficacy of AfL? While purists might argue that it's 'just good teaching', we teach in a world where formative assessment has become dogma and where feedback is king. (Don't worry, I'm not about to start upsetting the feedback applecart although there are occasions when pupils can benefit from it being reduced.) But AfL as a 'thing'? I'm not just talking about some of the nonsense that gets spouted about lolly sticks and traffic lights, I'm questioning the entire edifice. Is assessment for learning really all it's cracked up to be, or is it just me? You [...]

Testing & assessment – have we been doing the right things for the wrong reasons?

2013-06-16T18:01:29+01:00June 16th, 2013|assessment, Featured, learning, myths|

A curious peculiarity of our memory is that things are impressed better by active than by passive repetition. I mean that in learning (by heart, for example), when we almost know the piece, it pays better to wait and recollect by an effort from within, than to look at the book again. If we recover the words in the former way, we shall probably know them the next time; if in the latter way, we shall very likely need the book once more. William James, The principles of psychology (1890)   Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving. David Ogilvy Tests are rubbish, right? Like [...]

The need for 'Why To' guides

2012-06-07T16:20:53+01:00June 7th, 2012|assessment, SOLO|

I'm not a fan of telling people how to do things. OK, that may not strictly speaking be true, but I do believe that just explaining how to solve a problem is unlikely to result in much learning. The best way is to learn is to think about why a problem should be solved. As teachers we often bemoan the fact that we're not treated with respect as a profession. There are probably all sorts of reasons for this but one reason is the extent to which we've allowed ourselves to be told how we should teach. Consider how we're assessed [...]

How effective learning hinges on good questioning

2013-07-19T11:08:43+01:00February 4th, 2012|assessment, English, learning|

Hands up who likes asking questions? Questioning is an essential part of helping students to make progress but only if it causes thinking or elicits evidence that informs our teaching. And the thing with asking questions is that while there are some kids who know how to make the system work for them and actively participate in lessons because that they way they’ll learn more, there are those who don't. Dylan Wiliam claims that the students who are sufficiently engaged to put up their hands and answer everything we ask them are “actually getting smarter. Their IQs actually go up.” [...]

SOLO taxonomy training

2015-07-16T10:22:23+01:00January 30th, 2012|SOLO, training|

UPDATE: I no longer think SOLO taxonomy is worth spending any time on. Here is why. A few weeks ago I rather rashly offered to present on SOLO taxonomy to the North Somerset Aspire network. As always with this sort of foolishness it's made me consider my understanding of the subject in a lot more depth. Before the Summer I'd never even heard of it. But since then the whole world (or at least the very narrow teaching geek world I inhabit) has exploded with SOLO fever. Tait Coles and Darren Mead have done their best to help me understand some [...]

Some thoughts on Learning Styles

2017-03-17T09:34:53+00:00December 5th, 2011|learning, myths|

The rusting can of worms that is Learning Styles has been prised open again and the wriggling mess is crawling all over the educational twittersphere. And on that note I will stop extending the metaphor. A visual metaphor for the visual learners who didn't get my first sentence Last week Ian Gilbert wrote Learning Styles are dead, long live Learning Styles. He said: I have been in too many situations where young people who weren’t ‘getting it’ one way then started ‘getting it’ when we tried a different way, to dismiss the whole learning styles thing as a fad. As [...]

The joy of marking

2011-10-27T11:09:21+01:00October 27th, 2011|assessment|

I'm a big fan of marking students' work. I love it so much I let a big pile of it build up to do over the holidays. As an English teacher I'm faced with a lot of marking and most of it needs to be read carefully rather than given a cursory tick 'n' flick. I know that marking students' books helps to ensure that they care about the work they produce. I also know that providing formative feedback is the most important intervention that I, as a teacher, can have on my students; there is nothing I can do that will [...]

What can engineers teach us about assessment?

2011-09-14T20:49:26+01:00September 14th, 2011|assessment|

If, like me, you thought the answer to the above question was almost certainly nothing, take a look at this: Pretty neat, huh? I think this really makes the point that a lot of what we do in schools and call AfL isn’t. Here are a few handy reminders about what exactly formative assessment is: We use the general term assessment to refer to all those activities undertaken by teachers—and by their students in assessing themselves—that provide information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning activities. Such assessment becomes formative assessment when the evidence is actually [...]

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