Daisy Christodoulou

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 [...]

What can you practise in English lessons?

2018-05-04T22:52:26+01:00May 4th, 2018|English|

Over my last two posts I've argued that, contrary to popular opinion, English is not a 'skills based' subject. In fact, what appear to be skills are actually composed on many thousands of individual components of knowledge organised together as schema. In my last post I tried to demonstrate that practising 'inference skills' won't actually help students get better at making inferences, and that this ability depends on what they know about a text and about the domain of English more generally. In this post I will attempt to reclaim the concept of practice in English lessons from the confusing quagmire [...]

Why English is not a ‘skills based’ subject

2019-06-11T17:10:41+01:00April 27th, 2018|Featured|

The idea that English is a skills based subject has become axiomatic. Most English teachers of my acquaintance accept it unquestioningly, as did I until a few years ago. How do we know English is skills based? Because it depends on the skills of reading and writing. And, in turn, reading depends on such skills as inference and analysis, while writing depends either on the skill of making points, using evidence and explaining it or on the skill of using language creatively and persuasively. From this certain things have followed. If English is skills based then it obviously makes sense to [...]

Should students be overlearning?

2017-01-12T21:28:45+00:00January 12th, 2017|Featured|

In my last post I outlined my concerns with the idea of 'thinking hard' being a good proxy for learning. Briefly, thinking hard about a problem appears to be an inefficient way to alter long-term memory structures. This means that it's perfectly possible to struggle with a difficult exercise, successfully complete it, and still not have learned how to repeat the process independently. The problem is that 'thinking hard' exhausts limited working memory reserves. In fact - as Daisy Christodoulou states in Making Good Progress? - the evidence on 'overlearning' seems to suggest that repeating a task to the point where almost no thought [...]

Further problems with the ‘thinking hard’ proxy for learning

2017-01-11T19:26:25+00:00January 11th, 2017|learning|

Because learning is invisible, we can only hope to measure whether students are making progress by observing proxies. Most people now seem to agree that certain activities which routinely take place in lessons are, in the words of Robert Coe, 'poor proxies for learning'. Rob has suggested that a better proxy might be 'thinking hard'. This seemed sensible and, like many others, I've embraced the idea, but the harder I think about this the less sure I am. In this post I began considering of the limitations of think hard as a good proxy for learning but was still wedded to the [...]

Why study grammar?

2017-11-30T08:44:52+00:00May 12th, 2016|writing|

Trying to express complex thoughts in simple English ... is demanding, challenging and takes time. Terry Leahy There's been a lot of fuss over the past week about whether it's appropriate to assess children's knowledge of grammar at the end of Key Stage 2. Various commentators even seem to take a perverse pride in their lack of knowledge boasting that ignorance hasn't held them back. But amidst all the confusion and vitriol, some people have been asking why, if grammatical knowledge is so important, most people seem to manage without it. This is a reasonable question, and one worth answering. First we need to [...]

Why I struggle with learning objectives and success criteria

2019-08-02T12:21:08+01:00December 6th, 2015|learning|

A strenuous soul hates cheap success. Ralph Waldo Emerson Broadly, I’m in favour of sharing with students the intention behind what they are being asked to do. Anything that adds clarity to the murky business of learning is probably a good thing. However, an intention (or outcome, objective or whatever you want to call it) along the lines of To be able to [inset skill to be acquired or practised] or, To understand [whatever the hell the teacher wants her students to learn] is unlikely to be of much help. All too often our learning intentions are lesson menus; here is [...]

Is it just me or is Sugata Mitra an irresponsible charlatan?

2016-09-28T17:57:14+01:00November 23rd, 2015|myths|

Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power. Ralph Waldo Emerson When I first saw physicist, Sugata Mitra speak about his Hole in the Wall experiments in India I was astonished. Not only was he as  self-deprecatingly warm and funny as Sir Ken Robinson on a major charm offensive, the content of what he was saying blew any of SKR's woolly rhetoric out of the water. Basically, his claim was, is, that children can teach themselves anything. All they need is access to the internet and teachers to stay the heck away [...]

Rethinking assessment Part 2: the Einstellung effect

2015-11-16T12:53:55+00:00November 15th, 2015|assessment|

As I set out here, Dr Chris Wheadon has come up with a beautifully simple solution to assessing students' essays which requires no rubrics, very little marking time and produces extremely reliable results with no attendant loss of validity. It relies on the cumulative power of comparative judgement and represents the future of assessment for subjects which rely on essay length answers to open-ended questions. If you doubt me, the reason might be that your experience of, and sense of success with, mark schemes has blinded you to better alternatives. Imagine you have 3 water jars, each with the capacity to hold a different, fixed [...]

Heads I’m right, tails I’m not wrong

2020-08-08T17:58:15+01:00October 12th, 2015|reflection|

The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different. John Dewey* Let me start by being really clear: I am very much in favour of conducting research into the merits of educational claims. [...]

Is it possible to get assessment right?

2015-05-31T11:18:35+01:00May 23rd, 2015|assessment|

No. After my last blog on how to get assessment wrong, various readers got in touch to say, OK smart arse, what should we do? Well, I'm afraid the bad news is that we'll never get assessment right. Or at least, it's impossible for assessment to give us anything like perfect information on student's progress or learning. We can design tests to give us pretty good information of students' mastery of a domain, but as Amanda Spielman, chair of Ofsted said at researchED in September, the best we can ever expect from GCSEs is to narrow student achievement down to + or [...]

Landmark: a million thank yous

2015-02-27T17:56:08+00:00February 26th, 2015|blogging|

I began blogging in July 2011. In January 2012 I signed up with Google Analytics and have clocked up over 2 million pageviews since. The story so far... Then in July 2013 I shifted the site over to Wordpress and on Tuesday broke the million views mark according to their figures too. About to clock over... Since I started writing there's been an awful lot of change. The education landscape has changed in ways I never imagined. - The death knell has sounded for graded lesson observations. Ofsted (at least as far as schools are concerned - [...]

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