desirable difficulties

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Struggle and success

2017-03-14T22:24:39+00:00December 9th, 2016|learning|

The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Albert Camus The gods of ancient Greece punished Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra, for his hubris by condemning him to an eternity of pushing a huge rock up a hill only to have it roll down again as soon as he got it to the top. One can only imagine that Sisyphus was not a happy chap. Pushing a boulder up a hill with no prospect of ever reaching the top has become the very image of futility. Most people only persist with something difficult [...]

The Variation Effect: How seating plans might be undermining learning

2015-05-17T13:01:36+01:00May 17th, 2015|Featured|

Observe always that everything is the result of a change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and to make new ones like them. Marcus Aurelius It is a truth universally acknowledged that a teacher in possession of a large roomful of children must be in want of a carefully crafted seating plan. Secondary schools in particular have normalised the idea that children should sit in the seat where they will be least distracted and best able to learn. There are many excellent reasons to use seating plans: they're a [...]

Are all difficulties desirable?

2013-10-05T11:07:37+01:00October 5th, 2013|Featured|

I was aghast to read an extract from Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants in The Guardian yesterday. Not because it's bad, but because it's the book I wanted to write! Or rather, it's not. The David & Goliath metaphor is intriguing, but not really what I'm interested in. What got my heart rate up was an oblique reference to Professor Bjork's work on 'desirable difficulties'. This extract from David and Goliath is, for the most part, about dyslexia. In it Gladwell contends that adversity creates conditions for surprising greatness: Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that [...]

What's the point of classroom displays?

2013-07-21T11:53:30+01:00July 21st, 2013|learning|

Having broken up for the summer and feeling warm and expansive, I foolishly asked Twitter what it would like me to write about next. Michael Oxenham came back, quick as a flash with "classroom display". Dutifully, I then asked Twitter what made a good classroom display. These are some of the responses: @tim7168 Also things that make the classroom 'theirs' (primary). Lots of photos, work etc. @benking01 Examples of best-practice from students and ensuring that the work displayed is more than just 'pretty' - Must be informative. @oldandrewuk Having nothing which can be used as a projectile or cannot be easily repaired. [Health & [...]

Deliberately difficult – why it's better to make learning harder

2013-06-10T20:24:17+01:00June 10th, 2013|Featured, learning, myths|

The most fundamental goals of education are long-term goals. As teachers and educators, we want targeted knowledge and skills to be acquired in a way that makes them durable and flexible. More specifically, we want a student’s educational experience to produce a mental representation of the knowledge or skill in question that fosters long-term access to that knowledge and the ability to generalize—that is, to draw on that knowledge in situations that may differ on some dimensions from the exact educational context in which that knowledge was acquired. Robert A Bjork, 2002 Who could argue with this? Certainly not Ofsted who [...]

Redesigning a curriculum

2013-12-03T09:25:15+00:00March 25th, 2013|English, Featured, learning, planning|

Effective reform must start with the understanding that the curriculum is the central focus and the central business of schools. Effective curricula are the sina que non of the system that is capable of delivering a quality education to all kids. Siegfried Engelmann At the start of the year I foolishly asked what the good people of Twitter would like me to write about. The message came back, loud and clear, that you wanted to know my thoughts on the Key Stage 3 curriculum. Well, whadda you know? Through my usual process of bathing in ideas until good and clean, I [...]