Dylan Wiliam

Ability is the consequence not the cause of what children learn

2021-05-11T23:37:59+01:00June 13th, 2017|Featured|

The evidence on ability grouping appears relatively well-known. The EEF Toolkit summarise the research findings thus: Overall, setting or streaming appears to benefit higher attaining pupils and be detrimental to the learning of mid-range and lower attaining learners. On average, it does not appear to be an effective strategy for raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, who are more likely to be assigned to lower groups. It appears that children who are deemed to be 'low ability' fall behind pupils with equivalent prior attainment at the rate of 1-2 months per year when placed in ability groups. Conversely, high attainers make, [...]

Should we give teachers the ‘benefit of the doubt’?

2017-03-03T13:41:16+00:00March 3rd, 2017|leadership|

Earlier in the week, Schools Minister, Lord Nash announced that schools should be more like businesses and jettison underperforming staff. According to this TES report he's reported to have said, "“I think one of the things that it’s easy to say ... is that sometimes in education there is a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt too often.” The consequence of this well meaning woolliness is that we consign children to a sub-standard education. Much better for school leaders to be like business leaders. The “best leaders in education” are “tough”, “have a real sense of pace”, and “realise the clock is [...]

Problems with the ‘zone of proximal development’

2017-01-13T14:18:53+00:00January 13th, 2017|Featured|

It's hard to have a discussion about learning without someone sooner or later chipping in with the Russian developmental psychologist, Lev Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD) to support their position. This might, in part, be because Vygotsky is one of the very few theorists covered in many teachers' training, but it's also because it feels intuitively right. Briefly, most people use ZPD to suggest that there is a 'Goldilocks Effect' where the level of challenge for a child is 'just right. If work is too easy, it's argued, then no learning will take place, and if it's too hard, then it [...]

When assessment fails

2017-07-27T18:29:04+01:00July 12th, 2016|assessment|

I wrote yesterday about the distinctions between assessment and feedback. This sparked some interesting comment which I want to explore here. I posted a diagram which Nick Rose and I designed for our forthcoming book. The original version of the figure looked like this: We decided to do away with B - 'Unreliable but valid?' in the interests of clarity and simplicity. Sadly though, the world is rarely clear or simple. Clearly D is the most desirable outcome - the assessment provides reliable measurements which result in valid inferences about what students know and can do. It's equally clear that A is [...]

Testing, testing… why one test can’t do everything

2016-05-17T19:16:16+01:00May 17th, 2016|assessment|

The thing which most seems to rile people about testing is the fact that it puts children under stress. A certain amount of stress is probably a good thing - there's nothing as motivating as a looming deadline - but too much is obviously a bad thing. Martin Robinson writes here that ... a teacher needn’t pass undue exam stress onto her pupils, and a Headteacher needn’t pass undue stress onto her teachers. People work less well under a lot of stress; by passing it down the chain, each link ceases to function so well. Therefore if a school wants 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 [...]

Should students respond to feedback?

2015-11-30T12:46:27+00:00November 30th, 2015|assessment, leadership|

The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. Fran Lebowitz One of the criticisms of my post about book monitoring is that I have omitted checks to see whether students have responded to feedback. This omission is entirely deliberate. Does this mean I don't care whether students respond to feedback? You might think this is a bit of a silly question - of course they should. After all, what's the point in giving feedback which will be ignored? Dylan Wiliam makes the following comment in my book: Sometimes the support we give to students may be emotional [...]

Rethinking assessment Part 1: How can we tell if students are making progress?

2020-06-19T19:15:58+01:00November 15th, 2015|assessment|

Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork? Stanislaw J. Lec For some time now I've been of the opinion that the way we normally think of progress is based on a myth. Part of the problem is that because we tend to believe that we can see learning we routinely miss the fact that what students can do here and now tells us relatively little about what they can elsewhere and later. We assume  In What If Everything We Knew About Education Was Wrong? I argue that Progress is just a metaphor. It doesn’t really describe objective reality; it provides [...]

Assessment: evolution vs. design

2015-10-16T20:57:38+01:00October 13th, 2015|research|

Optimization hinders evolution. Alan J. Perlis   As we all know, the DfE decided to ditch National Curriculum levels from September 2014 without plans for a replacement. Some have reacted to this with glee, others despair. On the one hand, we have Tim Oates, an assessment expert and advocate for the removal of levels, saying We need to switch to a different conception of children’s ability. Every child needs to be capable of doing anything dependent on the effort they put in and how it’s presented to them. Levels get in the way of this... The new national curriculum really does [...]

Should we learn to love our shackles?

2015-09-12T10:48:33+01:00September 12th, 2015|leadership|

"Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better." Albert Camus There's already been some pretty scathing reactions to the master plan to introduce a common curriculum and assessment system into UK schools Dame Sally Coates lays out in Schools Week. Carl Hendrick describes her ideas as a dystopian nightmare and Pedro De Bruyckere sees it as a surefire way to turn education into the caricature that Ken Robinson paints it. But is there any merit in her ideas? Some gold we can pan for? Well, maybe. Coates says she wants to liberate teachers  "from the pressures of curriculum planning" so they "could focus [...]

20 psychological principles for teachers #20 Interpretation

2015-07-05T09:56:48+01:00July 5th, 2015|assessment, psychology|

This is the 20th and final post in my series on the Top 20 Principles From Psychology for Teaching and Learning and the third of three posts examining how to assess students’ progress: "Making sense of assessment data depends on clear, appropriate, and fair interpretation." "I wish we had more assessment data!" said no sane school leader ever. We're awash with data produced by oceans of assessment. As with so much else in life, the having of a thing is not its purpose. Analysing spreadsheets and graphs becomes like gazing, dumbly, into a crystal ball. We need to know how to interpret what these data [...]

20 psychological principles for teachers #19 Measurement

2015-06-30T21:13:23+01:00June 30th, 2015|assessment, psychology|

This is #19 in my series on the Top 20 Principles From Psychology for Teaching and Learning and the second of three posts examining how to assess students’ progress: "Students’ skills, knowledge, and abilities are best measured with assessment processes grounded in psychological science with well-defined standards for quality and fairness." The more I read on this subject, the more it becomes clear how widely misunderstood testing and assessment are. But does this actually matter? Do teachers need to know about such issues as reliability, precision and validity? Isn't this just a matter for exam boards and Ofqual? Well, it's been designated as one [...]

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