Endorsements – what are they worth?

2015-05-10T14:28:35+01:00May 5th, 2015|Featured|

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise — although the philosophers generally call it “recognition”! William James You might not have noticed (I've been the very soul of subtlety!) but I've got a new book out in June. This is my third book, and I have to say I love the process of assembling ideas, crafting them into some semblance of meaning, rethinking, redrafting, editing, proofreading. Writing is so much more than I ever thought it was before establishing a foothold in the publishing industry and I pretty much enjoy it all. The bit that terrifies [...]

The fetish of marking

2015-05-10T14:49:34+01:00April 30th, 2015|assessment, myths|

Even the most valuable fetishes will turn into dusts and ashes! Mehmet Murat Ildan Fetishism hasn't always been about rubber and high heels. The word originates from the Portuguese feitico, meaning an object or charm of false power. When explorers first encountered native religions in West Africa, whatever talismans or totems the locals revered were dismissed as fetishes. A fetish has since come to mean an object or practice onto which power has been displaced from the original source. Marking seems a good example. At the most basic level, marking is a totemic symbol for the power of feedback. What we want is [...]

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 - [...]

The Unit of Education

2015-01-10T21:12:36+00:00January 8th, 2015|Featured|

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. Lord Kelvin A lot of education research is an attempt to measure the effects of teaching (or teachers) on learning (or pupils.) But is this actually possible? Let’s first think about measurement in a very practical sense. Schools limit admission based on a sometimes very strict catchment area – if you want to make sure that your children attend a particular school you need to live within the catchment. For some very oversubscribed schools this can be a radius of less than a mile. If I measure the distance between my front door and [...]

Forget about assessing learning after lessons

2014-09-19T18:27:37+01:00September 19th, 2014|Featured|

Today I not only have my first ever article published by the TES, it's made the front page! Those of you familiar with my output will recognise the arguments and be familiar with the thinking that's led to these conclusions. But for anyone new to the blog, a little background wouldn't go amiss. The first and perhaps most important brick in the teetering edifice I've been constructing over the past couple of years is the idea that learning and performance are not the same thing. Maybe this sounds obvious, but it rocked my world to its rotten foundations. Read this post if [...]

Back to School Part 4: Planning

2020-09-02T14:06:11+01:00August 23rd, 2014|Featured|

This series of #backtoschool blogs summarises much of my thinking as it’s developed over the past few years and is aimed at new or recently qualified teachers. Each area has been distilled to 5 ‘top tips’ which I hope prove useful to anyone embarking on a career in teaching. That said, I’ll be delighted if they serve as handy reminders for colleagues somewhat longer in the tooth. So far in this back to school series we've covered establishing clear routines, building relationships and an awareness of the need to make language and literacy explicit in lessons. This next post concerns itself with the time consuming business [...]

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 [...]

Squaring the circle: can learning be easy and hard?

2014-09-17T19:56:47+01:00May 11th, 2014|learning|

Regular readers will know I've been ploughing a furrow on this question for quite a while now. Last June I synthesised my thinking in this post: Deliberately difficult – why it’s better to make learning harder. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the arguments, I'll summarise them briefly: - Learning is different from performance (the definition of learning I'm using here is the long-term retention and transfer of knowledge and skills) - We can't actually see learning happen; we can only infer it from performance - Performance is a very poor indicator of learning - Reducing performance might actually increase learning This [...]

The AfL debate: does it matter who's right?

2014-04-28T23:35:37+01:00April 28th, 2014|assessment|

If you're not already aware of my critique and Dylan Wiliam's defence of formative assessment I do recommending getting up to speed before reading this post. Dylan's defence rests on the idea that although we can never be sure what's going on in a child's mind, "teaching will be better if the teacher bases their decisions about what to do next on a reasonably accurate model of the students’ thinking." He makes a rather interesting and surprising point: it doesn't matter that we can't know what's going on in our students' minds because his "definition of formative assessment does not require that the inferences we make [...]

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 [...]

Getting feedback right Part 3: How can we increase pupils' effort?

2014-03-19T13:44:26+00:00March 19th, 2014|assessment|

I started to explore how we might make feedback more meaningful a few weeks back but then got sidetracked. If you haven't already looked at them, it might be worth spending a few moments on Part 1 (which discusses the different purposes for giving feedback) and Part 2 (which looks at how to increase pupils' understanding) before reading any further. Right. Still with me? Once we can be reasonably sure that pupils understand how to improve, our next step is to check that they can actually be bothered. It's become something of a cliché to say that success depends on hard [...]

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 [...]

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