Greg Ashman

What *does* improve children’s writing?

2019-12-08T14:39:13+00:00December 1st, 2017|writing|

In my last post I discussed evidence that suggests grammar teaching does not lead to an improvement in children's writing. Although it seems implausible that grammar teaching would not be positively correlated with writing outcomes, there's a lot of evidence that is strongly suggestive that what I prefer to believe may not in fact actually be true. I've written enough about cognitive bias to know that I am predisposed to look for evidence that supports my preferences and dismiss evidence that contradicts them. The point of evidence is that it forces us to confront the extent to which our intuitions map [...]

Evidence and disadvantage: How useful is the EEF Toolkit?

2017-02-27T09:01:15+00:00February 26th, 2017|research|

Although everyone's education is important, the education of disadvantaged students is, arguably, of much greater importance than that of students from more advantaged backgrounds. The more privileged your background, the less it's likely to matter what happens at school. Conversely, the more socially disadvantaged your background, the greater the impact of what does, or does not happen at school.Sadly though, access to education is more than likely to experience a Matthew effect. Those who have the best chance in life are the most likely to get a great education. That being the case, it seems reasonable to suggest that whilst all children deserve that the [...]

The power of 'best bets'

2017-01-15T17:40:00+00:00January 15th, 2017|research|

The other day I read Greg Ashman's post Why Education is like smoking which talked about the way teachers often generalise from anecdotes in the same way that when smokers are confronted with statistics about the health risks of smoking they might say things like, "Well, my nan smoked 400 cigarettes a day! She may have had bright yellow fingers but she lived to the ripe old age of 130!" Or whatever. Teachers do this sort of thing all the time. We say things like, "Well, the research may say x, but I find y works so much better for me!" Maybe it [...]

PISA 2015: some tentative thoughts about successful teaching

2017-03-06T08:14:28+00:00December 6th, 2016|Featured|

Despite all the eminently sensible caveats offered by Sam Freedman, PISA provides a fascinating lens through which to view the world of education. The most interesting of the PISA documents I've had a chance to look at today is Policies and Practices for Successful Schools. It's a long document and a great many policies and practices are addressed, but the most interesting to me is the section on how science is taught (pp 65-77). As the report says, "How science is taught at school can make a big difference for students." In order to work out what sorts of activities regularly occur [...]

Context isn’t king

2016-11-21T16:26:09+00:00November 21st, 2016|Featured|

It's become quite fashionable recently to say that there's no best way to teach because what works depends on the context in which you teach. This is a considerable improvement on asserting that [insert half-baked, debunked practice of your choosing] is the best way and then penalising teachers for not doing it, but it's still a bit of a cop-out. I'm not claiming context doesn't matter - of course it does - but it isn't nearly as important as some would have us believe. Clearly, the context of schooling in different countries varies greatly and most right-thinking people acknowledge that 'policy tourism [...]

Are teachers cursed with knowledge?

2023-06-11T12:11:53+01:00September 5th, 2016|Featured|

The Curse of Knowledge: when we are given knowledge, it is impossible to imagine what it's like to lack that knowledge. Chip Heath, Made to Stick How much do teachers need to know? In my last post I proposed that an effective teacher - one who is warm, friendly and a great speaker - is minimally effective if they have nothing to teach. The Dr Fox (or Ken Robinson) Effect shows that even though we love charismatic teachers, we don't learn much from them unless they are also knowledgeable about the subject they're teaching. Following a prolonged and protracted debate [...]

Why I like ‘tick n flick’

2015-12-16T14:40:28+00:00December 16th, 2015|Featured|

It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. William of Ockham Tick n flick - the practice of flicking through students' exercise books and ticking to indicate that they have been read (or at least seen) is widely used as a pejorative term for the laziest type of marking undertaken only by the most feckless, morally bankrupt of teachers - generally gets a bad press. Perhaps this is unsurprising; in the worst cases it suggests a hurried post-hoc skim through pages of work in order to give the unconvincing appearance that books are being marked. No one [...]

Rubrics warp teaching and assessment

2017-08-16T02:35:38+01:00December 11th, 2015|writing|

Men are more apt to be mistaken in their generalizations than in their particular observations. Machiavelli In a recent blog post, children's author, Michael Rosen has suggested how teachers should teach, assess and share students' writing. He has helpfully broken his thoughts into three areas: teaching & assessment, editing, and sharing. In this post, I'm going to consider his ideas on the teaching and assessment of 'good writing'. Rosen points out that schools teach children to write for exams and that writing for exams is not the same thing as writing well. This is, of course, true; we teach what's assessed and [...]

What is 'transfer' and is it important?

2015-09-17T22:19:53+01:00September 17th, 2015|learning|

Very kindly, Greg Ashman posted his thoughts on #WrongBook on his site yesterday - if you haven't seen his 'review' you can find it here. I really like both the style and the substance of Greg's piece, but I do want to take him up on the way he's interpreted my use of the term 'transfer'. In the book, I define learning as, “The ability to retain skills and knowledge over the long term and to be able to transfer them to new contexts.” Greg is unhappy with the inclusion of transfer in this definition and argues the following: It sets the bar [...]

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