Joe Kirby

Outstanding is the enemy of good

2015-12-14T16:14:13+00:00December 13th, 2015|Featured|

Were it not sinful then, striving to mend, To mar the subject that before was well? Shakespeare In our efforts to be the best, are we eroding our ability to be good? Everyone tends to agree that high expectations are best and, of course, no one rises to a low expectation, but sometimes our expectations are unrealistically high. Sometimes we take the self-flagellating view that only the best is good enough. There are some who might argue that 'good enough' eliminates better and best and others still who counter that our understanding of 'good enough' is always subject to a raising of our collective [...]

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 [...]

What should written feedback look like?

2015-05-10T14:30:56+01:00May 4th, 2015|Featured|

To free a person from error is to give, and not to take away. Arthur Schopenhauer In response to my last post, Cristina Milos pointed out that I use the term 'feedback' without providing any further clarification as to what I mean. She challenged me to explain exactly how I envisioned the feedback process taking place and to be clear about what, specifically, it ought to contain. Now of course feedback can take various different forms, but seeing as I've been exploring ways to reduce teachers' marking load, it's probably apposite to address what written feedback might look like. But, first some ground [...]

What if there was no outstanding?

2014-07-09T23:30:36+01:00March 16th, 2014|leadership|

The cynics are right nine times out of ten. H.L. Mencken Does the outstanding grade retard innovation or drive us towards excellence? This is just a flight of fancy; a thought experiment. What would happen if we did away with the outstanding grade for schools? What if 'good' was good enough? What would be different? Let's remember that Ofsted have acknowledged that there is no such thing as an outstanding lesson, but all schools are still judged on a four point scale with 'outstanding' being the highest accolade a school can receive. Imagine this bauble was taken away. What then? I [...]

Principled curriculum design: the English curriculum

2014-07-29T21:27:26+01:00December 16th, 2013|English, Featured|

The tragedy of life is that one can only understand life backwards, but one must live it forwards Søren Kierkegaard Back in March 2013, I wrote about the principles underlying my redesign of a Keys Stage 3 English curriculum. It received a mixed response. Since then Joe Kirby and Alex Quigley have published their ideas on redesigning this area of the curriculum and have, in different ways, influenced my thinking. Recently, I've presented my ideas on the English curriculum to over 100 English teachers and the consensus seems to be that there is no consensus. Having thought quite a bit about [...]

Has lesson observation become the new Brain Gym?

2013-11-17T11:30:15+00:00November 16th, 2013|training|

I've thought a lot about lesson observation over the past couple of years and have come to the conclusion that it is broken. What is most worrying is that it is almost universally accepted as the best way to bother hold teachers accountable and to drive improvements in the quality of teaching and learning in a school. My contention is that these beliefs are, at least in the way the observations are currently enacted, wrong. Lesson observation distorts teaching, makes teachers focus on performance instead of learning and creates a system which is more interested in short term fluff than real [...]

It’s not what you know… oh, hang on: it IS what you know!

2018-09-24T23:37:12+01:00November 9th, 2013|learning|

I'm fed up of people who should know better saying they're bored with the false dichotomy of skills versus knowledge. The knowledge vs skills debate is always worth having because it conceals a more fundamental disagreement (a real dichotomy, if you will) about what's most important. Let's agree that no one is actually advocating that no knowledge is taught. I'm sure this is true. But saying that knowledge is 'just a foundation for higher order thinking' isn't good enough either. This picture from Joe Kirby's blog sums it up for me: Analysis, application, evaluation and all the rest are the merely the [...]

The times they are a changin': how can we improve the PGCE?

2013-10-27T15:03:15+00:00October 27th, 2013|Featured, training|

Back in the dim and distant mists of time when I embarked on my Post-graduate Certificate in Education, there was no other way to train as a teacher. Much of my training was interesting and I largely enjoyed the subject specific content. But the generic stuff on professional practice was pretty awful and has largely been expunged from memory. I felt hopelessly unprepared for my first teaching practice, but then I expect that's true of most or many, but despite lots of classroom experience, lectures and having written a dissertation I was still hopelessly unprepared on being awarded QTS. I had [...]

How knowledge is being detached from skills in English

2013-07-22T06:52:56+01:00June 18th, 2013|English|

I don't normally do this. In fact, I haven't put up a post by anyone else since last August. But in this case Joe Kirby has expressed my own thoughts so articulately that there seemed little point trying to repeat the same thing myself. Not only that, Joe is somewhat of a phenomenon. His grasp of the nuances of education theory belies the fact that he is only just completing his NQT year. When I compare his expertise to my ignorance at the same stage of my career I am staggered, and not a little ashamed. As such I would very much like for you to read his [...]

Go to Top