Getting feedback right Part 1 – Why do we give it?

2014-04-02T01:34:07+01:00March 4th, 2014|assessment|

It's become a truism that feedback is the most important activity that teachers engage in. Feedback, we are repeatedly told, is tremendously powerful and therefore teachers must do more of it. Certainly Hattie, the Sutton Trust and the EEF bandy about impressive effect sizes, but the evidence of flipping through a pupil's exercise book suggests that the vast majority of what teachers write is ignored or misunderstood. Teachers' feedback can certainly have a huge impact but it's a mistake to believe that this impact is always positive. I written in detail about marking and the power of Directed Improvement Reflection Time. I've  also considered [...]

Force fed feedback: is less more?

2014-01-26T20:14:25+00:00January 26th, 2014|Featured, learning|

It is commonly and widely accepted that feedback is the best, brightest and shiniest thing we can be doing as teachers, and the more of it the better. Ever since Prof Hattie published Visible Learning in 2009 we have had conclusive proof: according to Hattie's meta-analyses, feedback has the highest effect size of any teacher invention. QED. And this has led, unsurprisingly, to an avalanche of blogs (many of which I've been responsible for) on how to give feedback more efficiently, frequently and effectively. Teachers the world over have rejoiced. But perhaps we've been a little uncritical on just how best we [...]

Old Hat(tie)? Some things you ought to know about effect sizes

2014-05-17T17:39:45+01:00January 24th, 2014|myths|

Ever since Hattie published Visible Learning back in 2009 the Effect Size has been king. For those of you who don't know, an effect size is a mechanism for comparing the relative merits of different interventions. Hattie pointed out that everything that a teacher does will have some effect but that there will also be an opportunity cost: if you're investing in time in one type of intervention you will be neglecting other types of intervention which might have a greater impact. He therefore used effect sizes to try to establish what has the greatest influence on student learning so that we [...]

Better analysis: seeing the wood AND the trees

2013-12-08T01:50:44+00:00November 3rd, 2013|literacy|

I've been exploring better ways to teach analysis and evaluation for some time now. A few years ago I stumbled on the idea of zooming in and out which has gone viral and made its way into the teaching zeitgeist. In case you've managed to miss it, the basic premise is that terms like analysis are pretty slippery and hard to tie down and benefit from being explained in a more concrete way. When we read a text, or look at an image, we see it as a distinct whole. We just see the tree. And 'the tree' is hard to [...]

Is failure just a lack of practice?

2014-04-13T11:06:31+01:00September 28th, 2013|Featured, learning|

Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho! You must learn to fail intelligently. Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. One fails forward towards success.  Thomas Edison Show me a teacher who doesn’t fail every day and I’ll show you a teacher with low expectations for his or her students. Dylan Wiliam I've written a fair bit over the past couple of years on the need to allow pupils (and teachers) to fail, learn from their mistakes and do better. This ability to learn from mistakes is, along with [...]

Hang on in there: could encouragement be more useful than praise?

2013-09-27T21:59:27+01:00September 27th, 2013|learning|

Last week I expanded on some of my doubts about the concept of praise, particularly the current consensus that we should be going out of our way to praise effort. I concluded by saying, "no one would disagree with the power of a sincere compliment – the difficulty is in knowing the difference. Maybe we should start thinking about how best to encourage pupils to learn." I intended to spend the week considering the question of what to do instead, and then Tim Taylor wrote this summarising Alfie Kohn's advice on how to make sure praise is sincere and useful: A: Don’t praise people, only [...]

Is praise counter productive?

2013-09-22T22:15:13+01:00September 22nd, 2013|behaviour, learning, myths|

I had an interesting discussion with Tim Taylor this morning. He said,  "At best, praising effort has a neutral or no effect when students are successful, but is likely to be negative when students are not successful." But what could possibly be wrong with praise? Surely praise is one of the most fundamental way to motivate pupils? Teachers are, generally, keen to praise pupils, and pupils , generally, welcome and expect it. We use praise to reward or change pupils' behaviour, and to that extent it may well be effective. But could this praise also be diluting learning and effort? Various research seems [...]

Hats, schmats: what really matters is the quality of debate

2013-09-21T13:51:57+01:00September 21st, 2013|blogging, myths|

I feel the need to make a few things clear. A few days ago I wrote this: Six Silly Hats (When is it OK to mock stuff you think is daft?) and some of the response I got suggested that I was confused on several points. I clearly had no idea what the hats actually were (I do) I had gotten confused about the metaphorical nature of the hats and that people don't actually wear them (I wasn't and they do. Honestly.) The hats are just a tool to help pupils think laterally and if thinking laterally is a good thing then [...]

The problem with fun

2016-10-02T13:38:59+01:00August 22nd, 2013|learning, planning|

Getting students engaged so that they can be taught something seems much less effective than getting them engaged by teaching them something that engages them. Dylan Wiliam Could fun be the enemy of learning? I've not always been the curmudgeonly killjoy I am today. Some years ago, I took part in a department meeting where we were asked to prioritise those qualities we most valued about teaching. We came up with all the tiresomely worthy answers you might expect, but, somewhat controversially, I insisted on including 'fun'. The case I made went something like this: I don't teach for the money, I [...]

Icebergs, taking risks & being outstanding

2013-02-11T16:51:01+00:00February 11th, 2013|Featured, learning, planning, training|

How do we recognise a great teacher, a great lesson or great teaching and learning? How do we know what we're seeing is outstanding? The sad truth is that often observers don't (or can't) see the wood for the trees. They see your planning, they see your interactions with a group of students and, hopefully, they see the evidence of impact in your students' books. But most of what goes into making your lessons finely crafted things of beauty are invisible. Observers only ever get to see the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg If a writer of prose knows enough of what [...]

Is SOLO a waste of time?

2012-06-04T00:09:07+01:00June 4th, 2012|learning, SOLO|

Stop blaming your lack of experimentation, risk and innovation on your lack of time. Hywel Roberts - Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally It was pointed out to me recently that I can afford to expend my energies on such fripperies as the SOLO taxonomy and group work because I teach a subject which is rich in curriculum time. If, the logic goes, you only have 1 or 2 hours per week you need to spend it delivering content. Anything else is a waste of time. Clearly there's some truth in this: English does get more time than, say, French or RE. [...]

Deliberating about practice

2013-08-22T12:54:21+01:00April 22nd, 2012|learning|

Should learning be fun? A few years ago I remember saying that was all learning should be. If you weren't enjoying it, why on earth would you do it? But now I'm not so sure. One of the most frequently used (and abused) buzz words in education over recent years is 'engagement'. Now, I'm not suggesting that students shouldn't be engaged in their lessons but I would urge you to check the definition of the word. To engage means either "to occupy the attention or efforts of a person" or, "to attract and hold fast". For a dissenting view on engagement [...]

Go to Top