The problem with SatNavs, or how feedback can impede learning

2020-05-07T18:16:23+01:00July 6th, 2014|learning|

I'm not an especially good driver, but I'm a truly terrible navigator. This used to mean that I would get lost. A lot. When I first moved to Bristol in 2001 I bought an A-Z of the city and when driving somewhere new I would have to stop the car periodically and try to align the map to the streets around me. Needless to say, I found this pretty stressful. Luckily, I'm a lot better at recognising landmarks than I am at reading maps. Slowly, through a process of trial and error, I started to learn how to find my way around. I've got [...]

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 [...]

Everything we've been told about teaching is wrong, and what to do about it!

2014-03-09T11:19:44+00:00March 9th, 2014|myths|

It was great to be back at the IOE for Pedagoo London 2014, and many thanks must go to @hgaldinoshea & @kevbartle for organising such a wonderful (and free!) event. As ever there's never enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to, but I particularly enjoyed Jo Facer's workshop on cultural literacy and Harry Fletcher-Wood's attempt to stretch a military metaphor to provide a model for teacher improvement. As I was presenting last I found myself unable to concentrate during Rachel Steven's REALLY INTERESTING talk on Lesson Study and returned to the room in which I would be presenting to catch the end [...]

Still grading lessons? A triumph of experience over hope

2014-03-17T11:21:08+00:00February 8th, 2014|Featured|

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper. Francis Bacon To paraphrase Rob Coe's seminal research, yesterday's National Teacher Enquiry Network (NTEN) conference at KEGS in Chelmsford was a triumph of experience over hope. just hoping we're doing the right things is potentially worse than useless: it might be downright damaging. This was a gathering of teachers and school leaders from a wide range of settings, all of whom are focussed on trying to move from a 'hopeful' approach to improving teaching and learning to a more expectant one. Finally there might the first faint glimmers of a new [...]

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 [...]

The Cult of Outstanding™: the problem with 'outstanding' lessons

2014-01-16T13:26:35+00:00January 16th, 2014|learning, myths|

First of all I need to come clean. Up until pretty recently I was a fully paid up member of the Cult of Outstanding™. Last January I considered myself to be a teacher at the height of my powers. In the spirit of self-congratulation I posted a blog entitled Anatomy of an Outstanding Lesson in which I detailed a lesson which I confidently supposed was the apotheosis of great teaching, and stood back to receive plaudits. And indeed they were forthcoming. I was roundly congratulated and felt myself extraordinarily clever. And then Cristina Milos got in touch to tell me that there was no [...]

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 [...]

Are all difficulties desirable?

2013-10-05T11:07:37+01:00October 5th, 2013|Featured|

I was aghast to read an extract from Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants in The Guardian yesterday. Not because it's bad, but because it's the book I wanted to write! Or rather, it's not. The David & Goliath metaphor is intriguing, but not really what I'm interested in. What got my heart rate up was an oblique reference to Professor Bjork's work on 'desirable difficulties'. This extract from David and Goliath is, for the most part, about dyslexia. In it Gladwell contends that adversity creates conditions for surprising greatness: Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that [...]

Testing & assessment – have we been doing the right things for the wrong reasons?

2013-06-16T18:01:29+01:00June 16th, 2013|assessment, Featured, learning, myths|

A curious peculiarity of our memory is that things are impressed better by active than by passive repetition. I mean that in learning (by heart, for example), when we almost know the piece, it pays better to wait and recollect by an effort from within, than to look at the book again. If we recover the words in the former way, we shall probably know them the next time; if in the latter way, we shall very likely need the book once more. William James, The principles of psychology (1890)   Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving. David Ogilvy Tests are rubbish, right? Like [...]

Deliberately difficult – why it's better to make learning harder

2013-06-10T20:24:17+01:00June 10th, 2013|Featured, learning, myths|

The most fundamental goals of education are long-term goals. As teachers and educators, we want targeted knowledge and skills to be acquired in a way that makes them durable and flexible. More specifically, we want a student’s educational experience to produce a mental representation of the knowledge or skill in question that fosters long-term access to that knowledge and the ability to generalize—that is, to draw on that knowledge in situations that may differ on some dimensions from the exact educational context in which that knowledge was acquired. Robert A Bjork, 2002 Who could argue with this? Certainly not Ofsted who [...]

Planning Lessons – lessons I’ve learned from lessons I've taught

2013-06-09T17:07:42+01:00June 9th, 2013|Featured, planning|

This is a summary and a drawing together of several earlier posts. I consider it a refinement of my thinking and something which is painstakingly (and grandiosely) groping its way towards a total philosophy of planning. It does also attempt to offer something new but is this enough to deserve a new post? You decide. "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Smug teachers, everywhere Planning: still a good thing to do first As a new teacher, lesson planning seemed to suck up almost all of my available time and energy. Looking back over those frenetic early years it's become [...]

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