Robert Coe

Further problems with the ‘thinking hard’ proxy for learning

2017-01-11T19:26:25+00:00January 11th, 2017|learning|

Because learning is invisible, we can only hope to measure whether students are making progress by observing proxies. Most people now seem to agree that certain activities which routinely take place in lessons are, in the words of Robert Coe, 'poor proxies for learning'. Rob has suggested that a better proxy might be 'thinking hard'. This seemed sensible and, like many others, I've embraced the idea, but the harder I think about this the less sure I am. In this post I began considering of the limitations of think hard as a good proxy for learning but was still wedded to the [...]

Robert Coe’s foreword for #PsychBook

2016-07-19T21:42:14+01:00July 19th, 2016|psychology|

Right. It's done. What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology is off to the printers tomorrow and should be available in the next few weeks. It's always a tense time when what you've written is exposed to the full glare of real readers. You never really know what the reaction will be like, but it's been very encouraging to have secured Professor Rob Coe's services to write a brief foreword. If for some reason you're not aware of who Rob is or why he matters, not only is he the director of Durham University's Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), he has worked closely [...]

Where now for school improvement?

2016-07-04T16:04:16+01:00July 3rd, 2016|Featured|

In the past, school improvement was easy. You could push pupils into taking BTECs or Diplomas (sometimes with 100% coursework) equivalent to multiple GCSEs; you could organise your curriculum to allow for early entry and multiple resits; you could bend the rules on controlled assessment and a whole host of other little tricks and cons intended to flatter and deceive. Now what have we got? PiXL Club? As Rob Coe laid bare in Improving Education: A Triumph of Hope over Experience, school improvement has been a tawdry illusion. Evidence from international comparisons, independent studies and national exams tell a conflicting and unsavoury tale. As [...]

The rise of the unscrupulous optimist

2016-03-05T16:33:51+00:00March 5th, 2016|leadership|

"Optimism, n.: The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary Education is a project filled with hope. We stand, framed heroically against the setting sun and scan the horizon for new stuff to transform the tired, outmoded, factory clamour of the past and hope - oh, how we hope - that everything will be better. But our forward-looking, progressive stance means we can all too easily miss seeing a landscape littered with failed ideas and the scorched ruins of unscrupulous optimism. Here are a couple of recent examples for your consideration: The College of Teaching Tom [...]

Why teacher assessment is less fair than standardised testing

2021-08-10T12:07:55+01:00November 4th, 2015|assessment|

Tests Guns don't kill people, rappers do Goldie Lookin Chain I spent the day yesterday at the Department for Education thinking about how best to cut down on the "unnecessary workload" associated with marking. Today I spent far too much time bandying words with children's writer, Michael Rosen about the value of testing over teacher assessment. It strikes me that both experiences offer an opportunity to set out my objections to teacher assessment and my support for standardised testing. Let's start with teacher assessment. My first concern is that any expectation on teachers to assess students' work adds to their workload. If we're [...]

Robert Coe on #WrongBook

2015-05-15T21:39:54+01:00May 13th, 2015|Featured|

Robert Coe, Director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University burst into my consciousness two years ago with his vigorous critique of the lack of evidence underpinning lesson observation. I'm sure he needs no introduction, but his papers Improving Education: a triumph of hope over experience and What Makes Great Teaching? are essentially reading for anyone interested in education beyond own narrow sphere of opinion. In short, he's an academic I greatly respect and whose good opinion matters. So I'm thrilled that he's written this brief review of my forthcoming book. This is a great book. Read it. David Didau [...]

How do we know if a teacher’s any good?

2020-07-23T15:07:13+01:00May 9th, 2015|leadership|

Obviously enough, not all teachers are equal. But how do we know which ones are any cop? Well, we just do, don't we? Everyone in a school community tends to know who's doing a decent job. But how do we know? Rightly, most school leaders feel it important to evaluate the effectiveness of their staff, but how can they go about this in a way that's fair, valid and reliable? Over the past year or so I've spent a fair bit of time explaining why lesson observation cannot be used to evaluate effective teaching. Mostly, the message has been received and understood. [...]

What might be a good proxy for learning?

2015-03-22T21:21:13+00:00March 22nd, 2015|Featured|

Professor Rob Coe's speech, From Evidence to Great Teaching, at the ASCL conference last Friday seemed to generate quite a bit of energy on Twitter, as did Carl Hendrick's post on engagement. Coe has been referring to the idea that we confuse learning with various 'poor proxies' since the publication of Improving Education. These are the proxies of which he speaks: It's small wonder, perhaps, that so many get so upset by being told that the certainties on which they've based their careers may not actually be true. The cognitive dissonance produced leads us to either agree with Prof Coe and abandon [...]

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 [...]

Do you need a research champion in your school?

2014-09-08T17:19:14+01:00September 8th, 2014|Featured|

If you haven't read this great article by Carl Hendricks, Director of Research at Wellington College, on the need for 'research champions in schools, you should. In it Hendricks persuasively sets out the case for the importance of there being a designated member of staff to champion the cause of education research in every school: Education research has provided teachers with enlightening and elegant ways of approaching their practice. There is an ever-growing and robust evidence base in a wide range of areas that have improved standards and enfranchised both teacher practice and student achievement. However there has also been a history of ideologically driven, [...]

Teaching for independence: thinking, memory & mastery

2014-07-02T17:08:59+01:00July 2nd, 2014|learning|

Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think. John Stuart Mill It's been a while now since I last wrote about the Teaching Sequence for Independence, so I'll start with a brief recap on what has come to be meant by 'independent learning'. Up until relatively recently there has been a strongly held belief amongst many teachers that pupils will only become independent if we encourage our pupils to learn independently. In essence, this [...]

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 [...]

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