Does it do what it's supposed to? Assessing the assessment

2014-04-06T06:22:54+01:00April 6th, 2014|assessment, English|

In response to a request for constructive criticism of the English assessment model I helped design, Michael Tidd got in touch to query whether it met his 7 questions you should ask about any new ‘post-levels’ assessment scheme. For the record, these questions are: Can it be shared with students? Is it manageable and useful for teachers? Will it identify where students are falling behind soon enough? Will it help shape curriculum and teaching? Will it provide information that can be shared with parents? Will it help to track progress across the key stage? Does it avoid making meaningless sub-divisions? My initial response [...]

Why AfL might be wrong, and what to do about it

2014-04-25T09:31:57+01:00March 12th, 2014|myths|

Some cows are so sacred that any criticism of them is fraught with the risk of bumping up against entrenched cognitive bias. We are fantastically bad at recognizing that our beliefs are often not based on evidence but on self-interest, and it’s been in everyone’s interest to uphold the belief that AfL is the best thing that teachers can do. When confronted with ‘others’ who disagree with our most fervently held beliefs, we tend to make the following series of assumptions: They are ignorant They are stupid They are evil When in the past I have been critical of AfL (or [...]

What if we stopped making the same mistakes?

2017-03-10T16:52:25+00:00February 11th, 2014|Featured|

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Henry Ford Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. Fake Einstein quote How many of us have worked in schools which have as one of their teaching & learning priorities differentiation, questioning, or assessment & feedback? Most of us, right? You'll be hard-pressed to find a school which isn't working hard on trying to improve one or other of these aspects of teaching. But why? No one seems to have 'the answer', and we're all desperately scrabbling about trying to get better at doing the same things. [...]

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 [...]

Questions that matter: method vs practice

2014-02-05T08:51:25+00:00February 4th, 2014|Featured|

We talk a lot these days about pedagogy, but what do we actually mean? Obviously, we know what the dictionary definition is: the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept, but I think we're far more concerned about methodology than we are about practice. I just came across this list of questions that should preoccupy teachers on Barry Smith's blog and thought they were so useful that they might bear repeating: What do my kids find hard? Why? How can I teach differently so the hard bits become accessible? How can I do that without dumbing down? [...]

How can we make classroom observation more effective?

2014-02-22T13:00:21+00:00January 14th, 2014|learning|

If the belief that it's possible for untrained observers to pitch up in lessons and grade their effectiveness is comparable to a belief in witchcraft, (and Professor Robert Coe's research confirms that this is the case) where does that leave us as a profession? Observing lessons is the fetish du jour of almost every single school and school leader and, even if we informed and honest enough to accept that learning is invisible and that it's nigh impossible to get two observers to agree on the quality and effectiveness of a lesson, we're probably unwilling to let completely let go the [...]

Don't trust your gut: a little bit more on the problem with grading lessons

2014-01-13T11:34:37+00:00January 13th, 2014|learning|

This evening, there will be debate on the role lesson observation in England's schools with such educational luminaries as Professor Robert Coe, David Weston (the man behind the Teacher Development Trust), Lead Ofsted inspector Mary Myatt, Sam Freedman (Director of Teach First and ex-special advisor to Gove),, Dame Alison Peacock (Headteacher of The Wroxham School) and, er... me. Quite what qualifies me to participate beyond having a big gob and a stubborn streak a mile wide I'm not sure. However, I'm pretty damn excited to have been asked and, despite suffering with an appallingly debilitating cold, am sure it will be an excellent event. [...]

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 [...]

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