things I notice in schools

15 Dec 2013

Reimagining Lesson Observations

So Sir Michael Wilshaw has been in the news this week. Whatever one thinks of the man, the underlying thread is a commentary on the extent to which schools are making a difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged. Nothing wrong with that.

But it is an understatment to say that the effect of Ofsted on behaviour and practice in some schools has become toxic. And yet it is very unlikely that Ofsted will go away. £88bn of public money in one sector is always going to have some form of quality assurance around it. So the question is, how to remove some of the toxic effects?

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20 Oct 2013

Data for dummies

Data isn’t king, it’s the queen. The king is the story behind the data. And if we don’t already, we need to learn to love the story. So, why is this important? The bottom line is ‘how much difference have I made to the children I’ve been teaching’. And at a school level, how much difference have we made to learning for all young people, including the vulnerable groups.

Some basics: we need to know the difference between attainment and achievement.

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13 Oct 2013

‘Should I be marking every piece of work?’

I first wrote 'Should I be marking every piece of work?' in 2013. The mammoth mountains of marking are still piling up. Why on earth is this the case? There is one rule for marking and feedback: if it's not making a difference to learning, don't do it.

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08 Sep 2013

red2013: five things I’ve learnt

One, the teaching community is doing things for itself. Good thing too. The top down, often stifling messages from the national strategies, local authorities and quangos mean that the hierarchies of command and control in terms of professional knowledge have largely disappeared. And like the wood after a storm, the great trees have been felled. New growth, vibrant, energetic and full of sap is rising to take its place.Two, that the principles of research from other disciplines have much to tell us. But not everything. Tom Bennett has written about dodgy research, with flimsy evidence bases which have gained currency. Anyone reading Teacher Proof will be armed with the right questions, if they weren’t already. The argument to draw on other professional modus operandi is powerful. But I had a real sense today that the community will use its professional wisdom to distil what it needs. And to dump what it doesn’t.

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25 Aug 2013

Moto Guzzi and me

When I learnt to ride my Guzzi (the bad boys who taught me rhymed it with fuzzy) I had to know a few things even though it was basically a skill. Like how to turn it on, where the gears were, where the petrol tank was. Oh, and what the gear change does. This didn’t matter until it broke in Amsterdam and I had to find someone to replace it on a Sunday. I couldn’t, so rode it back to Suffolk in third gear. I also had to learn how to balance it and how not to drop it. Because if I’d dropped it, I wouldn’t have been able to pick it up. So that was top priority. As far as the Guzzi went, I needed knowledge and skills. Otherwise I was road-kill.

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19 Aug 2013

Not trivial: Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21c

This is a whopping piece of work. It’s brilliant, it’s hard work and it’s a piece of serious scholarship.

Martin Robinson has constructed an argument of elegance, depth and simplicity. He has set himself a big task: to integrate the ancient disciplines of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric to re-imagine thinking about education, teaching and learning. Today. The work is driven by a desire to draw the kind of education he would like for his young daughter. What he was after was ‘an attitude to learning that is based in knowledge, argument, engagement, belonging and the capacity to make a difference.’ In going back to the beginnings of learning, he found the Trivium.

I hope I’m not oversimplifying, but my reading of the book is that there are four elements. The first is the compelling story of his own practice. Then, an overview of the origins and developments of the trivium, a synthesis of current thinkers on the relevance of the trivium today, and finally how the trivium might work today.

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