things I notice in schools

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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06 Aug 2013

A knowledge free classroom?

So, I’m trying a thought experiment. I’m imagining a knowledge free classroom. I’m having a think about the knowledge versus skills debate. And their close relations, direct instruction versus group-work.

In my head, there are no displays, pictures, books or electronic devices. A bit of an anaemic shell. Wouldn’t really want to spend much time there. And can’t think of many children who would either. So, now I’m thinking, let’s put a bit of knowledge in there. A book or two. Now some pictures, displays. And if we are really turning the dial up, some electronic devices. Ah, that’s better. A kaleidoscope, colour, promise, opportunity. Bit of a banquet really. Why would I want to go back to starvation rations?

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04 Aug 2013

Teacher Proof: Tom Bennett's dose of healthy scepticism

So, when was the last time I read any book, laughing out loud? Can't remember. But I sat by the river Dee on a sunny Saturday morning and read Tom Bennett's forensic piece of work on educational research. I had to keep wiping my eyes.

But this book is serious, deadly serious about some of the less fragrant ideas to have wafted their way into our classrooms. They have arrived in schools via universities, the DfE, LAs and commercial courses. Bennett takes his cue from Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Science' which, among other things, debunked 'Brain Gym'. This book sets out to show why research in education doesn't always mean what it claims. And what we can do about it. Yes, and you too.

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