Monday, 15 December 2008

BBC Class Clips

The BBC has been providing educational resources via radio, TV and, latterly, the internet for years.
They now have a website that allows you to search for video clips linked to different key stages and subjects.

Check it out here.

Thanks to Sarah Golley for the link.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Preparing for Inspection

Teachers TV has a new programme available online which addresses the topic of preparing for inspection. They describe it thus:
Former HMI Inspector Roy Blatchford speaks to three secondary headteachers who have recently been visited by Ofsted, and offers his tips on the inspection process.
You can watch the programme here.

Monday, 24 November 2008


I have mentioned the work of Doug Belshaw in previous entries. A History teacher in Yorkshire, Doug has been pioneering the use of web based applications to enhance learning with his students. He was recently given responsibility for e-learning at his school and has produced a blog to highlight useful applications. Check it out here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Learning and Thinking Skills

The Teaching Expertise website allows you to sign up to regular e-bulletins on a variety of topics. One of the latest ones is Learning and Thinking Skills (linked to PLTS). To sign up go here.
Below is a section from the latest bulletin:

Welcome to the new Learning and Thinking Skills e-bulletin. Every fortnight we will provide you with strategies and guidance for effective learning and thinking at key stages 3 to 5. Topics will include: learning preferences, thinking skills, creativity, problem solving, group work and more.

This week's e-bulletin continues our in-depth focus on developing 'independent enquirers' – the first of the six areas of the QCA's Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills framework – by looking at the value of enquiry tools when organising and making sense of information..

The model of enquiry shared in issue no. 4 – the Enquiry Wheel – shows the main stages of a generic enquiry process as well as linking them to related 'thinking tools' to support each stage. These thinking tools can be used as practical, structured activities that help make the skills of enquiry 'visible' and explicit to students. As students grow in confidence, however, and become ready to take more responsibility for mapping out the process they will follow – choosing relevant tools and resources – the Enquiry Wheel can also serve as a useful toolkit that students can learn to use independently. (See enquiry progression model shared in issue no. 3)

In our last issue, we looked at strategies relating to the first prerequisite of any successful enquiry - creating a 'need to know', including tools to help students devise their own enquiry questions. In this issue, we will look at three thinking tools specifically designed to help students make sense of the information they uncover. All three tools help students to process new information more effectively – ordering and organising it so that it becomes both more manageable and more memorable. These tools are:
* Relevance Checker
* Knowledge Mapping
* Concept Mapping
Taken together, they involve students in collecting then sifting through information for its relevant to the area or domain of enquiry (Relevance Checker); constructing categories that provide conceptual control over territories of information (Knowledge Mapping); and exploring relationships within that domain (Concept Mapping).

Enquiry Tools for Organising and Making Sense of Information

Thinking tool no. 1: Relevance Checker

This thinking tool is designed to help students filter the information they have gathered for its relevance in relation to their enquiry question. Many students find it difficult to discern relevant from irrelevant information, particularly when browsing the internet. The nature of the question chosen – open, closed, broad or narrow in scope – will affect the criteria they will use for making judgments about relevance. As with all three tools, it is crucial, therefore, that students have first identified the enquiry question that will guide their research. The Relevance Checker also encourages students to look at degrees of relevance; prioritising ideas and information on the question, and discussing justiļ¬cations for their choices.

Relevance Checker: Instructions
1. Students can work individually, in pairs or groups, at a board or wall space on a large sheet. Alternatively, groups can work around a table using A3 or A4 sized sheets.

2. Each student brings along one or more sources of information that they have discovered during their research, which they think might help them/their group to answer an enquiry question. Depending upon the teaching focus, ability level or stage of the enquiry, the information shared could be:
* A book, article or website
* A single piece of data or data set
* A key idea, argument or interpretation or
* A picture or diagram
The information can be written on separate cards or post-its. Pictures and longer pieces can be labelled, numbered or coded. Longer pieces can also be 'tagged'; in other words, the key ideas within the source are extracted and written on separate cards in preparation for the Relevance Checker activity.

3. Students are given a Relevance Checker Template and should write their key question in the centre. Alternatively, students can draw their own template.

4. Students work through the information they have uncovered, deciding which items are relevant or irrelevant to the key question. If they decide that an item is relevant, they must consider the degree of relevance in relation to the question and place it at an appropriate place within the template.

5. Students then give feedback on their decisions, justifying their choices and decisions.

Relevance Checker: Teaching tips
For students who would benefit from more 'structured' enquiry – the first stage of the progression model shared in issue no. 3 – each group could instead be given a pre-prepared set of cards with words, pictures, short phrases or longer extracts, each representing both relevant or irrelevant information for a given enquiry question. Students then work through the cards, deciding whether each one is relevant or irrelevant to the key question and placing relevant cards in an appropriate place within the template. If all groups are working with the same data set, they can then give feedback on their decisions, justifying their choices if they happen to contrast with the decisions of another group.

The Relevance Checker is also a useful revision tool for exams, as it encourages students to think about the most effective and relevant responses to questions.

Relevance Checker: Talking about thinking
Students may find the following words useful to help them talk about their thinking:
* relevant
* irrelevant
* useful
* reliable
* important
* significant
* criteria
* judgement
* decision
* evaluate
Other talking points might include:
* How did you decide whether an item was relevant?
* How did you decide upon the 'most relevant' items?
* Can an unreliable source be relevant?
* When might 'deciding what's relevant' be a useful skill to have in everyday life?

Monday, 13 October 2008

Teaching and learning blog

There's another blog on the theme of Teaching and Learning here. It's produced by Tony Cassidy, Leader of Teaching and Learning at Kirk Hallam Community Technology College in Derbyshire, as a resource for staff to share their views and experiences of teaching and learning.

From Good to Outstanding

Teachers TV has produced a programme with the above title. They describe it thus:
Sydney Russell School has rated secondary English teacher David Pollicutt's lessons as 'good'. His challenge is to gain an 'outstanding' rating in just three weeks, using the help of a range of experts.
School inspector Clare Gillies assesses one of David's Year 8 lessons on characterisation within Great Expectations, and highlights some clear areas for improvement.
David heads off to get some one-to-one CPD and to work on pedagogy advice with English advisor Sabrina Broadbent, and received more tips from voice and communications expert Ulrika Schulte-Baukloh.
David then has just three weeks back in the classroom to put their advice into action before the inspector returns to observe a second lesson and deliver her final verdict.
Will David succeed in raising his game sufficiently to go from 'good' to 'outstanding'?

Find it here

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Journey to excellence

Scottish Educators have been exploring Assessment for Learning for some while, as mentioned on an earlier entry. They have recently updated their AfL Self-Assessment Toolkit which provides some documents to assess how well schools are using AfL. Check it out here.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

What is learning?

The Scottish Educator Euan Macintosh reports on the work of a school in the US where pupils are pushing the boundaries of learning - they're taking part in a project to create a new type of biodiesel which would be more efficient than existing methods. The class applied for two patents this year, and two communities in Guatemala are developing the product to provide fuel for real.

Planning is undertaken along these five structures:
Desired results: where do you want to go
Learning objectives
Understandings: the big ideas - why are we teaching or learning this?
Essential Questions: The throughline - what do we keep coming back to throughout the inquiry?
Skills and Content: What is the stuff that we have to know to get to those big ideas?
If, after a period of learning, you assess by giving out a test, you are not doing project-based learning. Tests and quizzes are but a dipstick, a quick snapshot of where everyone is at. The projects themselves, the projects that are the creation of the students themselves, are the main assessment tool.

Read more here.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Better presentations

For anyone who has started to glaze over during a Powerpoint presentation, there is some extremely helpful advice here about how to make them more effective.
There are links to practical tips here.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Teacher Resource Exchange

This site may be old news to some but it's worth checking out as a place to share and borrow ideas and resources with teachers across the country.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

New media and AFL

There is an interesting account here of how a Scottish teacher of MFL is using new media to successfuly support Peer Assessment.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Linited choice

The Teaching Expertise website produces a regular bulletin that focuses on Behaviour Management. A recent issue looked at how offering pupils a limited choice can help to improve behaviour in the classroom. Check out the article here.
Thanks to Claire Fleming for the link.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Blooms' resources

There are a lot of resources for using Blooms' Taxonomy in the classroom as a tool to develop pupils thinking skills at this website here.

Thanks to Zoe Newbery for the link.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Thinking skills online

Futurelab have produced an online resource that they describe below:

Exploratree is a free web resource where you can download, use and make your own interactive thinking guides. Thinking guides can support independent and group research projects with frameworks for thinking, planning and enquiry. We’ve provided a set of ready-made guides which you can print out or use online. All of the guides are completely customizable or you can start from scratch and make your own! You can share them and work on them in groups too.

You need to register first. Check it out here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Distributing innovation

Professor David Hargreaves has been writing perceptively about education for many years and has recently been focused on the changes linked to the new curriculum and personalised learning. For him one of the key factors is sharing the responsibility for innovation amongst as many people as possible. Below is one example of his common sense approach:
Those who pioneer radical innovations need to keep track of
the lessons they learn during the innovation, and these lessons need
to be transferred to the recipient as an inherent part of the innovation.
Distributed innovation is effective in part because members of the
innovation network are constantly sharing the lessons learned and so
easing the innovation and transfer processes. There is always a
danger that innovators offer an innovation in too polished a form to
others. When innovations are 'good enough' , with some rough
edges, and not too far from a recipient's current practice, they are
easier to transfer.

Read more here.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

New curriculum resources

The DSCF has provided a new website to support teachers planning the new curriculum.

You need to register to use it but it is worth it.

It has some useful resources including videos and a curriculum planning wizard which offers support with planning.

Check it out here.

Learning and Teaching Update

The Teaching Expertise website produces a monthly newsheet called Learning and Teaching Update. The April issue has some useful articles on

  • Creativity and the new cuuriculum

  • Teachers views on pupil achievement

Download a copy here.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Developing and accrediting personal skills and competencies

Futurelab is an organisation that aims to develop innovative resources and practices that support new approaches to learning for the 21st century.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) commissioned Futurelab to carry out a review and consultation project which aimed to:

  • draw together a review of current projects and initiatives which provide insights into different approaches to developing young people’s skills and competencies (broadly classified as ‘21st century skills’) through non-subject led approaches
  • identify how these different approaches might be developed and supported at a national level by QCA
  • make recommendations as to assessment and accreditation practices which could be used to promote and develop personal skills and competencies.

The project ran between January and March 2007 and comprised desk research, meetings and interviews with lead practitioners. They have produced a report that provides guidelines and strategies for delivering and accrediting the Personal Learning and Thinking Skills that are a key part of the new curriculum at KS3 and beyond.

Download the report by clicking here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Character strengths and virtues for the learning age

Professor Guy Claxton has written a stimulating article on the subject of personalised learning and has outlined what he considers to be the eight character strengths and virtues for the learning age that we should be encouraging in schools. Read it here.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Young, gifted and talented

The YG&T website, produced by the DSCF, provides information and resources to help support gifted learners, their parents/carers, educators, governors and local authorities. The site aims to inspire, encourage and motivate learners and staff with stimulating programmes and activities, as well as provide information, resources and new ways of learning.
Check out the resources for staff here.
To take full advantage of the site you will need to register.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Testing, testing

There's another article in the Guardian which questions the value of testing in motivating pupils or stimulating learning. Read it here.

The tricky issue of talent

There's an interesting article on the changes in provision for 'Gifted and Talented' pupils in the Guardian this week. Read it here.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Shift happens

This thought provoking presentation provides some of the reasons why the curriculum needs to change:

Gifted and talented subject resources

There are some subject based resources for Gifted and Talented pupils here and here.

Thanks to Uta Thomas for the links.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Formative assessment and Personalised Learning

There are a couple more stimulating programmes over at Teacher's TV on the subject of Formative Assessment.
There is a useful 15 minute introduction to the subject here.

There is a 30 minute programme here on how John Cabot Academy in Bristol is using Formative Assessment with ICT to promote Personalised Learning.

New Blooms

I've posted earlier about Bloom's taxonomy. I've recently discovered this version below which offers a variety of ways of interpreting the different stages.

To see a more legible version click on the image. To read more about it and to discover a next stage in the taxonomy go here.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

System redesign

Teacher's TV has produced a half hour programme that looks at how some different schools have redesigned their curriculum and pastoral systems to help deliver more personalised learning. You can view the video online here.
If you're not familiar with how to view the programme online, just click where it says Windows Media to the right of the main image.

There are some more resources on the subject available here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Practical approaches to gifted and talented education

Whether you are a co-ordinator, a teacher or a parent, Teacher Tools provides a range of resources and advice on all aspects of gifted and talented education.
Check it out here.

Thanks to Uta Thomas for the link.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Learning Futures: Next Practice in Learning and Teaching

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, in partnership with The Innovation Unit, are promoting an exciting project that aims to look at Next Practices in curricular or cross-curricular models of learning and pedagogy.
They have published a booklet that sets out the reasons why innovation in pedagogy is needed in order to inspire young people, and enable all of them confidently to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. It argues that some key emergent (and some well-known) practices, taken together, might transform learners' (and teachers') experience of schooling. Learning Futures proposes a way of thinking about these approaches. It is offered both as a contribution to the increasingly urgent debate and it also issues an invitation to secondary schools wishing to develop and extend their work in this direction more profoundly, to engage with the Learning Futures project, commencing in 2008.
You can download the booklet here.
Schools who are interested in participating in the project can sign up for one of two one day conferences. For further information go here.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Pupils respond to a teacher's marking

There is an interesting article here on how pupils respond to different approaches to marking.
One of the main conclusions is this:

I think that teachers sometimes forget that the first thing most pupils are looking for is reassurance that they are doing the right thing, and/or that we respect their efforts. Without that initial support, the formative comment can seem negative to the pupil. They can perceive being told what to do to reach the next level as criticism rather than support. ‘I thought I’d done really well and you’ve just written three things here which I need to do next time… I don’t understand.’

Thursday, 13 March 2008


There is a great deal of discussion at present about what makes an outstanding school so it may help to know that there are examples out there.

Ofsted has rated Outwood Grange College in Wakefield as Outstanding in all areas.
Read more about them at their website here.

They are currently adopting a two year KS3 and a three year KS4. To read more about their curriculum structure go here.

They are also adopting vertical tutor groups. To find out more about that go here.

To get a flavour of what the school does download a copy of their school magazine here.

Friday, 7 March 2008

50 tricks to get things done faster, better and more easily

There are some useful tips on this topic at this site along with lots of other ideas on how to make your working life run more smoothly

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Diploma support

With new Diploma courses coming along it's good to know that there is some online support for staff (thinking of) teaching them.

Check out this site.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Assessment resources from Suffolk

Suffolk is another LEA that is supporting it's schools by providing guidance and resources for Assessment online.
Check them out here.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Google for schools - Part 1

We are all familiar with Google as a means to search the internet.
What you may not know is that Google offers a far wider range of applications and resources, many of which are designed to be used in schools.

You can find an introduction to what they offer here.

You will find lesson plans, tutorials, tips on using Google Earth in class and the chance to share information with other teachers.
The main focus seems to be on the Humanities at present but hopefully other resources will follow.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

YouTube for schools

I discovered this initiative in the SST Arts Newsletter:
Two teachers in Victoria, Australia have tapped into the popularity of sites such as YouTube and MySpace and developed a website that allows schools and students to upload digital audio visual content in a safe and secure environment.
Teachers start by registering the school and their details. Once these are approved by the administrator, the students can then upload a/v content into the teacher’s inbox for approval to be published.
The concept developed out of Thornbury High School’s Class TV, a community television show on Melbourne’s channel 31. Class TV is part of mainstream curriculum and runs as a middle school elective. The students have created over 110 weeks of television since September 2005. The show is ongoing and content is provided by over 30 schools across metropolitan Melbourne.
Class TV has official TV ratings of between 30,000 and 40,000 viewers weekly. The show provides an authentic learning opportunity for young people with a known audience. Rather than creating work in an abstract environment, as classes tend to do, the students have a real-world context and outcome.
Schools across the UK are welcome to participate and are invited to visit the site.

A touch of CLASS

Creative Learning And Specialist Subjects (CLASS) is an initiative from the Specialist Schools Trust that aims to support and celebrate creative approaches to teaching and learning. As they write at their website:
In the creative classroom, children find their own pathways through the world of learning. In these pages you will find examples of how our creative learning lead practitioners have made this happen in their own schools. You will also learn how you can develop similar work in your own schools and classrooms, as well as links to all kinds of useful web sites and organisations which can help to get you started.

Find out more here.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Managing behaviour

With the new emphasis on Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning it's as good a time as any to relect on effective strategies for managing pupils' behaviour. There are a great number of resources at the Teaching Expertise site, here.

There are more links and resources at this site which is produced by the University of Northampton. Thanks to Peter Leaver for the link.

I haven't had a chance to check out all these resources but I couldn't resist the opportunity to post on 29th February.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Teaching resources from Essex

Essex is another county that has created a website for their schools to allow them to share good practice rather than letting individual teachers or schools try and go it alone.
There are subject specific resources as well as materials that address more general issues.
Check it out here.

Education links

If you want a 'one stop shop' for your links to education websites, general and subject specific, then try TeacherXpress.

Develop your teaching practice using ICT

There are some online resources available on the Teachernet website to help teachers develop their use of ICT in their subject areas. Find out more here.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

A call for sanity?

An insightful speaker raised a massive cheer from the audience at an education conference this week.
Professor Richard Pring urged everyone to stop talking about "delivery" in education and to return to talking about "teaching". His point was that education has been taken over by an "Orwellian language" which has started to control the way we think and act.
You can read more about this call for sanity in Mike Baker's report here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

"High quality culture" for all students

There is a report today on the BBC news website of the latest Government initiative: to promote pupils' access to "at least five hours of high-quality culture per week". This could mean rich and exciting times ahead for those of us who teach Arts subjects - however the devil is in the detail. To find out what other teachers are saying about this try here - or share your own opinions in the comments below.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Personalised learning - Scottish style

Scotland is leading the way again in the use of Progress Files to help pupils monitor and advance their own progress. Details here.

Bloom's taxonomy

There has been a focus in discussion on the use of Bloom's taxonomy to structure questioning and other activities in the classroom. There are some guidelines here.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

AfL training opportunities in Northants

There are opportunities for staff to network with colleagues from other schools in the county over the year ahead, with a focus on Assessment for Learning. Details here.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Continuing Professional Develoment

The General Teaching Council offers support and guidance for teachers' CPD in a number of forms including a relatively new initiative, the Teacher Learning Academy. Details can be found here.

Peer Observation

Many teachers, myself included, have benefitted greatly from being observed informally by their peers. There are some guidelines and case studies on peer observation here.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

Teachers have always contributed to Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL), often, but not always, in a positive way.
We are now required to address these issues more consciously.

There is guidance to be found on this topic here.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

CLL welcomes new readers

A warm welcome to staff who are visiting this blog for the first time.
The blogs contains resources that offer support in a number of areas.
You can search by topic using the Labels on the bottom right of the page to select the relevant posts.

My hope is that other staff will post items here, as one of the key qualities of blogs is their use for networking. It involves little more than typing.
You can also comment on posts and enter into discussion or debate with other posters.

Blogs are being increasingly used by teachers as a resource with students. Teachers post resources to support classwork or revision and students can respond with questions or comment.
Other blogs feature work by students to which teachers and other students can offer comments and advice. One GCSE History student received a positive comment on his essay on 19th Century US History from a Native American who had discovered the work on Google. Language teachers are using blogs to encourage communication between students in different countries.

If you would like advice on how to set up a blog please contact me.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Assessment for Learning: 8 schools project

The Assessment for Learning: 8 schools project was an action research project (July 2005– October 2006) initiated by the Education Department which sought to identify what helps pupils develop as motivated and effective learners and how AfL can be successfully developed whole school (through professional dialogue and collaborative working with teachers, school leaders and LAs). The project yielded evidence that assessment for learning improves pupil progress over the short and medium term and impacts on standards in the longer term.
Download the report here.
Here are two of the key findings:

AfL practice is most successfully developed where teachers work collaboratively within and across departments, share their practice and learn from what they and their peers do well. Change is most effective when there is a sustained professional dialogue between teaching staff and between staff and their pupils. In planning change, consideration needs to be given to establishing mechanisms for encouraging and facilitating this dialogue.

A secure and shared understanding of what effective AfL practice ‘looks like’ is essential for teachers to be able to reflect and develop their practice and for leaders to be able to help them do this. Isolated pockets of good practice can be developed by individual teachers but, for AfL to have significant impact, development needs to be whole school. Everyone, especially senior and middleleaders, must continue to develop a more insightful understanding of AfL.

Personalised Learning

Guidance and resources on Personalised learning, including AfL here.

School blog

There's another example of a blog here - which allows students to contribute and discuss a variety of topics.

Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills

Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS)are an integral part of the new KS3 curriculum.
A wide range of resources including more video clips on how to develop and support the development of these skills can be found at the same site where the videos in the post below come from. Check them out here.

Dylan Wiliam AfL videos

Another link to a Scottish site here where you can find video clips of Professor Dylan Wiliam talking about the potential of AfL.
The video clips take a while to download. I used right click on the download option at the bottom of the small screen to watch it in a new screen or you can click on the small arrow and wait.
If I can I'll aim to put these on the blog at a later date.

Monday, 28 January 2008

AfL training resources

Ashdown Technology College has the a page that allows you to download the original Education department training resources on AfL for each Curriculum Area, plus more besides here.
You can also download a powerpoint presentation here which explains the virtues and principles of AfL.
Thanks to Zoe Newbery for the links.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Testing, motivation and learning

One last post for today - and that is a link that allows you to download the report pictured left from the Assessment Report Group which is a summary of a systematic review of research on the impact of summative assessment and testing on pupils' motivation for learning and its implications for assessment policy and practice.

Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute, Day by Day

This is the title of another article on how and why to use assessment for learning in the classroom.

A quote:
What we need is a shift from quality control in learning to quality assurance. Traditional approaches to instruction and assessment involve teaching some given material, and then, at the end of teaching, working out who has and hasn't learned it—akin to a quality control approach in manufacturing. In contrast, assessment for learning involves adjusting teaching as needed while the learning is still taking place—a quality assurance approach. Quality assurance also involves a shift of attention from teaching to learning. The emphasis is on what the students are getting out of the process rather than on what teachers are putting into it...

Peer assessment in action

The Guardian published this article on Peer Assessment three years ago. It shows the potential of Peer Assessment and other strategies to improve learning and raise achievement.

AfL in Scotland

I posted last month about how Scotland has been leading the way in developing new curriculum models. They are also setting standards in the use of Assessment for Learning. Check out this website for resources, guidance and case studies in the use of assessment.

Does assessment hinder learning?

There are some excellent insights in this talk by Professor Dylan Wiliam, one of the original authors of 'Inside the Black Box', on the need for the effective use of assessment to support and encourage learning. Wiliam argues:
If we are to design assessment systems that help rather than hinder learning, we must go beyond looking at the assessments themselves and look at deeper issues about how the assessments help learners and their teachers know where the learners are in their learning, where they are going, and how to get there.

Here are some quotes:
One of the great traps of teaching is the belief that teachers create learning. This is particularly important when teachers are under pressure to improve student results, because studies have shown that when teachers are told they are responsible for making sure that their students do well, the quality of their teaching deteriorates, as does their students’ learning (Deci et al. 1982), hence the old joke about schools being places where children go to watch teachers work.

As a result of their experiences, some students come to believe that ability is fixed. The reason that this is so injurious to future learning is that every time a student with this belief is faced with a challenging task, her or his first reaction is to engage in a calculation about whether they are likely to succeed or not. If they feel confident that they will succeed, or if they feel confident that the task is so hard that many others will fail, they will attempt the task. However, if they feel that there is a danger that they will fail while others will succeed, they will disengage in order to protect their sense of self. Put simply, they are deciding that they would rather be thought lazy than stupid. Given the stark choice between these two, it is the same choice that most adults would make.

Wiliam asks us to imagine:
what would happen if an airline pilot navigated the way that most teachers teach. The pilot would set a course from the starting point (say London) to the destination (say New York). The pilot would then fly on this heading for the calculated time of travel, and then, when that time had elapsed, would land the ’plane at the nearest airport, and upon landing ask “Is this New York?” Worse, even if the ’plane had actually landed in Boston, the pilot would require all the passengers to leave, because he had to get on to his next job.
This would be absurd, and yet, this is how most teachers teach. They teach a topic for two or three weeks, and at the end of that teaching, they assess their students. And whatever the result of that assessment, the teacher is then on to the next topic, because she “has a syllabus to cover”. If we are to ‘keep learning on track’ assessment cannot wait until the end of the topic. Instead, like the pilot, the teacher plans a course but then takes frequent readings along the way, adjusting the course as conditions dictate.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Teaching and learning styles

I'm reading 'Dombey and Son' by Charles Dickens at the moment and as a big fan of his work I'm enjoying it immensely.
As is often the case, his observations on society then seem strangely relevant still . Paul Dombey (the son of the novel) gets sent to school at the age of six, where he is expected to be force fed the requisite skills and knowledge for a future Captain of Industry. Dickens contrasts the 'teaching style' of his first teacher there, Miss Blimber, with that of Paul's sister Florence. At their first lesson Miss Blimber presents Paul with a pile of books which he is asked to digest while she leaves him alone, asking him when she returns:

`Now, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber. `How have you got on with those books?'

They comprised a little English, and a deal of Latin--names of things, declensions of articles and substantives, exercises thereon, and preliminary rules--a trifle of orthography, a glance at ancient history, a wink or two at modern ditto, a few tables, two or three weights and measures, and a little general information. When poor Paul had spelt out number two, he found he had no idea of number one; fragments whereof afterwards obtruded themselves into number three, which slided into number four, which grafted itself on to number two. So that whether twenty Romuluses made a Remus, or hic haec hoc was troy weight, or a verb always agreed with an ancient Briton, or three times four was Taurus a bull, were open questions with him.

`Oh, Dombey, Dombey!' said Miss Blimber, `this is very shocking.'

Paul's older sister Florence, in contrast, buys copies of his textbooks herself:

With these treasures then, after her own daily lessons were over, Florence sat down at night to track Paul's footsteps through the thorny ways of learning; and being possessed of a naturally quick and sound capacity, and taught by that most wonderful of masters, love, it was not long before she gained upon Paul's heels, and caught and passed him.

Not a word of this was breathed to Mrs. Pipchin: but many a night when they were all in bed, and when Miss Nipper, with her hair in papers and herself asleep in some uncomfortable attitude, reposed unconscious by her side; and when the chinking ashes in the grate were cold and grey; and when the candles were burnt down and guttering out;--Florence tried so hard to be a substitute for one small Dombey, that her fortitude and perseverance might have almost won her a free right to bear the name herself.

And high was her reward, when one Saturday evening, as little Paul was sitting down as usual to `resume his studies,' she sat down by his side, and showed him all that was so rough, made smooth, and all that was so dark, made clear and plain, before him. It was nothing but a startled look in Paul's wan face--a flush--a smile--and then a close embrace--but God knows how her heart leapt up at this rich payment for her trouble.

I quote this as illustration of something I have to remind myself from time to time; that it is not enough to present pupils with information and assume they will understand and appreciate it for themselves because of some inherent value in that information. Our role as teachers is 'to make all that is rough smooth and all that is dark plain', to explain things in terms that children understand so that they can then use that information for themselves.

What makes a good teacher?

Some of the best minds in the field of British education have been thinking this over and have recently presented their findings.

Professor Patricia Broadfoot, a former Professor of Education and now vice-chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, argued that the evidence from international studies showed that "the highest quality teaching and learning comes when we have the greatest autonomy for the teacher and the learner".

Professor Debra Myhill, from Exeter University, argued that while good subject knowledge and intellectual ability were both important, they were not "sufficient" to be a good teacher.

The crucial ingredient, she argued, was a teacher's ability to reflect on his or her own performance and then to change it.

The third expert is Professor Mary James, from the Institute of Education. One of her top 10 requirements was that the teacher should "promote the active engagement of the learner".

Citing studies that showed the academic gains from children working collaboratively in groups, she argued: "If learners are not involved in their learning, they do not learn".

Read more about the report here.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Ten ways to use your blog to teach

How can you use blogs to support your teaching?
Read this.

Monday, 21 January 2008

We are not alone

Lead Practitioners at Campion are part of a wider community of colleagues in other schools. To find out what they are up to and maybe to consider sharing (y)our own practice go to this site.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Language resource blog

Check out this example of a blog featuring podcasts by pupils explaining French grammar.
This site is produced by Joe Dale on the Isle of Wight. He has a blog that offers practical tips and advice on using ICT to enhance the teaching of modern foreign languages.
Consider this as a model for our students to produce work (in written form if audio seems too daunting) that not only provides evidence of their own learning but can also support the learning of others.

What in the world makes a good school?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) commissioned a report last year to investigate why some countries' school systems are more successful than others.
The report confirmed that the three main factors were:
1: Getting the right people to become teachers
2: Developing them into effective instructors
3: Ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child
That might seem like stating the obvious but sometimes the obvious gets forgotten.
Factor 1 includes ensuring that pay and conditions need to be attractive to the best graduates. Politicians please note.
Factor 2 includes supporting the continued professional development of teachers , something we Lead Practitioners are contributing to.
Factor 3 includes the effective monitoring of progress within the school, celebrating success and addressing weaknesses.
You can read the report here and some commentary on it here.

Thursday, 17 January 2008


As a specialist Language school Campion has past experience of collaborating with schools from other countries.
The British Council has introduced the eTwinning scheme to encourage collaboration using the internet. Pupils can work on joint projects and share their results on the web.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Teachers as innovators

This was the title of the talk given by Dan Sutch from Futurelab and Doug Belshaw (mentioned in a previous entry) at the BETT 2008 show at Olympia on Saturday 12th January. It was a stimulating presentation that raised all kinds of possibilities - such as students using blogs to present and organise their coursework.
The content for Dan's talk can be found here and Doug's talk can be found here.

Doug has now combined most of his blogs into one site apart from his Educational Technology Consultancy business.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Competency based curriculum down under

It's encouraging to see that the debate about what a new competency based curriculum might look like is an international one, as this site from Queensland in Australia indicates. They have been trialling a new approach since 2003 and have some guidelines that could be a useful model for developing practice in the UK.

As far as I can tell this initiative has links to the Learning by Design project which took/takes place across Australia and Malaysia.