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Using threshold concepts to think about curriculum design

2015-11-09T20:10:49+01:00November 8th, 2015|planning|

Thank you so much to everyone who helped out, presented, turned up on a wet Saturday or just joined in from afar on our creaky Livestream (I'm particularly devastated that Professor Ray Land's keynote will be lost to posterity!) I will, in due course, write something which pulls together the experience of organising Saturday's #researchED's first subject-specific conference, but for now, here are the slides you've all been clamouring for (actually no one has asked, but in case you were vaguely interested.) What if everything you knew about curriculum design was wrong? from David Didau You can also watch me try [...]

Using Threshold Concepts to design a KS4 English curriculum

2015-05-02T10:19:22+01:00March 24th, 2015|English|

The big change a-coming for curriculum design is that the final vestiges of modularity will soon have been licked clean from the assessment spoon; from September it will linearity all the way. Many English teachers have never worked in such a system and there's widescale panic about how exactly we can expect children to retain the quantity of textual information they will need to know in order to have something to analyse in a closed book exam. An obvious solution is to redesign your curriculum to harness what we know about the best ways of getting students to remember stuff. I've written [...]

How to be an English teacher: designing an English PGCE

2017-07-22T07:41:24+01:00July 22nd, 2017|Featured|

From September I will be teaching a small group of prospective English teachers what I think they need to know in order to do a decent job as part of the new BPP University PGCE course. I was very flattered to be asked to be involved, particularly as I have no special expertise and no track record at all in higher education, but thrilled beyond reason at the idea of designing the kind of course I wish I'd be on when I trained to be a teacher back in the 90s. Whilst I wouldn't go as far as to claim that [...]

Are teachers cursed with knowledge?

2016-09-05T12:58:17+01:00September 5th, 2016|Featured|

The Curse of Knowledge: when we are given knowledge, it is impossible to imagine what it's like to LACK that knowledge. Chip Heath, Made to Stick How much do teachers need to know? In my last post I proposed that an effective teacher - one who is warm, friendly and a great speaker - is minimally effective if they have nothing to teach. The Dr Fox - or Ken Robinson Effect - shows that even though we love charismatic teachers, we don't learn much from them unless they are also knowledgeable about the subject they're teaching. Following a prolonged and protracted [...]

Why I struggle with learning objectives and success criteria

2019-08-02T12:21:08+01:00December 6th, 2015|learning|

A strenuous soul hates cheap success. Ralph Waldo Emerson Broadly, I’m in favour of sharing with students the intention behind what they are being asked to do. Anything that adds clarity to the murky business of learning is probably a good thing. However, an intention (or outcome, objective or whatever you want to call it) along the lines of To be able to [inset skill to be acquired or practised] or, To understand [whatever the hell the teacher wants her students to learn] is unlikely to be of much help. All too often our learning intentions are lesson menus; here is [...]

November on The Learning Spy

2015-12-01T07:42:29+01:00December 1st, 2015|blogging|

Here's all the stuff I wrote last month. Knock yourself out. 3rd November Five techniques for overcoming overconfidence & improving decision-making - more wisdom from messrs Kahneman & Klein 4th November Tests don’t kill people - standardised tests are great but they seem to cause people to behave stupidly 5th November We don’t know what we don’t know: the uses of humility - I'm a big fan of humility. In fact, I think it's possibly the number 1 leadership quality 8th November Using threshold concepts to think about curriculum design - my attempt to ruin the researchEd English & Literacy gig in Swindon 9th November If writing is magic, grammar [...]

Comparison is easy

2018-11-11T21:10:35+01:00November 19th, 2015|assessment, English|

The basis for poetry and scientific discovery is the ability to comprehend the unlike in the like and the like in the unlike. Jacob Bronowski Judging the quality of a thing in isolation is hard. Is this wine good? What about this restaurant? This cheese? This television programme? This child’s essay? But just because we’re bad at making meaningful judgements doesn’t mean we’re aware of experiencing any uncertainty. Uncertainty is uncomfortable and as cognitive psychologist and psychophysicist (who knew that was a thing?) Donald Laming puts it, "In such a state of mind people are unable to resist extraneous suggestion." The [...]

Can we make learning permanent?

2015-08-31T21:32:07+01:00August 30th, 2015|learning, psychology|

How can we know whether a student has learned something? To answer that we need a working definition of what we mean by learning and the one I've come up with is tripartite; learning is composed of retention, transfer and change. In order to know whether something has been learned we should ask ourselves three questions: Will students still know this next week, next month, next year? Will students be able to apply what they have been learning in a new context? How will this transform a students’ understanding of the world? Of course, I can't prove that I'm right about [...]

researchED English & Literacy Conference

2015-07-08T20:37:09+01:00July 1st, 2015|English, research|

A few months ago I asked Tom Bennett if he'd be up for rubberstamping some sort of rEDx project (like TEDx but with brains) devoted to exploring the intersection between education research and English teaching and he came back, quick as a flash, with the suggestion that I organise an actual researchED spinoff. So, under the steadying hand and watchful eye of Helene Galdon-O'Shea, I have. When? Saturday 7th November 2015 Where? Swindon Academy (which is also where I'll be working next year.) What? The theme of the conference is exploring the intersection between 'what works' according to the research community [...]

Have you read the #WrongBook?

2015-06-24T14:54:50+01:00June 17th, 2015|Featured|

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. – Oliver Cromwell My new book is finally out! In it I pose the question, what if everything you know about education is wrong? Just to be clear, I’m not saying you, or anyone else is wrong, I’m just asking you to consider the consequences of being wrong. What would you do if your most cherished beliefs turned out to be mistaken? You see, I think we’re wrong a lot more than we’d like to accept. We have all sorts of perceptual and cognitive biases that prevent us from recognising [...]