Guest reviewer Andrew Old shares his top picks from the education blogosphere this week.
Peer marking is not effective, this post argues, apart from saving time marking short-answer tests and going through one piece of work with the entire class. Students do not yet know enough to be effective markers, and that is why they are in class in the first place. “They are apprentices, not journeymen, never mind master craftsmen.”
How do bad ideas about assessment lead to workload problems?
Daisy Christodoulou has been using her blog to discuss her recently published book on assessment. In this post she describes how some of the bad ideas about assessment, particularly reliance on prose descriptors, are also bad for teacher workload. Short-answer and multiple-choice questions can be used more effectively in assessment than teachers realise – and they save time.
We are not elite cyclists
Since the 2012 Olympics there has been an interest in borrowing the idea of “marginal gains” from the world of cycling for use in education. These are small changes that would allow small improvements. This post discusses whether world-class cycling is an appropriate model for where we are as teachers. The author observes that, unlike in the highly competitive world of top cyclists, teachers still have large gains available to them by concentrating on some of the central aspects of teaching.
This post considers whether teachers would benefit from admitting their mistakes. The author says that he had been told never to admit a mistake or apologise to parents. He discusses whether this ethos is harmful to the profession. “Apologising requires some courage, particularly where there is a worry that such an apparent admittance of weakness may be exploited – but by working on that assumption we tar everyone with the same adversarial brush. In fact, admitting an error is a demonstration of strength that in the vast majority of cases will resolve an issue quickly – and in the long run we are all the worse-off for the failure to accept as much.”
Managers in schools tend to say they want to listen to staff, even when they don’t. The author of this post describes meetings in which people end up trying to guess what the meeting’s chair wants them to say. He suggests that it would be easier if chairs gave their opinions up front, rather than hoping to manipulate a discussion in the right direction.
The secret of my (maths) success
Heather Fearne, who taught maths to her own children, firmly advocates giving priority to teaching fluency, rather than thinking children can be taught to understand more complicated maths problems without first becoming able to work fluently with the constituent parts of the problems.
Boring but important
Alex Quigley argues that not everything can be immediately interesting in itself and that it may be important for students to change their attitude to learning what might seem boring: “Students who can better manage their boredom are more likely to succeed as they can sustain their practice, whereas an appeal to endless engagement can see students succumb to distraction and ultimately suffer.”
Should teaching methods be prescribed?
One of the limits to discussions of teaching methods is the assumption that if you argue against a teaching method you think it should be banned, or if you recommend another, it should be compulsory. Michael Fordham argues that teachers need autonomy to teach as they wish, but not unlimited autonomy.