Week commencing 24 October, 2014

Our guest blog reviewer of the week is Harry Fletcher-Wood, a secondary history teacher and head of teacher professional development (@HFletcherWood)

Why Girls Tend to Get Better Grades Than Boys Do by Enrico Gnaulati

“Teachers and parents need to be reminded of a well-kept secret,” Gnaulati begins. “Across all grade levels and academic subjects, girls earn higher grades than boys.” Why is this? What should be done? Compellingly summarising research on “conscientiousness”, the author notes that girls display a level of self-discipline on entering kindergarten a year ahead of that shown by boys. I found the diagnosis convincing, the proposed remedy, focusing on American grading practices, less so.

A plea for the return of complexity and nuance to education policy by @DisIdealist

From varied critiques of educational policy, the Disappointed Idealist identifies a theme: the absence of nuance, no matter who’s in charge. He examines the limitations and inconsistencies of Department for Education evaluations of effectiveness, how Ofsted rates schools and the division of pedagogy into “traditional” and “progressive”, highlighting the limitations of each. In concluding, he pleads for “the replacement of groundless assertion in education policy-making and debate, with what the A-level history syllabus would recognise as evaluation – the nuanced avoidance of simplistic conclusions”.

The Tragedy of Commons by From the ‘Teaching-Personally’ blog (anonymous)

A tragedy of commons occurs when people choose what’s best for them individually, but the effect of their choices makes society worse off. The author uses this to explain how the actions of a few teachers seeking to stand out from the crowd can raise the pressure on everyone. Arguing that changes start with teachers themselves, and resolving “to plough my own furrow”, the post is an important read for anyone struggling with workload.

How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math by @barbaraoakley

Barbara Oakley, a professor of engineering, describes herself as a “textbook example of the potential for adult neural plasticity”. In this fascinating post, she explains how techniques that allowed her to master Russian – practising every conceivable tense of a verb, for example – helped her to retrain as an engineer. “Teachers,” she warns, “can inadvertently set their students up for failure as those students blunder in illusions of competence” by promoting understanding without fluency. What enabled her to succeed, in Russian and maths alike, was going beyond understanding to internalise what she learned.

This much I know about improving both my teaching and my students’ learning by @johntomsett

It’s always a delight to see headteachers model reflection and improvement of their teaching; John Tomsett is a past master. He explains how he has combined “a forensic analysis of our students’ results … our understanding of the combinations of flesh and blood that produced those results, and copious amounts of our own wisdom and judgment” to alter his A-level economics lessons this year. Focusing on helping students recognise the economic theories underlying superficially different questions, this post shares his presentation to colleagues and a video of his own teaching.

When the Going Gets Tough: Six Weeks In by @cnell91

Honest blogs from new teachers open my eyes to aspects of school life I’ve lost sight of, or never noticed. Miss Nell’s gratitude note recounts what has kept her going during her first term. Perhaps we can take inspiration from the support that she’s received and her response: “I’ve got my mind set on getting through to half term, and I do honestly believe that things are going to get better.”

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