Week commencing 6 October, 2014

Our guest reviewer of the week is Andrew Old, teacher and blogger @oldandrewuk


Character, Resilience and Grit by @thegoldencalfre

An RE blogger turns his attention to the recent fashion, endorsed by Nicky Morgan and Tristram Hunt, of directly attempting to teach character in schools. He argues that: “Whilst character development within schools is unquestionably important, Morgan’s belief that the government can encourage it to happen meaningfully is not only optimistic, but also requires her to navigate dangerous obstacles.” He claims that good schools already teach character implicitly and argues that doing so deliberately could be a distraction from more academic aims. He also suggests the pitfalls of trying to teach character directly.

My defection to FE: Notable differences by @gwenelope

This blogpost by a former secondary teacher who is now an FE lecturer describes the many differences between her old and new job. These cover how her employer is organised; extent and nature of her workload; the level of autonomy she has, and the attitude of her students. She concludes: “In short, it’s damn lovely. I am still busy, but I am more productive because I am less stressed, much, much, much less stressed. I wish I’d done this years ago.”

To plan or not to plan? Please RT as there are misconceptions by @cherrylkd

In this blogpost, a senior manager of a special school responds to her discovery (via Twitter) that there are teachers who have to hand their lesson plans in every week, before they teach. This led her to the further discovery that many teachers still believe that Ofsted will ask to see lesson plans when they inspect a school. While defending the principle that teachers should be planning their lessons, the author argues that, if managers trust their teaching staff to do their job, such checks are unnecessary and likely to waste time that could be used in ways that would actually improve teaching.

Can you be too independent? by @learningspy

Probably the most controversial of my selection, an education consultant describes how he was let go by a consultancy firm. He received in writing the news that other consultants were complaining about [his] “attitudes, actions and behaviour” and the possibility that he could be having a “negative effect” on the organisation. He questions who could have complained, what he could have done to deserve it, and whether his scepticism about certain educational ideas could have been a factor. He concludes that the most likely cause for their parting of the ways is the development of ideological differences with his colleagues.

Bridging the Gap to A-level by @mathsjem

This post by a maths teacher describes the problems of moving from GCSE to A-level. It points out that many students with grade B at GCSE, who could have got as little as 48 per cent in their exam, struggle with the demands of A-level. The deficiencies of maths GCSE as it currently stands are discussed and it is claimed that: “The problem is that GCSE grades currently do not give us a clear indication of who is suitable for A-level maths and who isn’t.” The writer suggests strategies and resources that can be used to help students who might struggle and to make them understand the greater demands of A-level.

Group Work by @websofsubstance

This is a very sceptical analysis of the desirability of groupwork as a teaching method. It covers many of the arguments and evidence for its effectiveness, including its likely effects on student motivation. Observing some of the common problems with groupwork, and that even some of its advocates acknowledge that certain conditions have to apply for it to be effective, the writer concludes that: “The value of group work has been exaggerated and the resulting ubiquity of poor-quality group work should be a serious cause for