This post is a response to a recent suggestion by television presenter Ben Fogle that schools should teach confidence. Alex Quigley argues that, while developing confidence is a good thing, replacing time spent on academic subjects with confidence lessons is self-defeating, as academic success helps to build confidence. He argues that if you want to give students confidence, you should give them something to be confident about.
A PE teacher describes how he found himself, perhaps literally, out of his depth when having to teach swimming without a lifeguard. He took swimming lessons in his own time, and practised (a lot), to ensure that he was able to do his job better. “I now have no qualms about admitting to people I went on this journey. Anyone who ever makes you feel bad about trying to better yourself is a person you should try hard to distance yourself from.”
This post, focused on maths teaching, explains how the mind works, and how students can learn to problem-solve. The key is to be secure enough in your knowledge to be able to apply it without overloading working memory. So instead of teaching discrete lessons on problem-solving, it is best to teach content and introduce problems involving that content once students have mastered it.
According to Gary Jones, an advocate of evidence-based leadership in education, the evidence that suggests schools leaders can make a big difference by leading and participating in the training of their teachers is not as convincing as it first appears. The studies are all based in the US and mainly involve primary-age students and so might not apply to secondary schools, particularly in the UK.
An English teacher describes how she was initially sceptical about requiring her students to memorise, and be tested on, new vocabulary. “Everything I’d read, believed, told me that rote-learning vocabulary was a bad idea. It was far, far preferable to read widely, flag up new words, and allow children to just absorb them.” However, she was surprised to see a dramatic effect on her students’ writing.
Anthony Radice has been reading The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education by Dennis Hayes and Kathryn Ecclestone. He agrees with the book’s thesis that schools should not be trying to identify their students as being in need of therapeutic interventions. “This view of humanity pushes to one side the traditional view that we all have free will and reason, that we need to struggle to achieve anything, and that suffering is an ordinary part of human experience.”
There is an ongoing debate about the effects of exclusion on students. Maths teacher Greg Ashman is concerned that much of the evidence here assumes that correlation is causation. So, if a higher rate of exclusion is correlated with other problems, it must cause them. If those who have been excluded once are more likely to be excluded again, it is assumed that this is an effect of the exclusion. This is a basic error in interpreting statistics.