Review by Andrew Old

18 Jun 2017, 5:00

Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 12 June 2017

Guest reviewer Andrew Old shares his top edu-blog picks from this week.


By @grumpyteacher17

This post addresses the question of whether citizenship should be mandatory in schools. The author starts from the position of being a hesitant “no”, fearing that he might have to teach it and that it would take away curriculum from more valuable subjects. However, he goes on to consider a number of arguments and accepts that he is sympathetic to the idea in principle.


Out-of-lesson behaviour
By @Rosalindphys

A physics teacher describes the system at her school for dealing with poor behaviour in the corridors at lunch and break time. The expectations, and the consequences for not meeting them, are made clear to all students. The procedure for dealing with those breaking the rules is also clear.

Importantly, it is convenient for teachers to carry out. She also explains why clear rules and procedures, including those outside of lessons, are better for learning and improve the culture and ethos of the school.


James R Flynn, ‘Does Your Family Make You Smarter?’
By razorbladeinthecandyfloss

As the title suggests, this is a review of the book ‘Does Your Family Make You Smarter?’ by James R. Flynn. This book claims that the right family environment can increase IQ by seven points, and the wrong environment can decrease it by nine points. The reviewer observes that this is quite an important result given that it is often assumed that IQ is determined by genes.


How standards remove the need for reason and evidence
By @greg_ashman

If you are a teacher, the chances are that at some point you will have seen a list of qualities, beliefs and dispositions that all teachers are meant to have. In this post, a teacher based in Australia gives a number of examples showing how official texts describing standards, the curriculum or best practice can often discourage teachers from questioning and debating ideas in education and instead impose a single perspective that, no matter how debateable, all teachers are meant to endorse.


Direct instruction transforms behaviour
By @AnthonyRadice1

This post makes the argument that one of the advantages of direct instruction: the use of explicit explanations and methodical practice, is that it improves behaviour. Direct instruction makes it clear that learning is not entertainment, nor a social activity, and it helps establish routines and sets expectations. It says: “If you want a calm, ordered classroom in which everyone can make progress, start using direct instruction.”


The one thing I wouldn’t bother doing…
By @BexN91

This post is about marking. Inevitably it describes what is actually worth doing when looking in books, and what wastes time but is done for the sake of those checking up on teachers. The writer wishes she was given more autonomy and trusted to do what she thinks best.


There’s no authority unless you hold the party line
By @mw_history

A TA who is about to train to be a teacher describes her efforts to enforce her school’s latest rule, only for the class teacher to ignore it a few minutes later. “So today, I learned something new,” she writes. “Want to improve behaviour? Make sure all the teaching staff are onside, and on message. For there is no authority unless we collectively hold the party line.”


No more Wonderland: six impossible things – part 1
By @stoneman_claire

This post is the start of a guide to ineffective teaching approaches that used to be part of the culture of seeking “outstanding” lessons. Ideas criticised include the higher order thinking skills in Bloom’s taxonomy, putting too much effort into entertaining activities, and preferring “facilitation” to actual teaching. The examples given are painful to read about, but also very familiar if you’ve been teaching long enough.

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