Review by Andrew Old

27 May 2018, 5:00


Top blogs of the week 21 May 2018

Reviewer Andrew Old shares his top education blogs this week

Annoying things controlling schools still do that have no basis in evidence

As the title suggests, this post looks at what schools do even when there is no reason to believe they will help. This includes grading individual lessons, writing target grades on books and requiring a set frequency of written marking comments. A sensible case is made against each annoying thing.


Rethinking planning – what if we plan not to finish?

This post contains a seemingly obvious idea that I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else suggest before (although many teachers, including myself, have often ended up doing it). It suggests that you should plan around activities that do not have to be finished in the lesson where they were began. An activity can last for as long as it is needed, and students are forced to re-engage with previous lessons, which benefits retention of knowledge.


The recent story of me

A former headteacher explains how he came to leave his position and why he chose to return to the classroom. It is a brave post with remarkable honesty about how being a headteacher did not work out: “The job is incredibly difficult to get right, and is getting harder by the year. I remain in awe of so many of the headteachers and senior leaders I have met or worked with in my career. If I can ask one thing at the end of this blog, it is that we all take a few moments to consider the skill, passion, care, determination and dedication that the senior leaders in our schools show.”


The best form of feedback is more teaching

An exploration of the meaning and derivation of the term “feedback”, which explains how feedback that is aimed solely at students is likely to fail. A student’s work is not simply a product of what an individual did, but a product of the whole process of teaching and learning. Therefore it is more important to gather feedback that can inform teaching, than to tell a student what they did wrong.


Listen: Teachers can use more signalling to increase their clarity

A few simple ideas for good, clear explanations. Ideas include “signposting” what you are going to say and using written cues for drawing students attention to what they need to know.


Hands down! Why we shouldn’t allow pupils to ask questions whenever they 
want to

This post makes a case for limiting when students can ask questions. It describes how questions can sometimes derail lessons or distract from learning. It makes a number of suggestions as to how the pitfalls of answering student questions can be avoided, for instance, by not allowing pupils to raise their hands while somebody else is asking a question, or giving a particular slot in the lesson for questions.


The ethics of “teaching to exams”

A recent article in The Economist suggested that some social divisions can be explained in terms of differences between those who have passed exams and those who have not. This maths teacher explores this point further, arguing that if exams have a serious effect on opportunities, then teaching your students to pass exams is not some tedious distraction from the important parts of teaching, but a moral obligation.


Something that helped with killing the PRP Monster

Amy Forrester introduced me to an idea I haven’t heard before: performance-related pay in her school revolves around teachers completing a personal professional development project. Teachers explore a change in their teaching, judge the impact of it, and write up what they found out. She argues it has improved teaching and teacher retention.

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