Review by Andrew Old

29 Apr 2018, 5:00

Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 23 April 2018

Blog reviewer Andrew Old shares his top edu-blogs this week


Step by step: Breaking learning down using behavioural psychology

By @HFletcherWood

In this post, my fellow Schools Week blog reviewer Harry Fletcher-Wood explains that if you are stuck up a climbing wall, you don’t need encouragement, you need step-by-step advice on where to put each hand and foot. He uses this analogy to illustrate how breaking tasks down is a useful principle when teaching in the classroom, explains the psychological principles behind this, and gives examples of how to do it.

Recipes for teachers: A cookbook for the exhausted educator

By @JamesTheo

Despite the title, this post does not contain any appealing recipes to try out. Instead it uses a cookbook format to describe in depressing if acutely observed detail the actual eating habits of the classroom teacher. I shuddered in recognition at descriptions of several disturbing items that can be found in any staffroom, like the “teacher’s iced tea” and the “fridge-aged salad”.

The role of forgetting as we learn

By @Nick_J_Rose

A former psychology teacher now working for the Institute for Teaching, Nick describes how our memories work. The post covers the difference between retrieval strength and storage strength, and the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve.

He explains that “information isn’t truly lost when we forget it, but a trace remains which can be potentially strengthened and consolidated”.

Progress 8 and ECDL

By @DataEducator

The ECDL is the European Computer Driving Licence qualification which has been criticised recently. The post points out the benefits of the qualification to some students, but explains the extent to which it has been used to inflate Progress 8 scores, due to its remarkably high points value. Students who were averaging less than a C in their GCSEs were counted as getting the equivalent of a grade A in this qualification, meaning that some schools only got their positive P8 score because of it.

Low expectations about Great Expectations: Why do we deny the working classes the very best literature?

By @MrNott117

This post is partly polemical and partly advice on what a good English literature curriculum looks like. The author argues that popular but undemanding books might have a place in primary school and in encouraging reading at home, but that every child deserves to experience great literature.

“We must expose students to the very greatest texts in the literature canon from an early age, so they can become steeped in the very best examples of using language, and fully understand the intertextuality between exceptional books,” he writes.

Can practicing retrieval help future learning?


This piece reminds us that memories are strengthened by the act of retrieving them, and adds the lesser-known fact that there is evidence that practising retrieval also aids learning in the future.

So far this has only really been shown in the laboratory, where learning and retrieval of random lists of words were mixed together, but it might well have classroom applications.

A culture of over-assistance?

By @Simple_Teacher

This post, by a primary school teacher, describes some of the dubious practices schools engage in to “assist” their students during their SATs exams. It describes how some rules are interpreted in curious ways, and sometimes rules are broken.

“The really sad thing about this is that it really is not benefiting the children,” it states.

The article that England’s chartered college will not print

By @greg_ashman

This controversial article argues that the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) has been wrong to emphasise a broad category of interventions described as “meta-cognition and self-regulation”.

Greg argues that the various teaching activities in this category have relatively little in common, and should not be judged as one and suggests that this shows flaws in the way the EEF researches teaching methods.

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