Review by Andrew Old

11 Feb 2018, 5:00

Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 5 February 2018

Blog reviewer Andrew Old shares his top picks from the edu-blogosphere this week


MFL could easily become the preserve of independent schools – despite the Ebacc

A teacher of languages notes a decline in the uptake of languages and suggests that the problem is Progress 8.

He argues that this is because the subject is difficult, but that should not count against it. “It annoys me that, thanks to an obsession with data, MFL could once again become the preserve of rich people who can afford independent schools, or pupils whose parents tell them to opt for it,” he writes.


When ‘observing’ crowds out teaching

This post by a primary teacher notes that teachers of early-years children often have to spend a lot of their time on “evidence gathering” which can include, and this seems bizarre, annotated photos of what children have been up to. The author argues that this is wasted time and is a distraction from teaching and asks why it is necessary for EYFS but not for year 1.


Primary literature: Telling stories

A secondary English teacher, who is now working with primary teachers, writes about “content-focused literature teaching”. This is where teaching “has as its goal the retention in long-term memory of the content of literature: its plots, characters and themes”.

This is not in place of other elements of reading, but is intended to encourage an appreciation of the stories and also indirectly improve comprehension.


Why can’t boys be… well, more like girls?

This post suggests that when schools start looking for explanations for why their girls might outperform their boys academically, they don’t jump to conclusions based on stereotypes, such as the innate superiority of girls, or that boys need a “boy-friendly” curriculum. It emphasises that some differences in data can be down to chance, and that there may be many other factors to look at.


Why are teachers invisible?

It’s remarkable how often public discussions of teaching take place without the involvement of any practising teachers. It’s not that academics, policymakers and politicians should have no role to play, but that an important perspective is being missed.

The author of this post argues that teachers are often prevented from expressing their views in public, and that this has led to the impression that it is normal and acceptable to exclude them from debate.


Mixed ability, sets, and streams – a teacher’s perspective

A former maths teacher describes his experiences of teaching mixed-ability classes.

His initial enthusiasm and appreciation of some advantages was worn out by being unable to meet the needs of the full range of abilities, despite excellent behaviour and small classes. “I felt that I couldn’t teach the top end to the limits of their potential, and I was consistently failing the bottom end, while the middle sorta chugged along relatively unnoticed,” he writes.


Hidden classroom routines

An experienced RE teacher explains how lessons go far more smoothly where students have been trained in routines that will enable learning. Routines may need to differ between subjects, and they will need to be enforced, but they make a huge difference.

Trainee teachers may not even realise that the behaviour of students in classes they observe has been supported by training in invisible, hidden routines that they now follow automatically.


Are most classic theories on education fundamentally flawed?

In this post, educationalist Pedro De Bruyckere discusses whether educational theories have a flaw in common with some economic theories in that they assume the existence of theoretical individuals who behave like nobody would in real life.

Can theories be built on “an image of perfect children while the children in your classroom don’t seem to be so perfect but human, widening the gap between theory and practice”?

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