Guest reviewer Harry Fletcher-Wood takes us through this week’s best education blogs.
Let’s start back with something practical, theoretical and thoroughly helpful. David Didau has written a series of recent posts that whittle his extensive experience down to five principles. I’d recommend all of them, for new and experienced teachers alike, but I was particularly struck by this post on reading. While principles such as “just because students struggle to read doesn’t mean they’re thick” may seem painfully obvious, ensuring all our teaching takes account of them is a bigger challenge. Each bitesize principle – “comprehension depends on general knowledge” – encapsulates a wealth of research and thought, and demands a huge amount of our planning and teaching. His key point is that “knowing this stuff won’t magically make your students read better but, it will make you a more effective teacher.” Don’t miss out!
Why leadership training fails and what to do about it
By Michael Beer, Magnus Finnström, Derek Schrader
The authors describe “the great training robbery”. They discuss work they did in a company that had commissioned powerful training: a week of tasks, real-time feedback, a plan for taking the learning back to the organisation, and evidence that attitudes had changed. But an evaluation a couple of years later showed little had altered: participants had “found it impossible to apply what they had learned about teamwork and collaboration, because of a number of managerial and organisational barriers”. The key point is worth quoting at length: “Still, senior executives and their HR teams continue to pour money into training, year after year, in an effort to trigger organisational change. But what they actually need is a new way of thinking about learning and development. Context sets the stage for success or failure, so it’s important to attend to organisational design and managerial processes first and then support them with individual development tools such as coaching and classroom or online education.”.
To have strong teachers, we need strong principals
By Rachel Metz
In the same vein Rachel Metz notes that “school culture influences teacher satisfaction more than student demographics”. School leadership is the biggest factor affecting teachers’ overall job satisfaction, and their decisions to stay in teaching or not. She looks at a series of actions that can support school leaders: Charlotte Mecklenburg “invited high-performing principals to the highest need schools and, in exchange, gave them priority access to district resources, latitude in assembling their instructional teams, and autonomy over almost all school-level decisions”. Other suggestions include headteacher development, learning opportunities, school climate data, and, of course, money.
“Well done to everyone who got their A-level results last Thursday,” Bowman begins, “but particularly well done to everyone who did it the hard way.” She describes the barriers facing “students from working-class backgrounds who live in low-income areas like mine (Bradford)” in reaching university. “People like my friend, who was devastated after missing her offer from Durham – having been taught the wrong texts because there wasn’t an English teacher to teach her class.” Bowman details the head of sixth form’s advice – to do BTECs not A-levels as they’re easier: the pass rate “is way more important to the school than how well the students actually do”. She then discusses the PE teacher advising on university applications but keener on talking about football and the disruptive year 9 student sent into an A-level class, continuing to make motorbike noises until the teacher sent the A-level class away. “Let’s get angry about the kids who were devastated by missed offers after years of absent teachers, disruptive classes, terrible advice and schools who have been told to care more about passing BTECs than preparing them for the most competitive universities in the world.”