Review by Helena Marsh

Executive principal of Linton Village College and Chilford Hundred Education Trust

7 Mar 2020, 5:00


Helena Marsh’s top edu blogs of the week, 02 March 2020

Hacking memory, non-negotiables, promoting women into leadership, questioning as a leadership tool and the campaign to pause Ofsted are the top picks of the education topics by this week’s guest blog reviewer Helena Marsh


How to remember anything, forever


In this concise blog, Daisy muses on the forgetting curve and the power that technology has to aid spaced repetition. While most teachers recognise the importance of revisiting learning for retention, Daisy highlights the importance of ensuring optimum timing for review. She recommends the potential of technological algorithms, such as the flashcard app, Anki. Rather than creating and using revision resources at the end of a programme of study, she endorses a model whereby key knowledge could be captured en route and regularly presented to students to revisit knowledge and make connections with their current learning. The creation of an individual electronic flashcard library throughout secondary education certainly has the potential to be a very powerful educational tool.


Lions sit on irons: the curse of the pedagogical non-negotiables


The blog’s title, borrowed from a whimsical poem, indicates the absurdity of the trend in school leadership to mandate trendy classroom practices. Using a range of now out-dated pedagogical examples (Bloom’s differentiated learning objectives anyone?), Sarah Barker problematises the tendency to attempt to create a whole-school teaching-and-learning blueprint. She highlights the irresistibility of creating compulsory approaches and the flaws in attempting to force ideas into policy. While recognising the value of some consistent routines, Sarah critiques a tick-list approach to pedagogy that undermines professional judgment and waters down the quality of teaching. Instructional methods may be the current craze, but we must ensure they don’t become the next victims of shoe-horning and imposition.


Women leading with confidence


Hannah Wilson shares the highlights from her keynote presentation for the DfE programme of the same name, reflecting on the delegates’ reticence to articulate their career ambitions with confidence, and providing universally useful job application tips. Wilson’s advice ranges from the importance of clarifying your leadership values when choosing a school, to practical suggestions about preparing for the day and negotiating terms when offered a role. She emphasises the valuable professional learning experience an interview can be, regardless of the outcome. The blog distils a good deal of common sense and lived experience and serves as a reminder of differences in approach that can influence a candidate’s success in securing promotion. A helpful read for those in the throes of job hunting.


Leading questions


In this blog, Jonathan Mountstevens encourages us to see the power of questioning as a leadership tool and shares the impact that carefully posed questions can have in line-management meetings. He identifies three main purposes of powerful leadership questions: to elicit thought, to learn from the answers, and to hold people to account. Through a range of examples, Mountstevens demonstrates how precise and thoughtfully worded questions can probe into the quality of curriculum, assessment and teaching and learning. He also warns against the kinds of questioning that can be damaging, misleading and counterproductive. This considered blog provides a useful means for leaders to reflect on established line-management practices. Expert questioning is already a key facet of effective teaching, and it prompts us to recognise its importance in conversations with colleagues, too.


Viewing Ofsted from the inside and out


Guest blogger for the Headteachers’ Roundtable, Julie Price-Grimshaw shares her perspective on the #PauseOfsted campaign, as someone with experience of both inspecting and being inspected. She reflects on how the organisation has evolved from its advance-notice, lengthy Section 10 inspections of the 90s to snappier Section 5s in the Noughties. She notes that despite the good intentions of each HMCI to address the issues inherent in legacy frameworks, the reality is that the inspectorate’s ambitions have become unwieldy and subject to inconsistent application. With many questions about Ofsted’s role as a regulator and the unintended consequences that undermine its “improvement through inspection” mantra, namely its belittling, exasperating and demoralising impact, Price-Grimshaw deftly argues for a professional pause to rethink and reframe an accountability system that currently requires improvement.

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