Review by Jon Hutchinson

Assistant head, Reach Academy Feltham, and visiting fellow at Ambition Institute

6 Mar 2021, 5:00


Jon Hutchinson’s blogs of the week, 28 February 2021

A masterclass in timelines, asking better questions, coaching novices and experts, online learning and teacher-assessed grades are the themes of this week’s top blogs, chosen by Jon Hutchinson


A purposeful timeline display in and across Key Stage 2


Last year I oversaw the primary history curriculum for Oak National Academy. I needed all the help that I could get. How grateful I was, then, that primary teacher Stuart Tiffany (better known as Mr T Does Primary History) kindly got in touch and gave me a chronology masterclass.

In fact, this lack of chronological understanding seems to be a bit of a weakness in primary history curricula more generally. So I was delighted to read this comprehensive exploration of how teachers can support children to make links both within, and between, ‘topics’ or periods of history.

The blog includes loads of extremely useful examples of timeline displays which I’m sure primary teachers will love replicating, but will do so driven by the clearly reasoned and powerful rationale provided by Tiffany.


Reflections on the Hermeneutics of Question and Answer


It was reassuring to read right at the start of this blog that its author, humanities teacher Ned Riley “had absolutely no idea what hermeneutics was before this seminar”. Neither did I until I read the blog.

It turns out that it’s something we all do, not just in history but in all sorts of subjects. It is the process of asking questions about our sources. Riley goes on to differentiate between conservative hermeneutics, almost certainly the default approach we all unconsciously take, and radical hermeneutics, a new method which he has been converted to.

If you’re worried that this is all a little abstract, Riley brings it back to the classroom with examples of how we might use the method in lessons, before neatly concluding that radical hermeneutics might alter, for the better, how we actually think.


How can we tailor our instructional coaching approach for both novices and experts?


If social media is anything to go by, ‘instructional coaching’ is all set to be the Next Big Thing in education. Expect an INSET soon. If you’d like to get ahead of the curve, though, coaching maestro Josh Goodrich is writing a three-part guide to clarify exactly what we mean when we talk about coaching.

This, the second in the series, addresses one of the common critiques of coaching: that although it can be useful to expedite the skills of novice teachers, it’s less helpful at supporting more expert teachers to develop. Goodrich argues that it is possible to implement a unified coaching model, but that expert teachers require a less directive approach.


A sisyphean endeavour: school complexity and the problem of remote learning


It’s pretty uncontroversial to say that schools are complex places. It’s what makes them so thrilling yet frustrating to work in. And remote learning seems to have stripped us of some of our key tools to bring order to their chaos: shared routines and rituals, a common language, a unified approach.

In this blog, director of education Sallie Stanton suggests how school leaders might approach such complexity, providing a mantra that I’ll be painting on my office door the moment I’m back: “Don’t oversimplify the problems; don’t overcomplicate the response”.

Drawing on work from the inspirational Dixons Academies Trust, as well as the world’s leading authority on teaching expertise, David Berliner, Stanton provides a deceptively simple framework of principles leaders can use to promote engagement and rigour in online learning.


Teacher Assessed Grades


Last week saw confirmation that pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades will rest squarely on the shoulders of teachers. There are plenty of arguments for and against such a policy, as well as some not entirely misplaced consternation that teachers are being handed a poisoned chalice. But the decision has been made and so we’ll now need to get on with the task ahead.

Helpfully, Stuart Kime of Evidence Based Education has put together an accessible explainer of some of the key concepts underpinning sound assessment: validity; fairness and bias; and standard error of measurement. If you need a quick refresher before making a start on your grading, this blog is a great place to start.

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