Brilliant Blog Posts

I’ve read so many brilliant blog posts that I’ve started to lose track of them all. I thought it made sense to try and keep them in one place, easily accessible, with maybe a few reflective sentences attached. I shall update this regularly asI read/remember them. I may even end up trying to arrange them into some kind of logical order at some point. If anyone else enjoys browsing through them, that’s a bonus!

Adam Boxer: What to do after a mock

There’s so much useful information in this post it’s unbelievable. Yes, it’s about what to do after a mock, but it’s so much more insightful than that. Adam clearly summarises principles behind good assessment design and the limited inferences we can take from them.

Ruth Walker: E.coli and Quality First Teaching

Schools are often drowning in interventions focussed on a number of key pupil subgroups, be it Pupil Premium, middle ability boys [insert subgroup of choice here]. Ruth uses the analogy of an e.coli outbreak in a restaurant as a brilliant analogy for what we should be doing in schools (it makes sense when you read it, honest!).

Rather than focussing on targeted interventions with subgroups we should be ensuring that we provide Quality First Teaching. Cohorts such as Pupil Premium are often the most vulnerable when our standards slip; concentrating on getting the teaching right will provide better outcomes for everyone.

Matthew Evans: When first we seek to control

I think a tweet from Christine Counsell first got me on to Matthew’s blogs. They’re all of superb quality; beautifully written and insightful. This is one of my favourites. It clearly explains why schools are drawn towards generic management practices for appraisal, assessment and tracking etc and the dangers of doing so. Love the final paragraph:

And once we’ve rooted out all this genericism, we must then re-educate ourselves about how students actually learn, and remember what it feels like to trust teachers to know when they are not, and to do something about it. Trust is the main casualty of our comforting genericism. It is time to restore it. No more flight paths, please.

Matthew Evans

Tom Yatton: How leaders can make a great behaviour policy fail (Parts 1 to 3)

A refreshingly honest series of blogs where a school leader writes about the things that school leaders can do that inadvertently undermine what (on paper) should be a highly effective behaviour system.

School leaders (rightly) tend to focus on teachers using behaviour systems consistently and effectively. Tom helpfully categorises common “Leadership Errors”. The effect that errors like these (even from one member of the leadership team) can have on the effectiveness of a behaviour system is significant. A really well written series of blogs. Hopefully he’ll continue to add to them.

Sarah Barker: Nothing to see here – the problem with book scrutiny

A beautifully concise and useful post from Sarah, focussing on both what book scrutiny is good for, but also why books are a poor proxy for learning. It’s full of useful links for further reading, and contains a final killer paragraph:

Looking for evidence of learning is detracting from the things that schools should be pushing forward on – strategies that will actually result in effective, sustained learning.  Some schools’ senior and middle leadership teams are looking for evidence of something that is almost impossible to evidence. Before a book scrutiny, if the answer to the ‘what are we looking for?’ is ‘learning’, then books are not going to yield the goods.

Sarah Barker

Adam Boxer: Simplifying Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) was one of the first areas of cognitive science that made me sit up and pay attention. Shamefully I’d not been taught anything about working memory or long term memory, either as a PGCE student or in the first half of my teaching career (despite it being around 30 years old). Learning about the limitations of Working Memory (and how to teach in a way that takes account of these limitations) has been one of the biggest changes in my pedagogy (for the better).

Adam walks the walk here (reducing extraneous cognitive load and gently increasing the intrinsic cognitive load), explaining CLT in a clear and effective way, using simple diagrams to develop a framework teachers can use when planning lessons/tasks. It’s a masterpiece of cog sci communication, and has become one of my “go to” resources when explaining CLT to other teachers.

Lee Donaghy: Working with trainees: my favourite action step – extending ‘Brighten Lines’ into a comprehensive routine

I’d read (and got a huge amount out of) Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion a while back, but Lee’s short but effective post on how he’d built a routine around the Brighten Lines technique both reminded me of its importance and has helped me use it more effectively in lessons. He provides a 10 step checklist for setting pupils off on a task. Apply the checklist and you’ll see a marked improvement in how pupils set about their work with purpose. Really useful.

Science specific

Adam Robbins: How to get the most out of calculation SLOP questions

Shed Loads of Practice (SLOP) has become a important part of my lessons.

Good SLOP:

  • Provides pupils with shed loads of practice, developing both confidence and automaticity
  • Provides scaffolding for pupils so they aren’t just thrown in at the deep end, carefully increasing complexity once previous stages are mastered
  • Reduces workload (once well constructed resources have been produced)

Adam’s excellent blog (and provides useful guidance on how to construct calculation SLOP questions, cleverly using worked examples and partial worked examples (set out beautifully) in order to initially reduce cognitive load. It’s become the basis of how I’ll write calculation SLOP in the future.

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