Workload and the Blind Man

The Workload Reports published over the Easter weekend was not so much a missed opportunity as one that never existed.  There is a certain amount of confirmation bias in making this statement as back in November 2015 I blogged Why Workload Working Groups Won’t Work.  The blind man of the title is each one of […]

Focusing our Teaching and Learning Priorities: A reading list.

Here are the proposals from Tom Sherrington on the priorities they are focussing on for 2016/7 – food for thought and I welcome your take on this. Tim

Knowledge. Explicitly defined and taught.

How do we specify the knowledge we want students to learn? Are we teaching students to memorise this knowledge at a deep enough level to aid later recall? Do we make it explicit enough that we expect our students to know specific things by heart and check that they do?  Knowledge organisers could be the way to go:

Find a collection of knowledge organisers via this post by James Theobald:

Ideas for teaching for memory via the excellent blog by Shaun Allison:

Reading.  A daily diet of planned reading.

Too many students don’t experience routine reading as a daily experience across the curriculum.  That needs to change but it needs planning.  What resources will you need to embed reading as a routine element of your teaching in order to contribute?

Read this post by Katie Ashford:​
It gives an idea of the strategies that surround reading in class and includes links to further reading about reading.

Rhetoric. Embedding the roadmap; oracy as pedagogy.

It is well worth re-reading Andrew’s guidance (Andrew Fitch is our Director of Spoken Literacy).  We need to discuss oracy as pedagogy (a phrase borrowed from Peter Hyman). Rhetoric is not an add-on; it is not something that gets in the way of content. It is a means of teaching the content as well as being a learning experience in itself.

At the day-to-day level, we need to make sure we are setting the bar high in terms of the quality of talk in our lessons. These blog posts might help to support your thinking on this:

We will also build up the range of set-piece events like the forthcoming Year 8 Soapbox event, where all Year 8s make a 2-3 minute speech.

Feedback to secure improvement:

Revisit Austin’s Butterfly:

Also revisit this about redrafting and improving the basics:

At the day-to-day level, feedback that secures improvement is a key area to work on for all of us.  Here are two blogs by Andy Tharby on feedback: – please consider these ideas when you are thinking about the kind of feedback you prioritise and the time you give your students to respond:

And here is a superb blog from Jo Facer who attended our most recent TeachMeet.  This approach to feedback looks very interesting  – scanning a set of books for the issues, giving whole-class feedback and focusing on improvement in a very timely and time-efficient manner. It’s not marking as we know it.

Excellence Exhibitions. One piece per subject per year, drafted, crafted and made beautiful.

Here is Debra Kidd writing about her visit to School 21:  School 21 is built around this process – but we can develop the idea in our own way starting at a workable scale and building up depending on how things go.

To make it workable, the idea is to map out a structure of units of work or extended projects that yield high value, high quality work involving multiple drafts until the work is exceptional for all students relative to their starting points.  Once per year, per subject we go BIG on this and then display all the work to make everyone feel good about school, about learning, about what is possible.  This could start as a KS3 thing only – unless people feel it could work at KS4/5 too.

Assignments:  With these ideas in mind, the nature and purpose of assignments can be made much simpler and easier to manage.  We need to give students a guide to their learning: the things they need to know; the main products they’ll be producing and the main assessments.  We could link to knowledge organisers – giving the headlines, highlighting key rhetoric components, identifying the one key task/product and the one key assessment.  I’ll be asking curriculum leaders to discuss this with me and each other over the course of the summer term.

Rewards, Catch-Up and intervention:  We do a lot in this area but I don’t think we’ve got it right yet.  I’ll be asking the new Heads of School, AHTs and Directors of Studies to work with HoDs over the summer term to review and re-think our processes here so that, from Autumn Year 7 onwards we have a more coherent whole school system that rewards achievement and picks up students who fall behind, who don’t manage homework or miss key assessments. Intervention needs to be targeted so as not to become unwieldy but, at the same time, we need a mechanism that tackles fundamental learning habits more intensively as soon as issues emerge. It needs to be as much carrot as stick.

There are more things – but then we’d lose focus. Even this may be too many things but we will see how the discussion goes.



There is so little time spare for busy teachers that the thought of reflecting upon our practice and learning by reading evidence feels like a distinct luxury. No doubt, we need to be better supported and treated as academic professionals who need time to reflect, think and engage with what the best evidence can tell us, but sometimes we have to get on and do what we can. Given our unchanging poverty of time, we need to cut away the chaff and get straight to the wheat.

With this in mind, we can put our subscriptions to research journals on hold, we can avoid troubling the librarian and instead we can find on the web the best research evidence for teachers. Here is my attempt at a quick fire selection of my top 5 must-read research evidence summaries freely available for busy teachers and school leaders:

  1. ‘What Makes Great teaching?, by Rob Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major, really is a superb synthesis of the best research on teaching and learning. This should sit atop the reading lists of ITE courses and it should prove an important touchstone for teachers.
  2. ‘Principles of Instruction’, by Barak Rosenshine is truly a seminal piece of educational research. I have never read a more cogent guide to the business of teaching and learning in the classroom than this. The seeming simplicity of the principles belies their true complexity and it is a reminder that teaching and learning has core fundamentals that we should focus on. There are no shiny new things here – only time-honoured wisdom for teachers.
  3. ‘The Science of Learning’, by the Deans for Impact group in America, is a recent and very welcome addition to the educational research canon. It a concise, clear and damn fine distillation of the research from cognitive science that can really help teachers in the classroom. It is a short, accessible must-read, with great references  for those of us who like to get lost on the internet in a fit of productive procrastination!
  4. ‘Top 20 Principles from Psychology for Teaching and Learning’, by the American Psychological Association, is a highly readable summary of the psychological principles that drive learning – what it says on the tin really. The ‘relevance for teachers’ sections are handy and usable.
  5. ‘Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology’, by Dunlosky et al., may have a lengthy title and prove a slightly trickier read given it is a proper research paper, but this study really gets you evaluating some of the core practice that we undertake in our classroom. Drop your highlighter, stop re-reading your notes, pick this up and give it 30 minutes of your precious time. Take a look at this short article version which is easier to read and just as effective – see here.

Maybe you will wait to the weekend, or the Easter holiday, but find some time, read one or two of the studies and reflect on your teaching. It can provide a refreshing distance from endless data inputting and marking and provide you with some reflection to cool the white heat of the daily goings on in our classrooms.

This extract was taken from Alex Quigley’s excellent blog @HuntingEnglish