Blog of the Week: 10 May 2019 – Designing a Supercurriculum

robin_macp

This is an old post previously published on the Wellington College Learning and Research Centre website, but I’m reposting it here in light of a recent conversation about the need to go and above and beyond what a national curriculum can offer.

This blog is based on a talk given at the Wellington MAT inset day on February 10th, 2017, at The Wellington Academy. Robin Macpherson (@robin_macp) uses the experiences of the Wellington College Peace and Conflict Institute to explain what the value of a super-curriculum is, and how to construct one.

Wellington, like many other schools, puts a lot of emphasis on extension, enrichment, societies and guest lectures. This is intended to add intellectual value, and provide additional stretch beyond the regular curriculum. The fact that most schools feel the need to provide this – thus demanding a lot of teacher time and effort – says a…

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Blog of the Week: 3 May 2019 – What the marathon teaches you about education

In my book Making Good Progress I developed an analogy between education and marathon running. Put simply, you wouldn’t train for a marathon by trying to run 26.2 miles in every training session. And in the same way, you shouldn’t prepare for an exam by doing exam-style activities in every lesson. I’d never run a marathon at that point, but I was influenced in this analogy by work by Michael Slavinsky and Daniel Lavipour, two educators and athletes who gave an incredibly thought-provoking talk about education and sport at Globe Academy in 2015.

Last September, I got a charity place in the London Marathon for Robes Project, a south London homeless charity.  The many hours of training I am doing now have given me the chance to ponder the links between marathon running and education in even …

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Blog of the Week: 5 April 2019 – Structured revision lessons using retrieval, spacing & interleaving

missdcoxblog

The problem with many revision classes is that many teachers think that students can suddenly self organise and self motivate. This is rarely the case. Last year I trialled a revision lesson structure and blogged on it here- Using research to design a revision session. The feedback from students was positive and I believe these had impact on their final weeks of learning before the exams. We use it for every lesson now and they can also use the structure for their own revision sessions. It’s based on cognitive science principles of retrieval, spacing and interleaving.

However, I wanted to improve the structure further this year. Here is the new structure:

IMG_2580

Over the series of lessons, each topic is covered a minimum of 3 times. First it is in a review, then next lesson that topic is the exam question and the lesson after it it the marking task…

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Blog of the Week: 29 March 2019 – What to do after a mock? Assessment, sampling, inferences and more

A Chemical Orthodoxy

A common question in the #CogSciSci email group is what to do after students have done an assessment or a mock. Most commonly, people spend a lesson “going over” the paper, where the teacher goes through each question and students make corrections. There’s often some accompanying document for students (or teachers) to fill in tallying their errors in particular sections. Highlighting is normally involved. Personally, I don’t think this approach is hugely beneficial (for the time spent on it) and below I will explain why I think this and conclude with what I do.

Student psychologyproblems

The first thing to note is what is going through the students’ heads when you go over a test. Likelihood is, they aren’t really paying attention to the feedback, and are more focussed on the grade or score they got. In my experience this is because they are any of:

1) just plain upset and…

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Blog of the Week: 15 March 2019 – Messy Planning: Part Two

All Ears

If you don’t plan lessons, what do you do during your planning and preparation time?

In the first of this series of blog posts, I explained that I rarely employ the use of written lesson plans or presentation software to guide the direction of my lessons. I also asserted that it’s my use of planning and preparation (P+P) time that allows me to work this way.

The short answer to the question that opens this post is: I read. My reading can be split into two sorts: Pedagogical reading and subject reading. Because I spend as much as my P+P time reading, I believe I am a better teacher. I’d even go as far to say that if I spent my time endlessly creating Lesson Plans or PowerPoint presentations during my P+P time, instead of reading, I (emphasis on ‘I’) would be a worse teacher because of it. For me…

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Blog of the Week: 8 March 2019 – What can we learn from Direct Instruction & Siegfried Engelmann?

Joe Kirby's blog

Combining precise example sequences, high-pace questioning, continuous instant feedback, extended practice drills, and rapid corrections of misconceptions, direct instruction is one of the most effective teaching methods.

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Citing an individual study to prove that Direct Instruction isn’t effective

is like citing a rainstorm to prove that the Sahara isn’t a desert.

There is a vast range of empirical, scientific and statistical evidence that shows Direct Instruction works.

Project Follow Through was the largest controlled comparative study of pedagogical techniques in history: from 1967 – 1995, over 700,000 children in 170 disadvantaged communities across the United States participated in this $1 billion study to discover the best practices for teaching disadvantaged students. This was the result:

‘Eighteen school districts, some rural, some urban, applied Direct Instruction (DI). When the testing was over, students in DI classrooms had placed first in reading, first in maths, first in spelling, and first in…

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Blog of the Week: 1 March 2019 – Engelmann’s Direct Instruction: I’m a Convert

The Traditional Teacher

Conversion CaravaggioThe Conversion of St Paul by Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Writing is not a natural activity, and most pupils don’t just ‘pick it up’. A few will, because they are gifted, have articulate parents, read a lot and just generally belong to the top two percent of academic achievers. I am one of those few. Because I am good at writing, but received very little explicit instruction, it has been easy for me to believe that others will also achieve mastery in the same way.

Here we see a clear illustration of why many very clever and articulate people are taken in by progressive ideas. In fact, one might almost argue that they make the most sense to those who have learned most easily, with little apparent effort, all through their school and university career. For those who have slogged hard and had few advantages, the nonsense of naturalistic methods is much…

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