Monthly Archives: March 2021

Blog of the Week: 26 March 2021 – Refining Retrieval – What does the evidence say about the testing effect?

Curriculum Team Leader

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I didn’t always include quizzes in my lessons. Quizzes, I believed, tested something superficial and English is far from being superficial. It seems strange to say this now when quizzing is everywhere.

It hardly feels necessary to state that retrieval improves retention. I’ve said this so many times to our teachers that I might need to stop saying it soon to avoid overstating the obvious.

But Yang, Luo, Vadillo, Yu and Shanks (2020) describe a small study from where the majority of teachers thought the main benefit of student self-testing was to find out what they didn’t know and only a fifth highlighted that testing would be better for retention than re-reading.

It made me wonder if the introduction of quizzes and knowledge organisers and all sorts of retrieval practices are understood or if I really understood the complexity of these things.

There is…

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Blog of the Week: 19 March 2021 – Curriculum, Connections and Covid-19

Catalysing Learning

It’s been a very long term. We deserve a break. But already I find myself thinking of the challenges that await us in the autumn.

Many of my students had very successful lockdowns. I am proud of them. Next year they deserve a curriculum that builds upon the work they have done in remotely. Others have not been so lucky. I feel for them. They deserve the chance to go back over the work they missed or misunderstood, for you cannot build on sand. So I have been wondering, how can we use the curriculum to give all our students what they deserve?

Revisiting content

Chemistry is full of connections and we have done our best to emphasise these in our GCSE curriculum. Below you can see a map of this curriculum, which is based on the OCR 21st Century Science course. The boxes are our modules and the lines…

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Blog of the Week: 12 March 2021 – Addressing the catch up conundrum

There is SO much noise in the system about how we respond to the challenges of partial school closures.

I think there are some key principles that we need to adopt to ensure that pupils don’t become the Covid cohort. The biggest risk, as I see it, is that [as a system] we try to do too much, too soon. This could mean we exacerbate the challenges that Covid 19 has brought us. As with issues arising from long term disadvantage, it is not big structural changes that will address these challenges. Structural changes may lay the platform. But it’s what happens in the classroom that matters most.

The following principles, born out of work focussing on long term disadvantage, may help:

1. That strategies to negate the impact of Covid 19 should be intertwined with those to tackle long term disadvantage.

2. Everyone needs to be responsible for the response to Covid 19. Everyone needs to …

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Blog of the Week: 5 March 2021 – Focused feedback: why less is more

Feedback is meant to help students, but too often, it doesn’t. Students may not read it, may misunderstand it, or may not use it. If they clear each of these hurdles, they may still forget it by the next lesson. Meanwhile, giving feedback adds to our workload: it’s meant to be manageable, but too often, it isn’t.

Similarly, feedback is meant to help teachers. But too often, it doesn’t: too many issues are raised, goals are too vague, and there’s too little follow up. To make feedback useful, instructional coaching suggests we prioritise one small goal, practise it immediately, and return to it subsequently.

If teachers need focused feedback, surely students do too. Too often, my comments on students’ work were like an unhelpful observer’s to a teacher: I offered lots of …

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