Tag Archives: Knowledge

Blog of the Week: 4 December 2020 – Zooming In and Out

My wife is a photographer. She really enjoys photographing everything from births to kindergarten graduations to senior pictures. When she began, she had a pretty good camera and stock lens. Over the years she has acquired, among other photography gadgets, different types of lenses. One specializes in wider angles, one allows her to zoom in and photograph tiny newborn fingers and toes, and one is fixed (she calls it her ‘nifty 50’). I have been lucky enough to be privy to her editing of photos. It is quite interesting to see how different lenses provide unique perspectives on the same scene. Zoom in and a family seated on a blanket appear surrounded. Zoom out and you see they are actually in a large field and the focus changes to mountains in the background. An array of lenses allows for the ability to photograph the same information from different perspectives. 

I see knowledge the same way. Knowledge gives us the ability to zoom in and out, to see both…

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Blog of the Week: 27 November 2020 – Making a good impression

Matthew Evans

When I think of my experience of learning French at school, I have particular memories and a general feeling of negativity. I remember one French teacher more than others: her high pitched voice, her tendency to become irritated easily, her inability to look you in the eye. She was one of those people who closes their eyes when they speak – her eyelids fluttering nervously – a habit we would cruelly imitate when her back was turned. I didn’t enjoy the subject. I was a poor student, and to this day I define myself as being ‘bad at languages’.

I have tried to overcome both my inability to learn another language and my poor self-image as a linguist, but to no avail. I suffered the same problem in relation to PE, a subject I truly loathed and avoided at all costs (usually by faking an asthma attack – don’t do…

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Blog of the Week: 23 October 2020 – Booklets, Rosenshine, Teach Like A Champion, and Knowledge-Rich Curriculum

Booklets are a brilliant tool in delivering an ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum. While a curriculum can never be reduced to booklets, it can be highly codified in them and in doing so is much more likely to be consistently enacted in lessons. The subject of planning with booklets has often been misunderstood: it is necessary for teachers to plan for lessons delivered with booklets, and planning consists of three strands. For two of these strands, Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction provide a useful structure as a starting point, but caution is advised. Any generic model will eventually fall foul of subject specialism if applied unthinkingly; instead of mandating rigid structures to all teachers of all subjects we should proceed with questions and trust, ultimately, in what the subject tells us is appropriate.

Let us first briefly outline the benefits of booklets. The booklet model can provide:

A minimum guarantee – If your department uses booklets to codify curriculum as far as possible, then you are immediately lifting the minimum guarantee in several key areas. The content itself is no longer left to individual teachers’ interpretations of a section of the spec, what they think will or won’t engage that particular group, or what was free on TES when they were planning on Sunday night. Subject leaders are empowered to really lead their subject and assure excellence in the substance …

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‘Fingertip Knowledge’: building a system to bridge the knowledge gap.

Mr W-M History

After nearly three months only open to the children of key workers, the coming weeks will see secondary schools across the country begin to very slowly try to adjust to a ‘new normal’ as students return to socially distanced classrooms.

Whilst students and teachers alike will face innumerable challenges with a return to education, one of the most important will no doubt be the vast knowledge gaps that will inevitably have emerged between students during the time they have had out of the classroom.

Some students will have been able to continue learning at home through the efforts of their teachers to provide resources online. Others, through no fault of their own, will have really struggled to access any work at home at all. Clearly, when we do eventually return to teaching something even remotely like the classes that we had before schools were partially closed, students will be in…

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Blog of the Week: 27th March 2020 – Making meaning

Making meaning is the core principle in learning, on which all other principles build. Consequently, a lot has been said in education about how meaning making looks like in the classroom, what is meaningful learning, deep processing, transferable knowledge and how to achieve them. And yet it is also an elusive concept: the operational definition of ‘meaning’ is nontrivial and occasionally the importance of meaning is shadowed by other (also important) concepts in learning.

I wish to share here my operational conceptualization of ‘meaning making’, then highlight two instances where meaning is sometimes shadowed: when discussing Cognitive Load and Retrieval Practice, and altogether make the case for why we should consider meaning first.

What is ‘Meaning Making’?

Processing information meaningfully is known as the key factor to remembering learned information for the long-term, as was formulated by Craik and Lockhart (1972) in the …


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Blog of the Week: 13 March 2020 – What does knowledge-rich mean when not all disciplines seek knowledge?

“Man lives in the meanings he is able to discern. He extends himself into that which he finds coherent and is at home there”

– Michael Polanyi, “Meaning”, 1975

What is the purpose of human endeavour? It’s not just knowledge. We seek beauty , expression, joy and delight. Art, music, literature and dance light up the world and lift up the heart, and it isn’t through knowledge, not in any standard or commonly shared meaning of the word.

There is a further issue with the term “knowledge”. The standard definition is “justified true belief” – but this doesn’t fit in pursuits like philosophy, theology and history, where interpretivism reigns.

“Making meaning” is a better term for what we do in our disciplines. We do the things we do to find patterns, rules, laws and principles, but also to make loveliness, humour, stories and sense. Out of the near-infinite data set…

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Blog of the Week: 6 March 2020 – Making the most of quiz books


Myself and Andy Lewis are proud to have some GCSE religious studies quiz books published by John Catt. I thought I would share what they are and some ways in which these might be used.

What are they?

The books are based on all GCSE specifications for the new, reformed GCSE religious studies courses.

They have quizzes on the main topics for each religion, repeated 6 times, but with the questions in a different random order. Students should complete a quiz, check their answers and write their mark on their mark tracker. At another point in time (see below) they should complete the quiz again and record their mark. The aim is for them to improve each time if not get full marks.

They are knowledge quizzes. They aim to help students to learn and retain key facts, quotations and reasons. They are the foundations for being able to…

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Blog of the Week: 6 December 2019 – Deep learning (2): structuring and organising knowledge – responsive teaching update

What comes next?

  1. James I, Charles, I, Charles II, James II, _________
  2. 2, 3, 5, 7, __
  3. Je suis allé, je vais, j’irai; j’ai été, je suis, _________
  4. A B A B C D C D E F E F _ _
  5. Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, _______

Some of these clues may feel frustratingly cryptic: readers know A, 2, and perhaps ‘je suis’; they know about neon lights, and probably something about Charles I.  Answering depends not just on what we know however, but on how it’s organised: the answer seems obvious once we recognise the structure (answers below).  Deep learning means developing mental models – organised knowledge structures – which allow students to apply their knowledge flexibly: this post discusses the architecture of mental models; what structures and organisation make knowledge usable?

Mental models: organising knowledge usably

Flexible knowledge is an important step towards deep learning.  If an item of knowledge is flexible, students can access it via a range of cues, not just the ones they originally learned.  So – for example – flexible knowledge of Charles I would allow them to think about him when asked about the Stuarts, Ship Money, or the Divine Right of Kings (more on this here).  This flexibility supports transfer of knowledge to …


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Blog of the Week: 8 November 2019 – Taking Curriculum Seriously

Curriculum is all about power. Decisions about what knowledge to teach are an exercise of power and therefore a weighty ethical responsibility. What we choose to teach confers or denies power. To say that pupils should learn ‘the best that has been thought and said’ is never adequate. Start the conversation, and questions abound: ‘Whose knowledge?’; ‘Who decides on “best”?’.

Such questions reflect concern about whether schooling reproduces inequalities or interrupts them. Such questions matter. But reducing knowledge to voice will not get us far either. The contentious questions – Which works of literature? Which historical stories? Which art? – cannot be resolved by some optimal blend of diversity, some nirvana of neutrality, as though distribution across the sources of knowledge or types of knower will settle things. No matter how redemptive of former injustice, no holy grail of content selection will be reached.

Nor does adding in preparation for the 21st century help. How can we decide what is relevant to the ever-shifting ‘now’? Worse, relevance quickly merges with perceptions …


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Blog of the Week: 4 October 2019 – Whole-class reading: how I do it

A Chemical Orthodoxy

For me, booklets have been a game-changer. The combination of lean explanations, worked examples and plentiful practice have made sure my lessons run smoothly and student productivity is maximised, and I wrote about how I use them day-to-day here. This year, I’ve been teaching GCSE biology, which is a new experience for me. My subject knowledge isn’t great as despite having taught physics and chemistry to GCSE, I’ve never done biology. The booklets I’ve been using were put together by Adam Robbins, and they feature a number of passages of extended text. I think teachers (and students) can be put off by passages of challenging text like the below, so I wanted to write about how I’ve approached them to ensure that everyone is engaged and thinking throughout. You don’t need to read the whole passage to get this blog, but it’s important to see the rigour and…

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