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Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step: How’s it look?

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The second recommendation in Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction is “Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step”. The basis for this recommendation is the fact that working memory is limited and, for learning to occur it’s important to avoid overloading working memory. But that isn’t the focus of this post. In this post I just wanted to share what ‘new material in small steps with student practice after each step’ can look like in the classroom.

As a rule of thumb, the longer a teacher talks for the more likely they are delivering sufficient information to overload their students’ working memory. As I reflected upon this point, prompted by Craig Barton’s in-depth interview with Kris Boulton recently, I found myself thinking, ‘I wonder how long I talk for?’ It was time to collect some data.

Next lesson I split my notebook into three columns ‘explain’, ‘student work’, and ‘check solution’ (I always teach my maths lessons in an ‘I do’ then ‘You do’ format, then go over the solutions as a class), then I got to recording! First class I got distracted and fell off the timing bandwagon (first half of the page) but second class I remembered to stay on task and that whole class (90 mins) is recorded in the image below (red box).

To set the scene, I wanted students to be able to answer the exam question presented by the end of the lesson. This required them to be able to go from a transition diagram and an initial state matrix to the result after multiple periods with or without the addition of extra units each period, as well as determining the result of such transitions ‘in the long run’, and working backwards in such a relation. I split this up into the following sub-steps for the purposes of instruction.

  • Constructing a transition matrix from a transition diagram.
  • Applying a transition diagram to interpret a transition
  • Applying a transition matrix to interpret change after one transition
  • Understanding transition matrices as recurrent relations (And results after multiple periods with a formula)
  • ‘In the long term’: Steady state solutions to Transition matrices
  • Results after multiple periods (using brute force, that means with a calculator)
  • Transition matrix modelling when the total number of units changes.
  • Working backwards in matrix multiplications


The astute observer will note that the total time adds up to about 60 mins. The additional time was taken up with approx. 20 mins of revising previous content and 10 mins talking about an upcoming assessment and doing a ‘brain break’.

Below is the lesson as I presented it, with the timing for each segment added in italics (images weren’t in the original as students had all questions in front of them. I added them for readers here)

I found it really valuable to look at the timing of my lessons in this level of detail. I’d love to know if it’s prompted any similar reflections for you.


Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator, 36(1), 12.


ERRR #008. Tom Brunzell, Trauma Informed Positive Education and U.S/Aus Education

Listen to all past episodes of the ERRR podcast here.

This month our guest is Tom Brunzell. Tom began his career in education as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member at NYC P.S. #28 in the Bronx. Tom co-founded KIPP Infinity Charter School as Dean of Students and literacy teacher. He worked with students and their families; supervised teachers through classroom observation and curriculum feedback; supervised KIPP’s guidance staff of social workers and counselors–eventually serving as chair for all KIPP NYC’s social worker development group. Additionally, he was team leader in the University of Pennsylvania/KIPP/Riverdale Country School three-year partnership to develop character education and the Character Report Card with Dr Martin Seligman and Dr Angela Duckworth.

He now serves as Senior Advisor, Teaching and Learning, for Berry Street Childhood Institute, working with school leaders, teachers, and their regions in the areas of school culture and curriculum development.

He received his bachelor degree (B.A.) from Yale University, then a teaching masters degree (M.S.T.) from Pace University and a school leadership masters degree (Ed.M.) from the Bank Street School of Education. Tom presents internationally on topics of transforming school cultures, high expectations for differentiated instruction, trauma-informed practice, wellbeing and the application of positive psychology, and effective school leadership. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Centre for Positive Psychology and Youth Research Centre, studying trauma-informed pedagogy, positive psychology, and their impacts on workplace meaning.

This month our article is: Trauma-Informed Positive Education: Using Positive Psychology to Strengthen Vulnerable Students . This paper explores the role of a positive education paradigm in mainstream and specialist classrooms for students who have experienced complex trauma resulting from abuse, neglect, violence, or being witness to violence. Applying a strengths-based trauma-informed positive education (TIPE) approach, Tom and colleagues propose three domains of learning needed for trauma- affected students: repairing regulatory abilities, repairing disrupted attachment, and increasing psychological resources. Readers will be fascinated to hear how the TIPE model fundamentally expands the possibilities of trauma- informed teaching and learning by maintaining rigorous attention toward the healing of developmental deficits, while simultaneously providing pathways toward psychological growth.

Links mentioned during the interview

TOT014: Building multiplication facts + more twitter takeaways

Teacher Ollie’s Takeaways is a weekly-ish post (and sometimes a podcast!) bringing together some of the fascinating things that Ollie read throughout the week-ish! Find all past posts of Teacher Ollie’s Takeaways here

The role of trust in giving feedack

this article.
is excellent! Well worth a full read, but here are a couple of key takeaways for your enjoyment.

Two absolute favourite blog posts!

A Podcast on memory not to miss!

And another by the same Mr Barton!

And the amazing podcasts continue!

Beware muddying the Edu debate the same way the climate-change debate has been

Leadership, decision making processes, and the influence of culture

Some approaches to history teaching well worth checking out

The ‘personalisation principle’

I wanna read this book on the constructivism debate!

Tweet says it all

Teacher coaching.. effective?

And some more tweets…

Teacher checklists: How to never forget an easy but important task again! [Guide with Photos]

Forgetting to take the marking home for the weekend, forgetting to print off a sheet before class, and forgetting to send a follow up email about a student that as promised. Many of the tasks that constitute a teacher’s working are just like these ones… easy, but important.

A couple of months ago, in a particularly hectic teaching period, I forgot to do three of these such ‘easy but important’ tasks over the course of two weeks. Each time I stuffed up I felt increasingly frustrated and by the end of the third occurrence it was clear that I needed a system to militate against this ever happening again. This post is about that system.

Around the time of my streak of forgetfulness,  Harry Fletcher-Wood tweeted an article on checklists. I’d been thinking about developing a checklist system for my teaching for a while, and this article, along with my recent bouts of forgetfulness, was the perfect prompt to revisit this idea. I bought Harry’s book, Ticked off,  read much of it, and appreciated the lists that he’d put together covering everything from pre-term actions, to lesson planning, to formative assessment. It offered some great tips and tricks on how to effectively make and use checklists (some of which I refer to in the following), But it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I wanted more of a system that would help me deal with the every day myriad of simple but important tasks on a teacher’s plate. I had a long hard think about the kind of functionality that I wanted from such a checklist system, and here’s the criteria that I came up with.

  • Digital, on both my phone and laptop
  • Enables recurring tasks, this is for things that I know I have to do every week, such as ‘plan progress check’ or ‘compile detention list’
  • Simple layout that enables me to logically file my lists
  • Has some sort of alerts functionality that prompts me to look at it
  • No bells and whistles, animations, or anything else annoying that’s going to get in the way. i.e., simple yet effective.

The search began, and I was pretty excited when I managed to come across this online checklist/to-do list comparison spreadsheet!

I did some various sorts by column and came up with a list of about three checklist apps that seemed to fit the bill. I played with each of them over the course of three days and settled on one that seemed to offer everything that I wanted, Wunderlist (I’m not receiving anything from Wunderlist or any other parties for this post)

It’s taken me a while to optimise how I use the app, but I thought it worthwhile me sharing in detail exactly how I do it in case anyone out there is facing some of the same challenges that I was.

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 10.18.31 amThe first question I asked myself was ‘What lists do I need?’. In Harry’s book he makes the excellent point that a checklist is only useful if you pause at relevant times to check it. He calls these moments ‘pause points’. I thought about my day, and my lessons, and tried to figure out which times could be my ‘pause points’. I worked out that for general tasks the ideal times for me to pause would be 8am, as soon as I arrive at school, and 3pm, as soon as classes have finished for the day. From this I devised a set of 5 lists, as pictured right.

The lists are numbered 1.1, 1.2, etc, because Wunderlist has the option to ‘sort alphabetically’, and by numbering the lists like this it would mean that they would stay in the same order all of the time. Each of these lists is recurring and has an alert. The morning list sends me a notification at 8am, and the afternoon (or ‘arvo’ in Australian) list sends me a notification at 3pm. The number at the end of each list refers to the week of term, and once I’ve completed a checklist Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 10.24.57 amfor the week, I change that number to the following week (Wunderlist does allow you to tick off the whole list, but, as these are recurring lists, as soon as you tick it off it pops back up). The beauty of these recurring lists is that they allow me to easily remember the tasks associated with, for example, Monday morning, that I have to do every week. Pictured right is what my Monday morning aways looks like.

If there’s an additional task that I need to do on Monday morning I’ll add it in the ‘Add a subtask’ section, then, if I don’t need to do it again next week, I’ll delete it once done rather than checking off. Checking it off means that it’ll recur again next week.

There’s one other set of lists that I use, and this is my ‘in class’ lists. At the moment I’ve got three classes, Y11 Physics and two Y12 Further Maths classes. I have a list for each class and I figured that the only reliable ‘pause point’ that I could count on in these classes was prior to class, especially whilst I’m in the pause point habit building phase. Below is a screenshot of what my whole list looks like (note the asterisks at the start of the MAFA, MAFB and PH12 lists that keep them at the top when I sort alphabetically). 

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 10.47.07 am

In the above you’ll also note the ‘Sunday before school’ list at the bottom. Pretty self explanatory. We’re between terms at the moment and I still haven’t finished all those tasks, that’s why that’s still down as Week 11 whereas all other tasks are down as Week 1 of next term.

Now, I tried with the pause point at the start of the lesson for a while, but often I didn’t want to front load the class with all the information in one go, so what I’ve started doing is transferring the checklist from Wunderlist to the board. This means that it’s right there in my face whenever I refer back to my lesson contents (the list of concepts we’ll be working through during a lesson that I use in every class), and it makes it much easier for me to remember to check it off. I find that it’s working really well (also good as checking Wunderlist in class can look a lot like checking text messages!). Before the students arrive (when possible) I go into the class, write up my contents and checklist on the board, then they arrive and we get stuck in. I deal with the checklist items as we work through the lesson, and I’m building the habit of checking this checklist about 5 mins before the end of the lesson too to double check that I haven’t forgotten anything. Here’s what my list looks like when transferred to the board (top right of board).


I held off posting about this checklist system for a while because I really wanted to embed it into my practice and make sure that it was a useful and functional system doing everything that I want it to do. I now feel that it’s well embedded and it’s already been a life saver on a number of occasions.

If you adopt this system, or make any variations to it that you think significantly add to its usefulness I’d love to hear about them in the comments or on twitter (@ollie_lovell).

TOT013: Edu reading lists + more Twitter Takeaways

Teacher Ollie’s Takeaways is a weekly-ish post (and sometimes a podcast!) bringing together some of the fascinating things that Ollie read throughout the week-ish! Find all past posts of Teacher Ollie’s Takeaways here

The mother of all reading lists

For many teachers starting out (or even those who have been in the game for a while) the question ‘Where should I start with respect to educational research?’ is a super important one. Of all of the reading lists I’ve come across, this one by @HFletcherWood is probably the best. Harry’s criteria for selection were:

  • Well-evidenced or well thought through
  • Clear and well-written (at least relatively)
  • Formative and thought-provoking

Well worth a look, as well as the link to Robert Coe’s reading list that Harry includes at the bottom of his list.

Dylan Wiliam on CLT. How could you miss it?

Dealing with traumatic times

Within the past month or so there have been a number of attacks that have been beyond unsettling for those in related communities and the global community more broadly. Should we talk about these things in our classrooms? If so… how? Here’s a handy resource.

Feedback… Feedback?

Handy quote:

Dylan Wiliam was helpful for me here too. He writes,

“If I had to reduce all of the research on feedback into one simple overarching idea, at least for academic subjects in school, it would be this: feedback should cause thinking.”

This article includes a thought provoking discussion of just how muddy the waters of feedback are… well worth a look.

Is Greg Ashman really changing his mind on group work?

Yep, but not in the direction I first thought when I read the title of his blog post. Here’s what he used to think…

Slavin surveyed the evidence on collaborative learning and found that it can be effective if two crucial conditions are in place; group goals and individual accountability. In other words, the groups need to be working towards some clearly defined objective and everyone in each group needs to be held accountable.

Here’s what he thinks now…

So I am starting to change my mind. I am not sure that the evidence for the effectiveness of group work, even if implemented under Slavin’s conditions, is sound.

For me the jury is still out on this one…

Readers may like to check out these resources.
from Neil Mercer on setting up ground rules for group talk. James Mannion mentioned this my recent podcast with him..

Is it true that 65% of jobs haven’t been invented yet?

An excellent 9 minute podcast on whether or not we should be taking this (oft cited) stat seriously…

Problem solving… complicated or complex?

An interesting article.
on this topic by Robert Kaplinsky. Something that particularly tickled my fancy was his clarification of the two terms:

the main difference between complicated and complex situations is that complicated situations can be well defined and have all possibilities accounted for while complex situations have so many changing variables that you can never account for them all. This doesn’t stop people from trying though with sometimes hilarious results.

Growth mindset…again

A comparison of effective (and not so effective) study methods

I know many would have seen this study before but, for those who haven’t (or for those who have lost it like I had!) here it is.

And finally, Poor but Privileged

ERRR Podcast #007. James Mannion and Learning to Learn

Listen to all past episodes of the ERRR podcast here.

In this episode we spoke to James Mannion.

James qualified as a Teacher of Science in 2006. He holds an MA in Person-Centred Education from the University of Sussex, and is currently a final year PhD student at the University of Cambridge. James’s doctoral study is a 5-year evaluation of Learning Skills, a new approach to Learning to Learn which led to significant gains in subject learning, especially among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (see Mannion & Mercer, 2016). Learning Skills is a complex intervention, whereby several strands of effective practice are used in combination. This idea also forms the basis of the Rethinking Education approach to school improvement. James is an Associate of the UCL Institute of Education, and currently works with schools throughout London and the South-East to help develop evidence-informed practices such as practitioner enquiry and lesson study. James is a passionate advocate of practitioner enquiry as a basis for professional development, and he regularly presents at educational conferences on this subject. He is a founding member of Oracy Cambridge, a think tank dedicated to promoting effective speaking and listening skills in schools and the wider society. You can contact James at, or via @rethinking_ed.

James’ nominated paper was Learning to learn: improving attainment, closing the gap at Key Stage 3. This article details how James lead a whole-school ‘Learning to Learn’ approach in his school in the South of England. Operating over three years with one cohort of students as they moved from years 7-9. Despite reducing the amount of time spent by the participating students on their usual subjects, these students actually performed better in comparison to a matched control group in core subjects such as mathematics and English. This is a fascinating intervention, using approaches such as teaching Philosophy to help students to learn to better think, and learn, with reported benefits across a broad range of subjects.

Attendees may also like to read James’ recent blog post which briefly outlines the project from a more personal perspective.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Links mentioned during the interview


ERRR Podcast #006. Jennifer Stephenson and Instructional Decision Making of Teacher Education Students

Listen to all past episodes of the ERRR podcast here.

In this episode we spoke to Jennifer Stephenson.

Jennifer is an honorary research fellow and associate professor at Macquarie University. She has a background in teaching students with severe disabilities and over 20 years experience in preparing special educators. Her research interests include the use of effective and ineffective practices in special education, augmentative and alterative communication for students with severe disabilities, students with autism spectrum disorder, challenging behaviour, and the use of iPads with children with disability. She has published over 80 refereed journal articles and book chapters.

Jennifer’s paper that we read was entitled ‘Factors in Instructional Decision-Making, Ratings of Evidence and Intended Instructional Practices of Australian Final Year Teacher Education Students’. This article details Jennifer’s survey with 290 pre-service teachers in their final year of teacher training. The survey aimed to discover how well these PSTs were able to distinguish between evidence based and non-evidence based instructional practices, and to determine which sources of information, and which experiences most influenced the practices that these PSTs planned to adopt in the classroom. This paper prompted a really interesting discussion, and even a little instructional practices quiz that was held for the attendees of the ERRR.

Jennifer’s nominated article was:  Factors in Instructional Decision-Making, Ratings of Evidence and Intended Instructional Practices of Australian Final Year Teacher Education Students. This article details Jennifer’s survey with 290 pre-service teachers in their final year of teacher training. The survey had two broad goals: 1. To discover how well these PSTs were able to distinguish between evidence based and non-evidence based instructional practices (From learning styles instruction to direct instruction), 2. To determine which sources of information, and which experiences most influenced the practices that these PSTs planned to adopt in the classroom (from experiences during placement to journal articles). This article will no doubt lead prompt a lively discussion on the role of evidence-based practices in the classroom, as well as various strengths and weaknesses of current teacher training programs throughout Australia.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Links mentioned during the interview

Links Mentioned in the Intro (Thanks to Max Lenoy for providing links)

The battle for deliberate practice

It’s exam time and your students are preparing. You’re going around the class, observing how students are studying and, shock horror, they are re-reading and re-writing their notes. The notes are literally going from one notebook to another notebook without going through their brains in-between. As a teacher this is one of the most frustrating things for me to see, and recently I’ve been on a bit of a war path to try to stop it.

This is a short post to celebrate some of my students doing deliberate practice. This year I’ve been stressing the importance of students re-doing questions (as opposed to just re-reading them).

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 9.54.23 amPictured right is how Ericsson describes deliberate practice (pg. 367)


They way that I’ve advocated for this is to ask students to 1. Identify questions that they got incorrect in our weekly tests, 2. Get a book or another sheet of paper and cover the answer, 3. Re-do the question, 4. Slide the book/piece of paper down and check, 5. Re-do again if they got it wrong, 6. Re-do again a few hours/days later to consolidate.

I’ve felt like a bit of a broken record but then, today, I had my day made when walking around the class I saw these two students!



To attend to the motivational segment of the task, I knocked up this sheet that I gave to students at the start of today’s revision session.

Deliberate practice for the win. Just wanted to celebrate. Hopefully it pays off in their exam.

Educating Ruby: Wot-I-Got out of the book, and why I read it

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 9.08.16 pmAs mentioned in my previous post I’m currently participating in the Bastow Institute’s Create: Middle Leaders program. In that previous post I talked about the great vs. typical learning activity in which we had to take photos in our classroom, then have a conversation with students in which they identified which images represented ‘typical’ and  ‘great’ learning. What I didn’t mention was the impact that the sharing element of the activity had on me. The students with whom I’d discussed the photographs were from my year 11 physics class, the students with whom one of my colleagues, Tamara, discussed her photos were from year 2. Here’s the kind of things that my students said:

‘I like the way that teacher explains and writes on the board to make sure that students understand the content.’

‘Reading books are a great way to learn.’

‘Looks like (the teacher is) helping a student out, it’s great when students asks when they’re not sure to consolidate their understanding. Two students in the photo are working out a question together. That’s great learning

‘I think it’s (using the spaced repetition software Anki) pretty useful. Helps you retain information.’

‘It’s just easier to remember. For doing [tests] and exams, because of Anki I can remember all of the formas and answers more easily without having to check my cheat sheet.’

Here’s the kind of things that were said by Tamara’s students (Thanks to Tamara for sharing with me her records of students’ quotes):

‘(this student) chose a good partner, different to usual, it’s a good decision to choose someone you don’t know well.’

‘(this student’s) writing shows they worked really hard and noticed where they got the letters wrong or used the wrong word’

‘This is great learning because this student is working hard and using his perseverance muscle.’

‘they’re trying really hard and using a different idea/ strategy’

It might not come out as powerfully through the quotes as it did in our discussion, but what surprised me was the meta-language that Tamara’s students used in analysing what makes ‘typical’ and ‘great’ learning. These Year 2 students had a metalanguage for learning including words and concepts like ‘perseverance’, identifying different ‘ideas/strategies’, and they went beyond the general to talk not only about group work but specifically about with whom individuals had chosen to work. Moreover, the students talked not about what the teacher was doing, but about what the learners were doing. In fact, none of the photos that Tamara’s students chose to represent great learning included Tamara, or any other teacher! In sum, these year 2 students appeared to have a more developed and nuanced understanding of what it means to be a ‘great learner’ than did my year 11s, and that was scary!

So, I had to ask the question…’Why?’.

Luckily I’d used pretty much interview question that I had in my arsenal (see my Education Research Reading Room Podcast!) on Tamara the night before and she’d told me about the massive positive impact that Guy Claxton’s ‘Building Learning Power’ program has had on their school. This warranted a closer look.

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 9.05.53 pmAt this point I’ve got to mention how much of a sceptical consumer I am of this stuff. I find the analogy of ‘learning muscles’ a bit cringeworthy, and I’m not the only one. But, with the (anecdotal) evidence from Tamara in front of me, and the Quaker passage pictured right in mind, I thought it worth checking out further. I knew that even if I wasn’t sold by the whole thesis, there’d still be stuff in the book worth taking away.

I went straight ahead and read Claxton’s most recent book, Educating Ruby. What did I get out of it? Well, I guess inspiration is the main thing. Through all of the explicit instruction that I’ve been doing, although both highly stimulating and effective, I’ve had this feeling that something’s missing. I don’t think I’ll be advocating for the implementation of BLP at my school any time soon, there are many other programs and approaches out there worth exploring first and I need a better understanding of how each of the elements of such a program would tangibly fit together in my school’s context. But I am definitely more inspired to work out how to build my students into more independent learners, and furnish them with a better understanding of, and metalanguage around, what it is to be a great learner. Watch this space!

Here are my notes from the book, arranged in a semi-sensical order.

Note: Something that surprised me was how explicitly Claxton seemed to argue against the ‘trads’ that are so prolific on twitter and the ed blogosphere. He literally referred to the articles that they cite, and provided counter-sources and counter-arguments. I was impressed by his awareness of the dynamics at work within the current educational landscape, and I think he did a good job of transcending much of the bickering that occurs within it in order to try to find common ground and paint a positive picture of how evidence and inspiration can be combined to make schools a more empowering and relevant place for students.


  • A letter from a parent
    • ‘Dear Head Teacher, I want to write and thank you for recently running the parent workshops on how to support our children in ‘Building Learning Power’. Your talk has given me a vocabulary to use when talking to my children to help convey some truly important values that I have always believed to be vital to both success and happiness. Specifically that ‘effort is more important than ability’ and ‘mistakes are part of the learning process/to succeed you have to be prepared to take the risk of failing’. I loved the analogy you used of the brain being a muscle that has to be exercised and made fit for learning. I have been talking a lot about overcoming adversity with my children.'(location 1825)

Some of the key pts

  • A great summary of  the ‘Three educational tribes: Roms, Trads and Mods’(location 360)
    • E.g., ‘It is perhaps not surprising that Trads are over-represented in the worlds of politics, the law and journalism, where skills in adversarial debating and point scoring are highly prized. Such sophistry is, of course, very different from real thinking, which is an often hesitant, difficult and slow attempt to get closer to the truth. Mods like to discuss and wonder, edging their way towards ideas that feel more solidly appropriate to the unprecedented challenges of the present.’(location 438)
    • Because Trads like to keep things simple, they reduce knowledge to facts (and ignore the fact that most knowledge actually consists of webs of ideas that have withstood empirical tests). They reduce the subtle art of teaching to ‘knowledge transmission’ – just telling. They like to make assessment as rigorous as possible by making everything right or wrong – which, of course, ignores thinking. And they have a simplistic view of students’ minds which revolves around memorising: putting facts into storage and hauling them out on demand. This world view obliterates much of what is interesting and true about the mind as something which grapples with ideas, copes with degrees of uncertainty, interprets and muses – and sometimes improves – on what it has read or heard and, critically, is capable of getting better at grappling, interpreting, musing and, indeed, memorising. Young minds are full of habits and processes that are capable of being stretched and strengthened by the right kind of teaching, but which are often not. A major study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard and other partner universities found that students’ performance on tests is powerfully predicted by their level of these mental skills and habits, but that studying in the traditional Hirschean way does not develop these skills.6(location 453)
  • The Sabre-Tooth Curriculum(location 639)
    • A nice little narrative that Claxton and Lucas develop in order to illustrate their point regarding how we must change curricula in response to changes in the world outside of school.
  • the seven Cs: confidence, curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, commitment and craftsmanship.(location 863)
    • This is the basis of Claxton’s model
    • the ‘other game’ of school. If you cannot be a winner at the grade game, you can still come away having been a winner at the character game. The first requires losers; anyone can win the second.(location 864)
    • If you had to rank order the seven Cs, which would be at the top of your list? Which at the bottom? How would you adjust them?(location 894)
  • Education is not the same as school(location 927)
    • Education is a vision of what it is that our children will need if they are going to flourish in the world as we predict it will be:(location 929)
    • It is to do with what’s left at the end of their formal educational experiences, the residues of that experience which will enable them to engage intelligently with the ups and downs that come their way. This is a moral conversation, and it is necessary and unavoidable. If people disagree about the aims of education, this has to be within a conversation about differing values and differing images of the future.(location 939)
    • School, on the other hand, is a particular system that societies have invented for ‘doing education’.(location 942)
    • Education is the ends; school is the means.(location 943)
  • A really well thought out list of what are the core competencies in order to live a successful life
    • what are the core competences for living safely, sociably and satisfyingly?(location 987)
    • Here are some candidates. They were generated in the context of a very exciting ‘global summit on education’ held at the Perimeter Institute, an elite physics lab in Waterloo, Canada, in October 2013.3(location 988)
    • This list of competences is a bit of a rag-bag. We could tidy it up somewhat by dividing it into two groups: what we might call skills – which are techniques that can be learned or trained quite explicitly – and what we will call habits of mind – which are more general tendencies to respond to events in a particular way.(location 1033)
      • There are broadly three clusters of these character strengths(location 1066)
      • The first is called rather grandly ‘self-regulation’.(location 1067)
      • A way of teaching pre-schoolers in the United States called Tools of the Mind structures this kind of play – and it has shown that children develop self-regulation faster, and also show better development of literacy and numeracy. Self-regulation(location 1079)
      • The other two clusters are, if you like, the two main branches that grow out of this trunk of self-control. The first branch grows into the habits and attitudes of a ‘good person’: kind, friendly, generous, tolerant, empathic, forgiving, trustworthy, honest, having moral courage and integrity, and so on.(location 1082)
      • The second branch grows into the habits of mind that characterise a ‘good learner’.(location 1087)
    • Two recent books provide comprehensive reviews of the research that shows how important these habits of mind are for success in life. They are How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, and Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman.4(location 1038)
  • What happens when you don’t develop positive habits of mind?
    • The problem was that most of them then dropped out. When they went on to college that high-powered support team was left behind, and without it many of those young people didn’t know how to cope. They had got the grades, but they hadn’t developed the resilience, independence and self-discipline that they now really needed.5(location 1050)
  • Claxton and Lucas’ take on the school curriculum
    • there are three kinds of things that deserve to be in the school curriculum. We call them utilities, treasures and exercise-machines.(location 1149)
    • Utilities are things which are self-evidently useful for young people to know or be able to do. They include being able to tie your shoelaces (if this is still essential since the invention of Velcro),(location 1150)
    • treasures: things which we all agree may not be directly useful, in a rather utilitarian sense, but which, we broadly agree, form such an important part of our (however we define ‘our’) cultural heritage that everyone who lives here should have encountered them.(location 1162)
  • What are the ingredients of generating change?
    • D x V x F > R It was dreamt up by a man called David Gleicher, who was trying to explain the three different elements which need to be in place if you are trying to overcome resistance to change. Here’s what each letter means: D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now V = Vision of what is possible F = First concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision R = Resistance to change(location 2293)

Great Quotes!

  • It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age. Margaret Mead(location 1147)

Use in class tomorrow

  • We have heard of one brave school where every term the children are each given a ‘joker’ they can play at any point of any lesson during that term. When they do so, the teacher has to stop teaching and try to give the class their best explanation of why that topic is important enough to be taking up the children’s time. The explanations are listened to respectfully and evaluated by the class. Trads might well be appalled by this apparent show of disrespect or lack of trust. Mods, however, will be open to the possibility that the thinking involved, and the discussion that could ensue, is a better preparation for life than passively accepting what you are told.(location 1192)
  • A ‘mistake of the week’ accompanied by an explicit attempt to tease out the insights it can bring the class is an example of the kind of curriculum we think children of this age need.(location 1259)
  • there is a great website called which shows short film-clips of all kinds of people talking about the journeys that led them to the work (whether employed or self-employed) they now love doing.(location 1371)
  • I had a really good history teacher, fun and full of energy. He taught us in a different way. Once before school he asked me, “Hannah, in the middle of the lesson can you keep on asking questions and I’ll ignore you, then you storm out?” So I was like, yeah. The lesson was about reliable sources, so after I stormed out he made everyone write a letter to the head teacher explaining what had happened. Then he called me back in and told everyone it was a set-up. We read all the letters out and some, of course, were really biased – my best friends vs. people who hated me, kind of thing. It was a really clever way to show us what we were learning about. Hannah, Year 9, London secondary school(location 1375)

One day I hope to use…

  • On the financial crisis, 15-year-olds could read John Lanchester’s Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay or John Coates’ brilliant exposition of the neuroscience of risk-taking, Between the Hour of Dog and Wolf.12 On climate change, George Monbiot’s Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning or James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia would be good.13 On the evolution and future of humankind, anything by Richard Dawkins is an exemplary piece of science writing, while Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee is a great read14 – there is even a version adapted to the reading level of 10-year-olds now on the market,(location 1406)
  • The Social Animal, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind are highly accessible, well-researched and very thought-provoking.15 Alexander Diener and Joshua Hagen’s Borders: A Very Short Introduction brings history and politics together in a way that illuminates many current post-colonial conflicts.16 Many works of fiction also address contemporary or historical issues of real importance in lively ways – for example, John le Carré’s The Constant Gardener or Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.17 Any would-be writer of fiction would learn hugely from John Yorke’s Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them.18 Olivia Fane’s The Conversations: 66 Reasons to Start Talking would be a terrific primer for debates about painful contemporary issues.19(location 1413)

Stuff to Check out

  • David Perkins wrote a very good empirical paper on this way back in 1985, called ‘Post-primary education has little impact on informal reasoning’, which about says it all.3(location 418)
  • a detailed, critical review of E. D. Hirsch’s work by Kristen Buras in the Harvard Educational Review, in which she carefully rebuts all of Hirsh’s claims, has gone unmentioned by many Trad defenders.(location 448)
  • Academics like Robin Alexander at Cambridge or Andrew Pollard at Bristol, innovative head teachers like Sir Anthony Seldon at Wellington College or Tom Sherrington at Highbury Grove School in London, or thoughtful ex-teachers and administrators like Sir Tim Brighouse, who have spent decades thinking about schools(location 481)
  • See Amy Finn, Matthew Kraft, Martin West et al., Cognitive skills, student achievement tests, and schools, Psychological Science 25(3) (2014): 736–744.(location 776)
  • Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton, Wider Skills for Learning: What Are They, How Can They Be Cultivated, How Could They Be Measured and Why Are They Important for Innovation? (London: NESTA, 2009). Available at: files/wider_skills_for_learning_report.pdf.(location 1140)
  • curriculum from New Zealand called Te Whāriki, which means a woven mat in Maori.(location 1247)
  • Some schools use the popular technique known as Six Thinking Hats, created by Edward de Bono, as a basis for making switching roles fun (the children wear different coloured hats to signal which ‘mode’ they are currently in).4(location 1266)
  • What the heck, students producing an academic paper?
    • On 22 December 2010, the prestigious science journal, Biology Letters, produced by the Royal Society, published a paper entitled ‘Colour and spatial relationships in bees’.6(location 1297)
    • Two researchers, Ann Brown at the University of Berkeley, California7 and Chris Watkins at the Institute of Education in London,8 have shown how, by deliberately seeking to set up classrooms as communities of enquiry, the level of understanding and quality of questioning becomes much deeper.(location 1320)
  • They are using a tool called the TASC wheel (Thinking Actively in a Social Context), which was created by Belle Wallace.2 The TASC wheel helps them orchestrate the task; their teacher is doing very little to guide or rescue them from the considerable difficulty of the assignment.(location 1578)

I don’t understand the value of this as yet.

  • Another similarly adventurous example which we liked was the decision by teachers at Coombes School, in Berkshire, to teach the Great Fire of London by having the whole school (and parent body) construct a scale model of London outside in the grounds, then to orientate it so that the wind was blowing in the same direction as it was on that fateful day, then to light it in Thomas Farynor’s bakery and see what happened. The children and assembled throng of parents potentially learned as much about the passage of fire as they did about the fragility of a capital city largely built of wood. The whole thing was filmed so that the learning could endure beyond the few minutes of the playground conflagration.5(location 1282)
  • Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLE) where children can work in groups, accessing the internet and other software, following up on a class project or taking them where their interests lead them. Mitra’s research shows that this self-organised enquiry works brilliantly – unless interrupted by adults.(location 1328)

What makes ‘typical’ and ‘great’ learning? Teachers’ perspectives

I’m currently participating in the Bastow Institute’s Create: Middle Leaders program. Our first major activity was to take photos in our classroom, then have a conversation with 4 students from the class and get them to choose 2 pictures that represent ‘typical’ learning, and two that represent ‘great’ learning.

We brought these pictures to day 1, compared and contrasted with a small group of other colleagues, then presented a poster ‘provocation’ to share with other groups. My group chose to contrast the typical/great dichotomy, and to set up a spectrum, inviting viewers to guess which end represented ‘typical’, and which represented ‘great’, here’s how it looked. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 11.46.22 am

And we posed a question?

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Have a look back at the first poster pic, where do you think teachers’ sticky notes would have congregated, further towards the left, or further towards the right?

Now, for the result… scroll down

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No big surprise there. Here’s what the cluster looked like close up.


And here’s what the lone ranger in the middle had to say…IMG_20170525_112227The author of this post it made a really good point in conversation afterwards. He said that if we took the top right photo on the poster (see closeup below)

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 6.10.11 pm

And we replaced the student doing the building with a teacher. How would that change the interpretation of those teachers viewing. Would it suddenly invalidate the modelling of the person doing the modelling, or would there be no difference?

I think this suggested thought experiment was a really sensitive yet striking way to support teachers to question assumptions about what I would suggest is a somewhat false ‘learner centred’ and ‘teacher centred’ dichotomy.

And with that, here’s the answer that our group came up with…


IMG_20170525_112245In closing, I just wanted to feature the work of another group who I thought framed the ‘typical’ vs. ‘great’ learning debate really eloquently (not to mention in a very aesthetically pleasing way).

Enjoy the cherry tree!