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Stephen Ball: The Education Debate

20th December 2014

Have you ever wondered how government ministers can keep a straight face while making extravagant speeches about giving freedoms to schools and trusting teachers? If we judge them on their record it seems almost impossible they actually believe what they are saying. In 2010, for example, Michael Gove proclaimed during an interview with Andrew Marr, "I'm a decentraliser. I believe in trusting professionals. Was it a barefaced lie or did he mean it? The evidence would seem to speak for itself. When he became Secretary of State for Education the first thing he did was convince parliament to give him...

Biesta: The Beautiful Risk of Education

13th December 2014

We seem to be in the process of creating an education system that strives to reduce all risks whilst making ever-greater demands. The new system tells our students they have to work harder, be more productive, and aim ever higher, but is not prepared to allow them simple freedoms or opportunities to make choices and to decide things for themselves. It is a mechanistic system of control and productivity that sees qualifications as the over-riding purpose of education. Recently I read a blog written by a teacher at a high performing academy where the students are required to move around...

Some principles for debating on edTwitter

7th December 2014

One of the main reasons I enjoy being on Twitter is the chance to discuss education with teachers all over the world. It is a great forum for bringing people together. However, occasionally things go wrong and people fall out. You may have noticed a large schism has opened up in the last few months on edTwitter as more and more people have got sick of the bickering and have started blocking and muting opposition voices. There is, as we all know, a wide spectrum of thought in education and much disagreement over pedagogy and curriculum. This has created a...

The End of Levels: An opportunity or another fine mess?

10th November 2014

The DfE has published a 44 page document listing the proposed Performance Descriptors for KS 1&2. Please take a look if you haven't seen it yet. It is potentially the most explosive hand-grenade thrown into primary education for twenty years. I've read it twice now and I'm still struggling to understand how it is supposed to work. The notes below represent my current thinking, I'd be very interested in hearing what others think. While reading the report it's also worth considering the answers Tim Oates, the principle architect of the National Curriculum, gives about assessment in this recent interview. There...

Planning a Mantle Together

24th September 2014

Tim On October 13th and 14th, 2014 Jane Manzone - @heymisssmith - and I will be teaching in her class using mantle of the expert. During the intervening two weeks we will plan the context together using this webpage to record our work. Theme: Space Students: 30, Year 6 Jane Background My Year 6 class currently have a Connected Curriculum topic entitled 'Out of This World'. It is a Science based topic but I am linking most of my Literacy, my Art (Starry Sky Van Gogh) my Music (Holst) and some Humanities to this. We are reading a book called...

KIPP: The difference between teaching, training, and indoctrination

16th September 2014

A Teacher who is prepared to have their practice recorded and posted online deserves respect. I’ve done it myself and it’s a risk. I would, therefore, like to make it clear from the beginning this blog is not an attack on the teacher in the film. I’m not going to comment on her style or the way she speaks. I am, instead, going to discuss the strategy she uses with the children and then offer an opinion on why I think it is flawed. To my mind this is a legitimate subject for inquiry, the strategies we use in school...

There is no right way to teach everything

12th September 2014

When I was learning to drive I had an instructor. He sat next to me in the car and told me what to do until I knew enough to take the test and go out on my own. This method worked, but it took me two years. I was a very lazy student. I don’t believe, however, that giving me the keys and telling me to discover how to do it be myself would have been a better method. Honestly, I would probably have ended up crashing and killing someone. I also doubt teaching me using a textbook would have...

Dorothy Heathcote had her critics too

I’ve been digging around in the Heathcote archive for the last few days researching the origins of mantle of the expert for a Chapter in a book. Finding a definitive date for when Dorothy first used the term has been frustrating. The earliest dated document mentioning ‘mantle of the expert’ is an article written by Heathcote for the Secondary School Theatre Journal, in 1975. However, Sandra Heston proposes 1972 in her PhD thesis. As evidence she sites a paper which she says was authored by Heathcote in that year [See Appendix 10, p. 216). However, when I searched for the...

L.S. Vygotsky and Education – Luis C. Moll, 2014

30th August 2014

If you have qualified as a teacher in the last ten years there is every chance Lev Vygotsky’s ideas on education played a significant part in your training. Born in Belarus in 1896, Vygotsky’s life was cut short in 1934 when he died from TB. Yet in the few years he worked as an educational psychologist, Vygotsky made significant discoveries and laid out a systematic theory for teaching and learning that for many represents the groundwork for modern day pedagogy. His central idea is that human beings learn in social-cultural environments with the support and guidance of those who know...

Why telling the truth is better for learning

28th August 2014

A little while ago the Daily Mail published a story entitled: Teacher apologises to parents after 'alien egg' project leaves children 'in tears and too scared to go to school' The by-line ran: Problem solving project centred on a 3ft-high egg found in school grounds Children were told the egg was safe, and asked to help investigate the 'amazing discovery' Many parents said their children were enjoying the project But some complained younger pupils were in tears or having nightmares Headteacher Jon Smith later apologised if children were 'worried' by stunt At the end of the story, the Mail quoted...

Some planning tips for new teachers in Key Stage 1

25th August 2014

1. Don’t panic! The curriculum for KS1 is fundamentally about reading, writing, maths, and lots of speaking and listening. There is a small amount of content in the foundation subjects - science, history, geography etc. - but not too much: so breath easy on coverage. For KS1 the curriculum is all about practicing the basic skills without turning school into a bore. 2. Pick a topic kids are interested in. A year with a class of bored infants can be a very long time. Here are some suggestions: castles, animals, dinosaurs, traditional stories and fairy-tales, sharks, space (especially aliens), caves,...

Silence is golden (sometimes)

22nd August 2014

If we need any more proof that ideology should play no part in directing pedagogy, it is in the matter of 'active' and 'passive' learning. What even is 'passive' learning anyway? If it means doing nothing, then it's not learning. If it means not speaking or moving around, then it's not passive. Listening is active participation, just not involving movement or sound. We do this every time we read a book, listen to the radio, or watch TV. So let's consign the idea of ‘passive learning’ to the dustbin. And while we're at it, let's do the same to the...

Teaching as Story Telling, Kieran Egan

13th August 2014

Visit any primary classroom and you will find a corner of the room dedicated to books and reading These are often lovely comfy spaces, scattered with soft cushions to sit on and displays to capture the children’s imagination. They reflect, despite the growing importance of technology in schools, how books still play a central role in the education of young people. This is widely accepted and understood. Teachers tell their students stories from the very first day they start school and children’s storybooks are better made and more engaging than they have ever been. Yet stories are an underused medium...

Play as a medium for learning

7th August 2014

Some of the most astonishing photographs taken during the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza were those of young children playing among the rubble and carnage left by the bombs. It is almost as though the games they were playing were a shield against the horror and bloodshed that surrounded them. They had no power to stop the terror of the real world of adult conflict, so they were retreating to imaginary worlds where they were the ones who made the decisions - places of greater safety. Play is, as far as we can tell, a near universal and innate human...

Review of Expansive Education by Bill Lucas, Guy Claxton & Ellen Spencer

10th July 2014

This review was first published in Teach Primary Magazine and is re-published here with their kind permission. It is tempting to think of the education debate as a battlefield. Two sides locked in mortal combat, fighting a never-ending war of ideas. Both convinced beyond doubt they are on the side of the angels, while their enemies are at best, misled, at worst, hell-bent on destroying all that is good. I exaggerate of course. Nevertheless, the dispute is real and bitter, and both sides are reluctant to concede an inch, let alone listen. But, what does it matter, you might ask?...

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