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?...

NRocks2014 Presentation: Introducing mantle of the expert

8th June 2014

These slides and notes are form my presentation at the Northern Rocks conference: PDF (5MB) - moe Introduction Keynote moe intro web

A Review of Mindset – Carol Dweck

28th May 2014

This article was first published in Teach Primary Magazine and is republished here with their kind permission. First published in 2006, Mindset has become one of the most influential books in modern day education. Drawing on her research from Stanford University and including many stories of high-achievers from the fields of art, sport, and education, Dweck argues, when it comes to our beliefs on successful learning, people fall into one of roughly two camps: those that believe in the primacy of innate talent and those that belief in the overriding importance of sustained practice. People from the first group she...

A Nagging Problem with Robert Peal’s Progressively Worse

9th May 2014

This blog is not intended as a review of Robert Peal’s book, Progressively Worse: The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools, it is merely an observation - a sort of inquiry if you like - of something I noticed while I was reading it last week. I’ve had a number of conversations since, one of them including Mr. Peal, and the observation won’t got away. I’ve tried ignoring it, but it seems quite persistent. So here it is… When I started studying history at university in the 1980’s the first book we were asked to read was E.H. Carr’s,...

A short blog on behaviour, challenge, and expectations

1st May 2014

I’ve been working in a classroom recently. A classroom where: the children come in without having to line up… choose who they sit next to and who they work with… decide when they have completed a task... and which one to do next… don’t ask to go to the toilet… or to have a drink if they are thirsty… or a piece of fruit if they are hungry. A classroom where: the children work outside when they need to… alone or in groups… alongside and with adults… in an environment that is notably calm, respectful, and collaborative… where mis-behaviour is...

A Glossary of Questions

27th April 2014

Knowing the right question to ask at the right time, one that generates thinking, compels dialogue, and promotes understanding, is a significant part of the art of great teaching. For this reason there are many books on the subject and many teachers have written excellent blogs sharing their thoughts. My favourite book is ‘Asking Better Questions’ by Norah Morgan & Juliana Saxton. I’ve read it many times and whenever I return I always discover new insights and develop a better understanding. It is a treasure trove of wisdom and practical suggestions. It is still available on the Internet and I...

My Top Ten Books on Education (this week)

21st April 2014

After a brief Twitter conversation, Phil Stock @joeybagstock suggested we name our Top Ten favourite books on education. Here are mine. They are not, let me stress, a list I expect everyone to agree with. Neither do they represent a definitive Top Ten, the best books on education ever written, or the most influential, seminal or whatever. They are just my current favourites and I'm very likely to change my mind tomorrow. 1. Asking Better Question, Norah Morgan & Julianna Saxton [1994] - A brilliant book on the art and craft of questioning, I've read many times. I'm currently drafting...

The Divisions of Culture

19th April 2014

The ‘Divisions of Culture’ is a planning tool that can help teachers and students to think in divergent ways about a subject or context. It is quite easy to use but can be extremely generative: opening up new paths for exploring and studying a subject, as well as suggesting new activities and opportunities for study. The tool is usually presented as a grid of 18 sections or divisions, each division representing a different dimension of culture and society.   War Family Shelter Work Child Rearing Embellishment Worship Myth & Memory Nourishment Learning Travel Celebration Law Health Clothing Leisure Environment Territory...

DfE Meeting on the new primary curriculum – 8 April, 2014

8th April 2014

This blog is about the meeting at the DfE on April 8th, 2014 to discuss the primary national curriculum and assessment changes for implementation in September. The first part contains my notes from the meeting. The second contains a list of my thoughts on how the curriculum should be represented by the DfE as it is rolled out to schools. In my view the follow up documents to the NC are probably just as important (if not more important) than the curriculum itself, since they will give guidance to schools on how the new curriculum should be implemented. After the...

Another Blog on Not Making Obedience a Virtue

29th March 2014

Last week I wrote a blog about obedience. I think it is fair to say it had a mixed response. However, I did have some very interesting conversations on Twitter and there were some very thoughtful comments under the line, so I’ve decided to write a follow up. I’d like to explore in more detail the range (as I see it) of different strategies we can draw on as teachers beyond merely getting the students to obey. Some might say - “Why bother? Kids should just do what they are told, no questions, then we can get on with the...

Obedience is not a virtue

24th March 2014

A choice I want you to make a choice. The choice is between tyranny and anarchy. If you chose tyranny the country will be run as a dictatorship, backed up by the armed forces. Laws will be made arbitrarily in the interests of those in power. There will be no checks and balances, no free press, no independent judicial system. All that is required of every citizen is unquestioning obedience. If you don’t break the law, then you won’t get into trouble. If you do then the consequences will be dire: there will be no excuses, no opportunity to explain,...

Using a painting to develop curriculum knowledge and understanding

23rd March 2014

The context Last Friday I spent the day working in a mobile with a wonderful class of Year 5/6. The topic they are studying is the Roman Invasions, which they are enjoying enormously. Their teacher, ‘Mr D.’ (as the children call him), asked if I would plan a day exploring with his students the events of the Iceni revolt. The Roman Invasions are one of my favourite areas of study in the curriculum and the students in Mr D’s class are among the most switched on I’ve ever taught: focused, self-organised, and eager to learn. They particularly enjoy learning using...

Are you a Progressivist?

13th March 2014

You may have noticed there is a narrative argument currently popular among some education commentators that lays the blame for all our educational ills at the door of the progressive movement. This argument makes the claim that the progressive movement is built on a central principle, originating from the French philosopher Rousseau, that children are natural learners who learn best when they are left alone to discover things for themselves. This is a mistake, they say, which has distorted and corrupted our system of education in the 20th century and resulted in a facile curriculum and ineffective teaching methods. Progressivism...

Getting it wrong from the beginning:
 Our progressivist inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget

3rd March 2014

This is not really a blog, just a copy and paste job from Kieran Egan's website I hope I'm not breaking any etiquette doing this. You can read the original page here: Introduction The text comes for the Introduction to Kieran Egan's book "Getting it wrong from the beginning" I've decided to post it here because I have become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks by the way terms such as Progressivism, Discovery Learning, and Constructivism are being used interchangeably and generally negatively. In my opinion this is very unhelpful and does us no credit as a profession. I'm not a...

Some Problems with Topic Planning

25th February 2014

This weekend there developed an interesting conversation on Twitter about the merits and drawbacks of planning using Topics. Several of those involved agreed to write blogs outlining and expanding their views on the subject. List: @MissHorsfall - Creative Cross Curricular Contexts @rpd1972 - Contexts for Learning @ChrisChivers2 - Topic work; taking the long view @cherrylkd - Victorians for my special learners @michaelt1979 - The importance of curriculum design @ethinking - Authentic narrative in cross-curricular planning @ethinking - Flipping school This is my contribution. Topic Planning Topic planning has been popular in primary schools since the early 1970s. Its proponents maintain...


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