Blog

Why we should stop talking about ‘delivering’ the curriculum

13th August 2013

For a long while now, delivery has been the accepted analogy for curriculum design and teaching. First appearing in the educational lexicon about the same time as the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in the early years of the Labour Government, it soon became the go-to metaphor for anyone talking about the teaching and learning process in the late 90s. As a technical term, however, it is deeply flawed and fails to capture the multifaceted complexity of its subject. Teachers are not postal workers delivering knowledge like parcels from the page to the brain and children minds are not passive open-mouthed...

ED Hirsch – Really not the bogeyman Part 1

7th August 2013

E.D. Hirsch, ‘The Knowledge Deficit’ Over the last two or three years E.D. Hirsch, a retired Professor of Education and Humanities from Virginia, USA, and his ideas on why American education doesn’t work, have become a cause célèbre. He is considered, depending on your point of view, either an inspirational guru of great insight or a pantomime villain with dangerously reactionary views. In my experience academics writing about education are rarely extremists, they are usually thoughtful and careful about their conclusions and tend to walk the centre line. Hirsch, despite the hype, is no exception. His ‘hardline neoconservative’ reputation is...

ED Hirsch – Really not the bogeyman Part 2

3rd August 2013

Notes on developing Vocabulary: In Chapter 3 Hirsch tackles the subject of developing knowledge of language. He starts by making an uncontroversial assertion, “every effort should be made to make vocabulary building in school as effective as possible.” (p.59) But then cautions us that developing language is far from straight-forward, “how we do it remains something of a mystery.” (p.59) It seems, drawing on the theories of Steven Pinker (mentioned in the previous blog on Hirsch), that developing language requires quite different teaching strategies to the ones used to develop decoding/encoding skills, “The consensus of all researchers is that indirect,...

Why Lev Vygotsky keeps me awake at night

2nd August 2013

I was up late last night arguing with my arch-enemy Harry Webb aka @webofsubstance. I think it fair to say Harry and I have divergent views on education, nevertheless, we are always careful to be polite and try hard to end our disagreements on a friendly note. The topic of last night’s discussion was a sentence in Harry’s latest blog: [Ref] where he stated, “Social Constructivism is a type of discovery learning.” [Note: see below] This is like a red rag to a bull for me, and I bit (rather too prematurely) Tweeting: “@websofsubstance sorry to be blunt, but you...

Cognitive Psychology – Apply with Extreme Caution

29th July 2013

I’ve always thought it interesting how, as a profession, we find the ideas of cognitive psychologists so beguiling and persuasive. As a recently qualified teacher, I first heard of the work of Howard Gardner at an INSET day in the early 1990s, his ideas were presented as the latest thinking in brain science. We were told multiple intelligences, along with a cornucopia of other discoveries, were going to revolutionise teaching and learning. Schools were to become nirvanas where each class would be transformed into an optimal learning environment; Mozart playing softly in the background, an infusion of lovely smells wafting...

Some further thoughts on: ‘Why Don’t Students like School?’

The following was compiled by Prof. Brian Edmiston as an extension of the Blog: All it is cracked up to be? Some notes on Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ This post was originally posted at 13:56 on July 29 2013 and was later revised after a conversation between Brian and Daniel (see comments below). You can see the original table as a PDF here - and the new revised table as a PDF here and below. There’s very little in Willmingham’s book that I don’t agree with. It’s just that his view is limited and cannot conceptualise the...

All it is cracked up to be? Some notes on Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’

26th July 2013

Don’t take my word for it; Read this book. Published, April 2010. Finally I got round to reading Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ It’s been on my desk for quite a while after being recommended to me by a number of friends. It is probably the most frequently referenced book on the education blogosphere and certainly amongst the most contentious. The following blog represents my notes and thoughts, which I started on Twitter and some people have said they found useful. I have tried as much as possible to write using Willingham’s own words. It is not an...

The road less travelled

22nd July 2013

This article first appeared in Teach Primary and is re-printed here with their kind permission. I like to imagine the curriculum as a map of a country only partly explored. There are aspects – the coastline, a mountain range, some major rivers – that are well known to previous explorers, but there are others, too – the dark interior – that represent an unknown land waiting to be discovered. Of course, some parts of the new world we are told we have to visit, these are the mandatory places every traveller goes to, but there are others only we will...

Who would have believed the new primary history curriculum would have turned out so well?

13th July 2013

On Monday the DfE published the latest draft of the new National Curriculum and many working in the primary sector greeted it with a massive sigh of relief. Most of the grand excesses of the February draft had either been softened or gone altogether and nowhere were these revisions more welcome than in the History curriculum. The wave of consternation and criticism that crashed into Michael Gove following the February draft threatened to sweep away the whole new curriculum project and it seems he listened or was forced to concede, depending on your point of view. So, where are we...

The new Primary History Curriculum is (whisper it) really good

9th July 2013

Click here if you want to view this blog as a Word document (it might be easier with all the tables). A copy of the New National Curriculum can be downloaded from the DfE website. The history programmes of study have been the most controversial aspect of the curriculum review process. The current draft document, which is likely to become law in August with some minor revisions, is very different from the draft history curriculum published in February. These changes are likely to be welcomed by primary school teachers. In reviewing the changes from the current National Curriculum, published in...

Exploring History Through Dramatic Inquiry

24th May 2013

This article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Creative teaching & Learning Magazine, it incorporates a number of photographs and other images and is therefore best read as a Pdf. To view as a Pdf click here. Exploring History Through Dramatic Inquiry Mantle of the expert has always been an enigmatic approach, not least because of its name, which is hardly catchy, but also because it seems to contradict many of the assumptions of how a classroom should work. Some have called it nothing more than a drama convention, others like to label it as a return to...

The tolerance of ambiguity

28th April 2013

This blog started life as a comment on Debra Kidd's article for #blogsync - Progress? It’s more complicated than they’d have you believe! however, as it grew I thought it might deserve a place of its own and so have decided to also publish it here and add it to the #bogsync list. Brian Edmiston prefers complex to complicated and I think I agree. Complicated is what the data-trackers, progress mapping charts and APP assessment forms (unintentionally) make of the process of evaluating progress. They are tools of empirical science that want to take shifting, complex processes and re-interpret them...

A system where good people, do bad things, for the right reasons

23rd March 2013

This morning I read a post on the Guardian website from another ‘Secret Teacher’. The article was a heart-felt groan of frustration and professional angst from someone who was doing bad things, for good reasons, and watching children suffer as a consequence. Later in the comments section, a contributor (@jadedjogger) asked: “Yes. It's an own-goal by the teaching profession. How did we get here?” This also sounded heart-felt and made me think. This is my answer. I don’t think people in education do bad things for bad reasons, but our education system is poorly designed and built on internal inconsistencies....

Dispatches from Palestine

11th March 2013

Luke Abbott has been working in Palestine for the last three years with the Qattan Foundation, training teachers and teaching in schools to develop exciting and meaningful experiences for students using imaginative-inquiry. Working with very limited resources and through a translator involves unique challenges and experiences. In this blog Luke describes one day’s work in a primary school in Jericho. It is 5.00 in the morning and I am awake, listening to the Mullahs outside my hotel in Ramallah. I am also planning my day to work in a school in the desserts of Jericho that is famous to Palestinians....

Inequality is a part of the system

2nd February 2013

This blog has been written as a response to the Guardian debate: "Closing the inequality gap in education" It seems like inequality is built into the education system. I believe all right-minded people in education, including Michael Gove, are motivated by a desire to close the achievement gap, but we are all hamstrung by an education system that disadvantages children who do not benefit from a rich learning environment at home. Apparently (according to the work of Prof. Alan Dyson), the most significant single factor in the likelihood of a child succeeding at school is the level of education of...

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