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Developing mastery in the classroom through personalised learning

To master anything you first need to be taught how to do it then have the opportunity to practice it, test what you've learned and practice some more until you get it. That's about it. Yet in schools we seem to ignore this and revert to a list of lesson requirements that appease an observation checklist. My presentation at The Telegraph Festival of Education explored this and suggested a few steps that any school can implement quickly to rid themselves of the unnecessary requirements that they have imposed on teaching.

During my time at the Festival I heard a number of teachers having conversations about education, as they would at such a festival, and the topic of mastery often arose. I used the image of the young child leanring to ride a bike as an example of what mastery is. The opening line of this post also defines it quite simply. So with my definition out of the way I got onto examples of great teaching provided by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby from the brilliant Brigh…
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A short netnography of edutwitter

Due to the instant communicative possibilities that the internet, social media and mobile technologies now provide to the public, we are connected to other cultures and societies as never before. From an epistemological perspective, educators are using these digital channels not only to be socially connected but to develop their knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning. Traditional ethnographers, however, find it challenging to keep up with these changes and adapt their methods to begin to understand this contemporary and socially connected digital society (Garcia, Sandlee, Bechkoff and Cui, 2009; Mills & Morton, 2013). According to Hine (2000), these digital networks‘provide a naturally occurring field site for studying what people do while they are online unconstrained by experimental designs’ (p.18) and with access to on-the-field research becoming more difficult for the deskbound researcher, the attractions of an online ethnographic study become more plausible part…

The schoolification of EYFS and the demise of play-based learning.

Painting? Thinking? Learning? Playing? All of these?
Before I taught in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), I would jest that this learning through play malarkey was just playing. How on earth could a teacher focus in such a noisy and chaotic environment? How could someone actually make sense of what was happening whilst the children would go from one activity to another whenever they liked? From the outside looking in it appeared that it was just playing and this illusion continued until I decided to work as an EYFS teacher. How hard could it be? I would draw on my 15+ years of primary experience and sort my foundation class into shape. Actually, the initial shock was fear. Fear that my assumptions were correct and that I had made a huge mistake. Fear that my confidence and ability to teach in any primary age group were no more.  Fear when I quickly realised I didn't have a clue how to teach in EYFS and these four and five-year-olds were making a mockery of my so-called pro…

The depressed teacher

For many years I have been recognised, in the main, as an 'outstanding teacher' by my peers, the LA and Ofsted. I learned from my errors, I listened to advice from those more experienced and I strove to improve my pedagogy through CPD and reading literature. In September 2012 I was recognised as an 'outstanding' teacher, one of only two in the school, by Ofsted yet only one month later I was deemed 'requires improvement' by the newly appointed headteacher. Why? What happened to my teaching? Where did I go wrong? How could I have let this happen? I questioned it yet found the reply insane- I didn't meet the new observation checklist. A descent into ill health and depression followed with two emergency visits to A&E with suspected heart attacks.

It's been a long time coming but I feel ready to tell this side of my teaching career so that others may recognise the signs and do something about it. My first visit to A&E happened during 2014. The atmo…

Favourite education blogger posts of 2017

2017 has been quite a year for Education bloggers. These posts have questioned my beliefs in education, they have informed me and made me think. Best of all, they have caused a ripple in Education in England. A ripple that that demonstrates schools can do things differently whilst achieving fantastic outcomes for their students and improved well-being for their staff.

'The scourge of motivational posters and the problem with pop psychology in the classroom' written by Carl Hendrick exposes the seemingly well intentioned increase of such posters in schools and  whether they may be doing more harm than good.

Memory not memories - teaching for long term learning written by Clare Sealy, asks the question 'Does the best learning result from memorable experiences?' and examines episodic and semantic memory to get to the answer. An essential read. 
Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity a paper written by Adrian F. Ward, Kris…

The Primary Education series - an introduction

"It’s impossible to recruit staff, retain them and help them uncover their greatest professional selves when they feel untrusted, constantly monitored and uncertain about their value in the organization." Jeremy Hannay, Headteacher, Three Bridges Primary School.The quote is from Jeremy's School Improvement post 'An Inconvenient Truth' that challenges the default scrutinize and monitor strategy employed by many leaders of schools. He describes it as the 'reassuring default in times of uncertainty.' I read his post earlier today and it made me reflect on the schools that I have worked as a teacher. Were they the type of schools that promoted trust in their staff? Did they provide staff the respect they deserved to get on with the job of teaching? Or did they monitor and scrutinize every aspect of teaching under the guise of improvement?

Over my 20 year career as a Primary Teacher, four of the schools I worked in were, and three continue to be, run in the r…

Thank you for making me think

My new role as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education has opened up a world of research that was just out of my reach as a primary teacher due to a severely limited budget and a local library that never stocked such literature. Instead, I used Twitter to keep in contact with those that had access to research and who would kindly share their findings on blog posts. People such as Clare Sealy, Carl Henrick, Martin Robinson, Tom Sherrington, Tom Bennett, Daisy ChristodoulouBen NewmarkDavid DidauDavid Weston, Joe Kirby, and many more, became, and continue to be, my go to educators for research focused discussion. Their posts helped form a period of enlightenment for me. They helped me question my own pedagogical approach, make me think about what I was actually doing in the classroom and made me want to find out more. Thank you for this spark as it helped improve my teaching for the better. Working in a school can feel safe and secure but my practice never seemed to improve through…

Second guessing the observer

Schools usually observe their staff three times a year and a typical observation in a typical school goes along the following lines. The management (SLT) inform the staff when they will be observed. The staff check the dates then plan over the top lessons to show off their teaching skills and a multitude of learning activities that they think will meet the needs of the observation form. The observer comes in for an hour, observes the prepared lesson and checks it off against the school's so-called Ofsted proof observation check list. The teachers have access to this so called Ofsted proof list so will try to make sure the prepared observed lesson meets all the points on the it.
Instead of an example of how the teacher teaches on a day to day basis we end up with an all singing, all dancing, resource filled, three part mini plenary firework induced New Year's Eve lesson that attempts to check off all the ticks on the observer's form. The observation takes place and if the …