What about the tree? Why knowledge is empowering.

‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’ 

This quotation tends to lend itself to the idea that curriculum, assessment and differentiation should lead us to expect, and accept, different things for different students due to an understanding of individual differences. And there’s a place for that – if every student left school at the same point, somebody’s been failed somewhere along the line. All students have different skills, attributes and talents and it’s reasonable to expect schools to nurture students in a way that enables each student to achieve.

The problem is that this idea can be over-simplified to the ideas in this cartoon.our-education-system-fair-selection-all-climb-tree-300x

In practice what can happen is that aspirations are capped because the decision is made ‘you won’t be very good at climbing a tree, so we’ll not introduce you to a tree at all‘. Or because certain students don’t succeed very well in extended writing, or because they’re bottom set, or kinaesthetic learners, we’ll remove the extended writing or highly scaffold it in the name of fairness. As long as all learners feel they’ve achieved then that’s all that matters, whether the achievement is real or not.

Continue reading “What about the tree? Why knowledge is empowering.”

Reclaiming KS3: Engagement

In this series of blogposts I’m exploring ways that KS3 can be reclaimed rather than being viewed as a second priority behind KS4/5. To go further, what I’m suggesting is that if schools want to ensure maximum progress gains at KS4, then targeted investment in KS3 is essential.

The three ways that this can be achieved are:

  • Challenge (Read the post here)
  • Engagement
  • Early intervention

Engagement

employee-engagement-survey-staff-surveyThere’s been a lot of discussion about the nature of engagement and relevance in the eduTwittersphere in recent months and it’s clear that these concepts raise a range of issues to be explored.

Sometimes I find that engagement is often tied up in discussions of relevance and self-esteem and many other concepts that shift the focus of learning away from the student and on to the teacher. When engagement becomes synonymous with ‘entertaining’ and ‘fun’, there’s an implication that if there’s an issue with achievement or student behaviour, it can be explained away as ‘the child only behaved that way because they found the lesson boring’. This approach fundamentally undermines teaching staff and excuses poor behaviour. It gives students an opt out and acts as a stick to hit teaching staff with – hardly conducive to developing a high performing team. Positive behaviour for learning should be non-negotiable, regardless how entertaining students find the lesson. In this post, I’ll be exploring why challenge can help foster engagement and how through praise we can promote engagement within an academic environment.

Continue reading “Reclaiming KS3: Engagement”

Reclaiming KS3: Challenge

ProgressThere’s been a lot of focus on KS3 and the role it plays in achievement at KS4. Sometimes I wonder if due to pressures in the upper school, KS3 risks becoming the neglected sibling of KS4/5. It shouldn’t be. If KS3 is purposeful, challenging and engaging, the chances of having the progress gaps to be filled in KS4 will be drastically reduced. In short, the key to success at KS4 is strong KS3 provision.

 

The keys to success at KS3 are:

  • Challenge
  • Engagement
  • Early intervention

This post will focus on the first area: challenge.

Continue reading “Reclaiming KS3: Challenge”

Previous posts on Staffrm.io

Prior to opening this website, I have posted to Staffrm.io on a range of topics. The benefit of Staffrm is that, like Twitter, it’s a collaborative space for testing ideas that don’t have to be polished. It’s great for digitally jotting down some ideas and reading what other people are exploring in their own classrooms.

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Previous posts

“What do you think?” Thoughts on 360 reviews as a form of professional learning

Teach. Mark. DIRT. Repeat. Thoughts on streamlining marking

Why I’m banning ‘just Google it’. Thoughts on digital literacy.

Rethinking literacy: teaching literacy through high-quality texts 

“It’s on us now, isn’t it?”: some reflections on student feedback

Multiliteracy: more than reading and writing