Monthly Archives: September 2013

Closing the gap marking

An excellent post to act upon during marking review week!

Improving Teaching

Mark better – take less time, get more impact

How do you mark twenty-five essays in an hour, while ensuring students know how to improve?
Has anyone ever found a way to ‘work smarter, not harder’?
Dylan Wiliam says they should spend longer reading your comments than you spend writing them- how does that work?
The Theory

The Sutton Trust report ‘Pupil Premium Toolkit’ listed effective feedback as the highest impact action (adding eight months of learning per year) – against the lowest cost.  They define feedback as being information which produces improvement in learning – but note that it can have very varied effect  – including a negative effect, and can be difficult to make work in the classroom.A lot of Dylan Wiliam’s writing and speaking is given over to making a couple of critical points, things not to do – which I’d like to raise briefly and then go…

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Teaching for A*s


Screen shot 2013-09-04 at 06.31.21Beyond the very general notion that we should teach as well as we possibly can, are there approaches we can use that help to secure the highest grades at GCSE? I don’t want to suggest that there are any simple tricks or quick wins or that it is possible or wise for us to expect ever more A* grades. However, getting A*s is something we often discuss at KEGS.

Perhaps it is better to think of it differently, working on the assumption that only a certain proportion of students will be awarded A*s across a national exam cohort. The question then becomes: how can we prepare our students so that they have the best chance of being in that number? This leads us to the brutally simple answer: They need to get as close to full marks as possible – which isn’t as obvious as it sounds.

From conversations with…

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Releasing the TouchPaper Problems

Laura McInerney

fireworkThe TouchPaper Problems are haunting my dreams.

Before last Saturday’s presentation about the Problems, I already wrote 7 questions – two of which I revealed in the talk. To decide on them I thought back to the problems that frustrated my own classroom practice and the times when I wondered: “How the heck am I going to do x“.

But I didn’t just want any questions. I wanted problems that would reveal knowledge useful to anyone in education  – whether teaching 5 year olds in a sleepy Cotswold valley, or at-risk 16 year-olds in Bradford. There’s also the problem of subject specificity. Right from my first discussion about the TouchPaper Problems people have been asking if there are different priorities for maths, or science, or drama. And this week Mike Cameron asked to the complex by pondering if we need a periodic table of students before we can answer…

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Student Led CPD – The Big 4

Amazing wise advice from students on how to improve teaching and learning…

Class Teaching

student led cpdFollowing on from this great bit of CPD last year, the 15 minute forum tonight was led by 6 members of our brilliant Student Leadership Team.  Earlier in the week I had met and briefed them on what we as teachers were focusing on this year – The Big 4…….Questioning, Feedback, Independence and Challenge.  They were then charged with thinking about and coming up with examples of good practice in these areas, based on their own classroom experiences.

As usual, they did a brilliant job.  Below is a record of their thoughts.


  • Ask us questions that make us think.
  • Follow up questions with more questions, that get more complex.
  • Get more students involved by using strategies like the lolly sticks with student names on.
  • Start the lesson with something engaging and interesting that will make us think and ask questions e.g. a big picture, a video clip, a…

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ResearchEd 2013: What a day!

Headguruteacher’s overview of ResearchEd 2013, including videos of Tom Sherrington’s own excellent session on Action Research at his own school and Laura McInnerney’s thought-provoking talk on discovering the ‘Touchpaper problems’ in teaching and learning that we really should solve…


researchED 2013 timetableWhat a day!

One of the best things about the ResearchED conference at Dulwich College was that it happened. It embodied the concept of a practitioner-led system perfectly.  This is what ‘bottom-up’ looks like. It was a great thrill to participate in an event that brought so many education professionals together in the spirit of ‘by the people for the people’, tackling the issues we face in education on our own terms; a gathering of classroom and research practitioners meeting to exchange perspectives on the important work we all do.It was magnificent. It felt like the start of something. I hope that’s true.

Arriving at the event was like ‘Ultimate TeachMeet’ in terms of putting faces to names from the twitter world.  That’s part of this phenomenon. Social media plays a part in allowing practitioners to communicate free from the institutional hierarchies and structures that have kept us all segregated…

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Notes on a conference – ResearchED 2013

An excellent summary of the ResearchEd 2013 conference held at the start of term at Dulwich College in South-East London.

Improving Teaching

“‘Imagine, you’re in your online game world, walking around looking for something to kill, or information, or healing magic or something actually relevant, and then some twat comes along trying to sell you a pair of imaginary trainers.’   She frowns.  ‘Kind of like life, I suppose.  Hmm.'”

Scarlett Thomas, PopCo

I mostly quite liked that paragraph, but I’m going to stretch it into an analogy for the place of research in many schools.  Imagine, you’re in the classroom, trying to work out how to teach a diverse group of students with a range of needs a complicated concept and then some twat comes along trying to sell you Brain Gym.  Then imagine that this comprises one of your five Inset days of the year, a huge investment in time and money; let’s not forget, it’s now school policy, so you need to be using it when the head drops…

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