Posted in Teaching and Learning

Sounding the Death Knell…

The EEF have just published their report on the effectiveness of Growth Mindset (at KS2)
You can read their summary report here: EEF Changing Mindset
Or the full report here: Changing Mindset Evaluation Report

The sad news is that it appears to have no effect.
Not on academic performance or even soft-skills.
Previous replication experiments of Dweck’s work have indicated that it may have no effect (or even a negative effect) on students, but at least have shown a positive impact on the children of low income families. This report shows now evidence of that.

This is only one implementation programme. Maybe there are others that work. However, if it is so hard to find one that does, should we be investing our time in a programmes like this?
Should Growth Mindset be part of any evaluation of a school’s effectiveness?
If GM remains as an evaluation criteria (and the actual sucessful implementation of it is time consuming and hard), isn’t the danger that we waste time giving the impression of implementing Growth Mindset through assemblies and posters that have little or no impact?
Carol Dweck herself has said that ” we have argued against including mindset in school accountability systems.” (source: Growth Mindset Firm Foundation Still Building House)

This TES article, “Where Growth Mindset Went Wrong“, explains more of Carold Dwecks own concerns about Growth Mindsets implementation in school and the lack of impact it has had.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Teaching and Learning

The Interconnectedness Of All Things

Today’s light reading comes from these three blogs:

What’s the connection?

Well, I guess after my own experiences of implementing Self-Directed Project Based Learning and trying to work out why it wasn’t successful for everyone,  my thoughts closely mirror Greg Ashman’s (Filling the Pail) on this matter.
Those with a disadvantage are even more disadvantaged when it comes to project based learning.  Evidence for this comes from the EFF report on PBL:

The trial results did not find that the PBL programme had an impact either on the pupils’ literacy performance (as measured by Progress in English 12 tests), engagement, or attendance. The analysis did find a statistically significant negative impact on students eligible for free school meals (FSM), however no negative impact was found for lower-attaining pupils more generally, which makes it difficult to hypothesise why PBL might negatively impact FSM pupils specifically. This adds to the uncertainty of the finding.

The EFF study was not the best and they conclude themselves their findings here are not totally reliable, but they are supported by PISA findings in 2016.

That said I do love a good project!  There is something rewarding about completing a big project.  Use of soft-skills can definitely be practiced through group projects, but like Greg, I’ve stopped using the project to teach skills but instead to apply what has already been learnt.  Students may determine for themselves that they need to learn additional skills, but the cognitive load should be lighter due to having already acquired understanding of the core skills and knowledge required to complete the project.

My big issue with projects is time.  For a subject that only has 50 minutes a week it is often impossible to maintain momentum and enthusiasm in students for a project that runs over multiple weeks (this was definitely a problem with the CiDA coursework projects).  Collaboration with other subjects can help.  When we used to take the Quest Story that Year 8 Students would write in English and convert it into an eBook (applying Photoshop skills to create book covers and use of styles to generate contents pages from chapter titles) we produced some great projects quickly. The problem would come when students had handwritten stories rather than drafting them in a word-processor. If they had to copy it up, this would be time-consuming and suck the joy from the experience.  Who were the student’s most likely to have hand-written their work?  Those who don’t have access to laptops or desktop computers at home.  The home may have internet, but access is most like through smartphones, which are not the most efficient devices for typing.  We may offer access to computers at lunch or dinner, but it takes a strong willed student to resist the temptation of social time with their friends to instead spend time in the computer room typing…

The best projects I’ve done however have been during ‘enrichments weeks’ when during intense periods I’ve been able to work with a group of students to create animations or music videos.  It is much harder to recruit students to these activities now though, because enrichment week has now become a time to take the students on trips to theme parks and indoor ski centres.

Alex Quigley’s post about the power of parents is another post that speaks to me and my experiences as both teacher and parent.

My intention this year is to make parents much more aware of what students are doing in lessons and when. I hope this does indeed encourage more involvement from parents and an improvement in attainment.

I have sent students in KS3 home with Knowledge Organisers for the first time.  I’ve instructed students to share it with their parents so they know what they are learning about. I’m also giving students strategies to use them which might including getting family members (or friends) to test them.
I also share schemes of learning via the school website (which includes assessment dates) but I’m not convinced these are ever looked at.  So maybe I need to let parents know via a direct message. or perhaps a wider school strategy is needed to do this (so 10 subjects aren’t spamming parents every 8 weeks with news of another assessment…).

And the other blog?  Well just because…

Ramble ends.

The featured image is from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt.

Posted in Resources, Teaching and Learning

Using The Cornell Notes System

This year I am introducing all my KS4 & 5 students to the Cornell Note system after reading about it last year and trying it with one of my students who was struggling to structure his notes.
This is a method that encourages students to think more carefully about the notes they take in class/when reading texts/watching videos.
It turns what might be seen as a ‘passive’ activity into a more ‘active’ one.
cornell system small
Some instructional videos on the method (or variations of it) can be found on youtube:
It only been a week, so too early to evaluate it’s true impact, however my first thoughts are hopeful ones.
Normally I wouldn’t look at my students’ notes (other than to check they were there), instead I’d check their understanding through questioning, assignments and tests.
This year, I have decided to mark the summary that they have written (still ignoring the notes unless I spot an error in their summary). This doesn’t take long (the summary section is only small), but it is quite revealing.
The most pleasing thing I have noticed is that so far their summaries almost exactly match my learning objective for the lesson.  To be clear I do not display my DLOs or get students to right them down (I do tell them what we will be learning and link it to what we’ve done previously).
You can download my template for printing the above.
You can also buy notebooks set out like this too: Cornell Note Book
Hope it’s useful.
Posted in Teaching and Learning

Caution: Bollards

Brain Gym – Bollards
Growth Mindset – Bollards
GRIT – Bollards
Deliberate Practise – Not bad but also Bollards

So says:

We then suggest that overemphasizing the malleability of abilities and other traits can have negative consequences for individuals, science, and society.

In this report: Overstating the Role of Environmental Factors in Success: A Cautionary Note


Posted in Teaching and Learning

Spaced Out

How weighing the pig CAN make it fatter.

I was asked to make a presentation on the topic of Assessment for Learning for our June Inset this past week. This gave me the opportunity to talk about some of the things I’ve been trying in my teaching this year when looking to develop Independent Learners.

The only limitations I had were the requirements that the session only last an hour (with opportunity for questions and that I engaged the audience with some “Active Learning” (because apparently if I just talked I’d be engaging the audience in “passive learning“).

Below are the slides from my inset session.

It’s the holidays now and I’m not feeling inclined to write up what I said into a long blog post…

…at least not yet.
so, click on the cog to access the speaker notes to get an idea of what I actually said.  I’m a fan of Presentation Zen, so the slideshow  is not a slideument.

The green text in the slides is usually a link to more information on the topic.

In the end I’m not sure I really did talk about assessment for learning.

Some more reading:

Retrieval Practice is a way of using spaced retrieval to help secure information in memory.  You can read more about it on the Retrieval Practice Website or on Twitter!

The EEF have done a pilot evaluation of a Spaced Learning scheme and have concluding that it looks promising with the theory supported by neuroscience as well as cognitive psychology.

Links in the Presentation:

Posted in Teaching and Learning

Metacognition and Impact

Impact is a journal produced by the newly created Charted College of Teaching. They have published an article by the excellent Alex Quigley (Teacher and Author) and Eleanor Stringer (of the EEF), about Metacognition.

In the article they explain what Metacognition is and isn’t along with some nice examples.  The most common definition we hear is that metacognition is ‘Thinking about Thinking’

Other definitions, such as ‘learning to learn’, are equally vague and can actually promote the misconception that metacognition is a generic skill that is not bound to subject knowledge – that we are not actually thinking about something.

In summary they say that metacognition requires:

  • Knowledge of yourself as a learner
  • Knowledge of appropriate strategies
  • Knowledge of the task

An effective learner will monitor their knowledge and cognitive processes, and use this understanding to make judgements about how to direct their efforts.

They go on to say:

These decisions happen intuitively but, with explicit teaching and scaffolding, they can be better and more habitually enacted by pupils.

They advise to beware of these common misconceptions:

  • Metacognition is a general skill that should be taught separately from subject knowledge
  • Metacognition represents ‘higher order’ thinking and is therefore more important than mere cognition or subject knowledge
  • Metacognition is only developed in older pupils

Generic ‘learning to learn’ or ‘thinking skills’ lessons may be able to impart some useful overarching idea, but pupils can struggle to transfer generic approaches to specific subject domains. Self-regulated learning and metacognition have been found to be quite context-dependent


SO… How might that look in my subject?

When programming Computer Science we teach iteration.  We have 3 commonly used loops to do, the FOR loop, WHILE loop and REPEAT…UNTIL loop.

I explain the concept, I do worked examples of how they work, they do trace tables examples, I teach the code, I give practice exercises, they do trace tables to check their own code and then give them problems that require application of the loop in the solution.  By the end of this process all students can use and apply each of these types of loop.

Loops are then used in most other programs that they will create going forward.

The interesting thing about loops is that you can normally use at least 2 of the 3 types to solve any one iterative problem (for example, you can make the equivalent of a FOR loop with a REPEAT… UNTIL), but it may not be the most optimal choice.

The problem comes when students make their own choice of what to use.  They are very often content that their solution works and don’t consider if it is the best solution.

It is incumbent on me to explicitly model my thinking process as I go through analysing a problem and planning a solution.

I should also get the students to explain their thinking process (in discussion pairs?) to their proposed solutions (or completed solutions).

In fact Issue 5 of Hello World magazine has a fantastic technique for doing exactly this on Page 45!


You-tuber Tom Scott explains the thinking processes applied to solving a ‘simple’ programming challenge…