Big Maths Beat That!

Yes, Zero Marking!

Yes, Zero Marking!

Big Maths Beat That isn’t like any other assessment and tracking system. It is at the very centre of the school’s entire maths curriculum. It is the engine room of the pedagogy, as opposed to ‘bolt on tracking’. If you were told to throw out all your tracking systems, unless you desperately wanted to keep them for your own purpose, then BMBT would remain. When the curriculum, pedagogy and tracking are one, then you have an easy and natural response to the question, ‘What impact is our curriculum having on our children’s learning?’

The progression and the content of the BMBT challenges are at one with the curriculum design and the age-related expectations from the national curriculum, this means that at any moment in time we can see if a child is on track, off track or ahead of track. This all happens through a simple scoring system. If we take the 19 progressive ‘CLIC Challenges’, we can see that if a child is currently on CLIC Challenge 12 (i.e. CLIC Challenge 11 is too easy and CLIC Challenge 13 is, as yet, too difficult) and has attained 6 out of 10, they would score 12.6. If they carry out the same challenge next week (with only slightly different numbers involved in the questions) and score 7 out of 10 their score goes up to 12.7.

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The CLT-Driven Curriculum

The CLT-Driven Curriculum

The implications of Cognitive Load Theory for teachers are becoming well established. However, the end result for busy teachers can end up looking like a list of ‘tips for teachers’ (‘remember not to have unnecessary animations in your powerpoint slides’, ‘remember to wait in silence while learners are processing new information before talking again’ etc.). This would be a serious watering down of the extensive research that has gone into CLT and the profound implications for teachers that has come out of that research. So, can CLT actually transform teaching in the way that it promises, and, if so, how?

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Adaptive Teaching is Alive!

Adaptive Teaching is Alive!

In my previous post I noted that exploring adaptive teaching can lead schools into advancements with their curriculum design, quality of teaching, and, crucially, the joining of the two. Here, I present 2 basic features of curriculum design that spring out of adaptive teaching, and then 3 broad modes for approaching adapting teaching, and finally 3 classic implementation errors.

Curriculum Design: 2 Basic Features

There are two basic requirements of a curriculum designed for adaptive teaching (i.e. one that empowers the teacher to be constantly responding to learners in a purposeful way).

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Differentiation is Dead!

Differentiation is Dead!

I was an NQT in 1993. I can still recall the mixture of emotion in the last week of the summer holidays, preparing to launch into my teaching career proper. The usual format was to spend the day excitedly cutting out giant letters for display and writing names on books/pegs/trays etc. only to be followed by a night of waking up in a cold sweat, having dreamt – yet again – that I’d lost control of the class. Except, one night I slept really well; I was so happy because, I’d had the brilliant idea to call my higher ability group ‘Smarties’! Of course this meant calling my middle ability group ‘Skittles’ and my low ability group ‘M&Ms’. By definition, I had already told two of my groups that I didn’t consider them ‘smart’. I shudder to think of the long term damage being a member of ‘The M&Ms Group’ had on those poor children (now aged 34); but that was the way of it at that time. Every primary teacher had fixed ability groups, notwithstanding the occasional battle for individual promotion/relegation from group to group.

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The 5 Megatruths of Great Teaching

The 5 Megatruths of Great Teaching

How fantastically big is this question, ‘What makes great teaching?’.

It’s quite a scary question for an actual teacher… because it challenges you to answer it! At first it sounds rhetorical, and perhaps we would all feel safer if it was. The question seems to be asking you to explain your professional worth and even your professional qualification. If you are given a few moments to jot down some bullet point answers, then you may struggle. Why? Well, if we listen to John Sweller (the TES referred to him as the ‘Godfather of Cognitive Load Theory’), then we can’t even begin to know about great teaching until we know about how the brain learns. Sweller says, ‘Without knowledge of cognitive processes, instructional design is blind’. In other words, we need to know about the brain in order to teach. No wonder ‘great teaching’, then, is so elusive. The brain is, after all, the most complex structure known to humankind.

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