Tag Archives: research

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What would this look like if it were simple?

The notion of “complexity bias” seems to be around a lot in blogs, pinterest posts and Twitter, but I have not been able to find a lot of academic research into it. In fact, the only common definition seems to be this one: “Complexity bias is a logical fallacy that leads us to give undue credence to complex concepts.” It a ubiquitous definition, and could perhaps come from Farnham Street blog, but it probably doesn’t.

“Complexity bias” is such an engaging idea though because feels like it make sense. So while I have not found anything beyond blogs to back it up, I do think it is useful to me because it is something that I do in certain situations and contexts: I overthink things, I want everything I do to be amazing, well thought through, complete, wonderful and the best. But sometimes that stops me from just doing things quickly. Perfection is the enemy of good.

I made the little poster below in Adobe Spark, and I often look at it when I indulge myself again in the fog of complexity thinking. It was inspired the article: “The 1 Question That Helps Me Beat My Procrastination” , by Haley Goldberg.  The one question you ask yourself is: “What would this look like if it were simple/fun/easy?” Continue reading

My notes on Collective Teacher Efficacy

This is an overview of my research and thinking around Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE).

CTE refers to “the perceptions of teachers in a school that the faculty as a whole can execute the courses of  action necessary to have positive effects on students” a. It was identified by Professor John Hattie as having a very high effect size of 1.57 b. CTE is of interest to school leaders because it is an indicator of the willingness by teacher “to invest the time and  energy required to attain educational goals and results in greater effort.” CTE is a broad and systemic intervention which leads to “improved student outcomes” c. Jenni Donohoo identifies the following six enabling conditions for fostering collective teacher efficacy: Continue reading

  1. Goddard, R. (2001). Collective efficacy: A neglected construct in the study of schools and student
    achievement. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 93(3), 467-476. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-
    0663.93.3.467  (back)
  2. Hattie, J. (2016). Third Visible Learning Annual Conference: Mindframes and Maximizers,
    Washington, DC, July 11, 2016  (back)
  3. Donohoo, J., O’Leary, T., & Hattie, J. (2020). The design and validation of the enabling conditions for collective teacher efficacy scale (EC-CTES). Journal of Professional Capital And Community, 5(2), 147-166. https://doi.org/10.1108/jpcc-08-2019-0020  (back)

That uncertain feeling in the valley of despair: The joys of the research and writing process

Every teacher is a writer. We write texts of all lengths and in all styles. I find myself writing so much too, and in so many different contexts. As an Extended Essay supervisor (See my website here about the IB EE) I help students develop their research and academic writing craft. For quite a while now, I have explained the process to them with a graph which is based on my own feelings towards research and writing. Mind you, I love/hate it, but I will keep on doing it because the satisfaction, challenge and joy is greater than the hatred. I have finally committed this graph to the computer, rather than just whiteboards. So here it is: Continue reading

Tom Sherrington, Barack Rosenshine and ‘CPD’

Tom Sherrington (@teacherhead) is a good ‘education guru’. I like his straight talking and common sense approach, informed by a realistic approach to teaching and education research that really connects with what I think is important in education.

Since 2018, Tom has been focussing on Barack Rosenshine’s seminal “10 principles”. Here is all Tom’s writing on that: https://teacherhead.com//?s=rosenshine

He recently wrote this post about the PD needs of teachers (Teachers’ CPD needs are massive: it needs more time and more flexibility) which contained a great overview of what we are asking teachers to ‘develop’ in. I am copying the list here so that I remember to return to this, because that is the purpose of this blog for me, a personal and professional notebook about teaching and learning. So here is Tom’s list:

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Better conversations, Jim Knight

Jim Knight, Better Conversations Book coverI have really enjoyed reading Jim Knight’s “Better Conversations”. It is inspirational in the way it makes you mindful of what we do all day: Talk. We talk at, about, with and to each other. We all know how great it feels to have a truly wonderful, productive and invigorating conversation. What if more of our conversations could be even better? Knight provides some common sense approaches, but to call it ‘common sense’ is unfair because if having great conversations is common sense and easy, then why do we have bad/unproductive conversations, or conversations which could have been better?

I picked the 5 chapters I found most interesting and relevant, and used the mindmaps Knight provides at the beginning of each chapter as my guide to form my own notes and understanding. For this I used the software package MindJet Mindmanager, which our school provides for our students and created this mindmap overview: Better conversations Jim Knight (also see below)


  • Better conversations (Ch1)
  • The Better Conversations Beliefs (Ch 2)
  • Ask better questions to foster inquiry (Ch5)
  • Redirecting toxic words and emotions (Ch8)
  • Building Trust (Ch9)

My key takeaways: Continue reading

My booksnap notes of: “Why don’t students like school?” By Daniel Willingham

Over the last few weeks I read ‘Why don’t students like school’ by Daniel Willingham. It was a very popular book when it was published in 2009. Willingham is a professor of Psychology with a specialisation in neuroscience, and I appreciated having these ideas about how the brain learns presented in such an accessible way, although it was a bit too narrative at times for my liking.

While reading I like to make visual booksnaps using Piccollage. This strategy allows the information to rattle around in my working memory a bit longer; I DO something with the info which means that it will (hopefully) be stored better in my long term memory. Willingham explains this in Chapter 1, page 10, “How thinking works”.

I print the booksnaps off and will refer to them occasionally to remind myself of what I  have read. You can download all of them here in one PDF.

This book is also part of the holiday reading for the Twitter #edureading group.
All the info you need can be found here: sites.google.com/view/educational-reading-group/

Here are my booksnap notes: Continue reading

Cultures of Thinking PD program, with Ron Ritchhart

I have become part of a semester long professional development project called “Cultures of Thinking”. It is lead by Visible Thinking and Harvard Project Zero researcher Ron Ritchhart. It focusses on creating an environment where “a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members.” a.

One of the key components of this program is class observation – not to evaluate the teacher but to learn and become more aware of your own habits, cultures and teaching strategies. Our first day consisted of two sessions, in the morning we were introduced to the cultures of thinking program and questioning techniques. The second was a plenary session in which teachers from four schools came together to learn about how to objectively and non-judgmentally observe a lesson and how to record data so that it is useful for the person/school being observed.

My notes and relevant resources are below.

Continue reading

  1. See more at: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/cultures-of-thinking#sthash.Lw4Gagmy.dpuf  (back)

What is ‘understanding’?

I was tweaking our Year 10 unit (Geographies of Human Wellbeing) using the KUD criteria (Know, Understand, Do). This scaffold, created by differentiation guru Carol Tomlinson, has been around for a while.

  • Students will KNOW: (often represented in bulleted forma
    t) facts, dates, definitions, rules, people, places, vocabulary, information.
  • Students will UNDERSTAND : (best stated as a sentence which includes concept-based thought), Essential questions, theories “Big” ideas, Important generalizations, thesis-like statements
  • Students will DO: (represented with verbs), basic skills, communication, planning/organisation, thinking skills, evaluation, working collaboratively, skills of the discipline: mapping, graphing, collecting data, show p.o.v.

ICapturet was a really interesting exercise to represent the unit in a mindmap, it focussed my mind on what it was exactly what I wanted the students to understand from the this unit. The concept ‘understanding’ is hard to pin down.

David Perkins in “Teaching for Understanding” (1993) defines understanding as follows:  Continue reading

“How People Learn” Effective teaching in History

86f80dff7d4c3ca38804855513f857d1I have enjoyed skim reading the book “How people learn” by the National Research Council. It aims to give practical ideas on how to use current pedagogical research in the classroom.

The three key findings that the book presents are:

  1. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
  2. To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must:
    (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge,
    (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and
    (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
  3. A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.

It has a very interesting chapter about History teaching. You can download that chapter here: Continue reading

Teaching online research skills

fire hydrantIt’s sometimes astounding to see the simplistic ways in which some students look for information online. Typing a whole question verbatim into Google and then clicking on the first result is what some kids see as “researching online”. Writer Erik Palmer said that “when we prepare (our students) to conduct quality online research, we prepare them for so much more”, and I agree with that. Learning how to do quality, in depth online research teaches critical literacy and analysis and teaches students that all information comes from a certain perspective. So before any online research project, I often go through these steps:

  1. Teach them how to craft a better search query in Google by using search operators. Show them how to use the “Advanced Search Page” in Google.
  2. Look at the URL. It often contains information that can show you if it’s reliable or not. Not all sites are created equally. This comes as a surprise for younger students in particular. Explain how a URL like http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change will propably contain more reliable information than a URL that looks like this: http://damn-human-race.weebly.com/blog/the-great-climate-change-science-scandal#.VPG0n_khfYo. Checking the URL should only be their first port of call.
  3. Every website should be checked for credibility, purpose, and reliability.
    1. Credibility: Is there a verifiable author or organisation behind the page? Who is this person or organisation? Do they have expertise?
    2. Purpose: WHY was the site created? Is there a personal agenda, why?
    3. Reliability: Can you find the same information elsewhere? Can you corroborate what this information?
  4. Introduce them to citethisforme.com, currently the easiest to use online citation tool.

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Recognizing and Addressing the Barriers to Adolescents’ “Reading Like Historians”

historical thinking

I believe that every History teacher should read Professor Jeffery Nokes’ well-written paper on “Recognizing and Addressing the Barriers to Adolescents’
“Reading Like Historians”. He makes a very strong argument for creating a learning and questioning culture that is more like the actual discipline of History, rather than just uncritically rote learning and accepting what is in a textbook. Nokes’ research is firmly rooted in real classroom practice, which makes it all the more powerful and easier to apply practically.

Below you will find my highlighted sections and summary of the article. There is also a very clear overview table that lists the four barriers to “Reading like a Historian” and some suggestions as to how to overcome these barriers.

Some resources:

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Historians on World War 1, the debate goes on

Conservative politician Michael Gove, UK’s Secretary of Education

It promises to be a great year for World War One Historiography. In the first week of 2014 UK’s Tory Secretary of Education Michael Gove started a heated debate about the way the centenary of WW1 should be commemorated. Gove attacked the “Left-wing” and “the Blackadder” interpretations WW1. Twitter erupted in response and soon many respected historians weighed in on the debate. I found all of these viewpoints fascinating so I collected some of the recent articles and summarised them. Below you will find key excerpts of articles by Richard Evans, Gary Sheffield and Nigel Birrar. I outlined book reviews of Christopher Clark, Sean McMeekin and Margaret McMillan and there is a great article by History teacher John Blake. I included an old interview (YouTube) with Niall Ferguson on his book “The Pity of War” and there is a fantastic Twitter discussion between History teacher Russel Tarr and Historians Simon Schama, Tom Holland and Gary Sheffield.

It is vital for any society to discuss historical interpretations so we should be thankful to Michael Gove for igniting this debate. It also highlights the importance of good History teachers, they should present students with different viewpoints and let them arrive at their own well-informed and well-substantiated conclusions.

Download a Word version of the WW1 historiography dinner party. The sheet contains student tasks and all information in this post.

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