In recent years retrieval practice (combined with spaced practice) has completely changed my teaching practice – for the better. I have seen many of the benefits of Retrieval Practice first hand, which go far beyond the ability to recall information from long term memory. I have fully embraced the research and this evidence-informed strategy, as have many others around the world. However, there are still some classroom teachers and students that are quite sceptical and wary about the hype surrounding retrieval practice.
What do all great teachers have in common? Likely, many attributes and qualities but all great teachers never stop learning. I am a very strong advocate for teachers taking ownership of their own professional development and learning because when I did this it improved my teaching practice and many aspects of my life. Taking responsibility of your own professional development can enhance, and eventually even transform, your teaching practice.
I recently attended a presentation, at the ResearchEd conference in Dubai, listening to teacher, leader and author Robin Macpherson discuss cognitive psychology. In his presentation, which you can read more about here, Robin posed some very interesting questions that I have been thinking about and reflecting on. Robin made the point that there has been an increased interest in cognitive psychology amongst educators in recent years and this is certainly true. However, some of the psychology linked to memory that we are now discussing, sharing, reading and writing about is not actually new at all.
Teaching is tough, whether you’re Foundation Stage, GCSE, A Level, Independent, State – all sectors of education come with their own pressures and challenges. One of the most difficult parts of being a teacher can be the questions around quality assurance. It is important to quality assure the work that teachers do, to leave teaching and learning to chance is the talk of foolish but even now despite the huge debate and debunking of graded lesson observations, they do still go on.
I often share the quote above because I remember reading it and feeling completely liberated. The quote is taken from The Confident Teacher: Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy (2016). It is my favourite book about education and you can read my review of it here. In the early years of my career I often felt exhausted. I was constantly chasing perfection and desperately trying to complete the endless to-do list. There’s always something we can add to our lists as teachers, whether that’s developing schemes of work, lesson planning, paperwork or even tidying up displays.
It can be argued that Dual Coding is a teaching and learning strategy that teachers have been using for years and years. Yet the term and the discussion around this approach has only become widespread in recent years (despite the work of Allan Paivio with his dual coding theory dating back to 1971 and he states that dual coding has its roots in the practical use of imagery as a memory aid 2500 years ago!). There are now lots of videos, blog posts, podcasts and presentations shared by educators about how dual coding can be used effectively in the classroom.
The exam season is fast approaching and this can often be a time of stress, anxiety and pressure for students and teachers alike. I have taught GCSE and A Level throughout my career and whilst some aspects have become much easier, for example in the first few years of teaching I would have fears that I wouldn’t teach all of the required content in time … but I always managed to with time to spare. Careful planning, confidence and experience can help teachers with these worries but I like many other experienced teachers are teaching new exam specifications for the first time. This has brought new challenges such as being the first year to sit the new exams, meaning limited examples of past papers and a lack of clear grade boundaries.
I didn’t fully engage with educational research at the start of my career but in recent years it has transformed my teaching practice and further built my confidence in the classroom. As a trainee teacher I was told that educational research informed us about VAK learning styles and the idea of the learning pyramid! This so-called research is now better known by many in education as edu-myths, theories that have been debunked because they are not supported by the science and research as initially claimed. This post isn’t about debunking myths but if that is something you are interested in then I can highly recommend the work of Pedro De Bruyckere, Paul Kirschner and visiting the popular blog by US educator Blake Harvard.
There have been a lot of films and TV dramas documenting the lives of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I with some being far more credible or interesting than others. It’s easy to understand why the lives of Mary & Elizabeth are often brought to the screen due to the intense drama, suspense, relationships and conflict of the period … everything a good script requires! What is likely to attract audiences to this film are the popular actresses Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, playing Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth in addition to those fascinated by two of the most well-known female monarchs in British history.
Last month, December 2018, I was very fortunate to visit Hong Kong. This trip was a combination of work and leisure. I was presenting at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (known as AISC) and the timing of the conference was perfect as it was at the end of the winter term at my school here in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Therefore after the conference, I was able to spend a week exploring Hong Kong – it was my first time visiting Hong Kong. I absolutely loved it, both the conference and the sightseeing. I wanted to share and reflect on my trip.