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Guest Post for the Learning Scientists

I was very excited to have written a post for the Learning Scientists last month, whose work is fabulous in spreading the word about effective (and ineffective) strategies throughout the teaching community.

I wrote for them about how I created a mathematics scheme of work trying to embed effective learning strategies from the outset.

You can read the post on their blog.

Adventures in Mastery 4: Lesson Sequences

In my maths department we are starting on a journey of building a new curriculum based on the principles of mastery.  To find out what mastery is, read Mark McCourt.  Implementing something different comes with all sorts of challenges but, if it’s a good thing to do, it brings benefits too.  One of the benefits I am finding this year is the liberation from the compulsion to produce a three- (or four- or five-) part lesson with objectives and mini-plenaries and some kind of forced activity to (falsely) demonstrate the “progress” my students have made over the course of an hour.  By having a curriculum with clear aims and (hopefully) coherent thinking underpinning every aspect I feel more confident to teach the way I feel will be most effective rather than making my lessons a conflation of lots of “best practice” techniques in order to satisfy a checklist. Continue reading “Adventures in Mastery 4: Lesson Sequences”

Adventures in Mastery 2: Writing a Scheme of Work

This is post 2 in a series.  In post 1 I discussed why we’re beginning a mastery scheme of work, some of my initial objections, and a brief description of “mastery” in its current incarnation.

In this post I will describe the process that produced my scheme of work, and share the working draft of the scheme itself. Continue reading “Adventures in Mastery 2: Writing a Scheme of Work”

Adventures in Mastery 1: Starting Our Journey

When you’ve been in education a while you see plenty of fads come and go and you become carefully cynical about the latest big pronouncement or the new product that’s going to “transform” your practice.  And so it was that I responded (in my mind) when everyone started to talk about mastery. Continue reading “Adventures in Mastery 1: Starting Our Journey”

Cognitive Load and Problem Solving

I was asked recently to deliver a training session for two maths departments on the topic of problem solving.  After internally balking (problem solving as a discrete entity is something that gets on my nerves, “problem solving lessons” even more so) I decided it was the perfect opportunity to talk about cognitive load and relate it to the requested topic. Continue reading “Cognitive Load and Problem Solving”

When am I ever going to use this?

I’m a teacher, and one of the most frustrating questions I ever get asked is some variant of, “But when am I ever going to use this?”.  And that, right there, is a problem.  Do they ever say to the history teacher, “But when I’ve got a job I won’t need to know about the complex web of events that preceded the Second World War”?  Do they ever say to the geography teacher, “But when I’m doing my shopping I won’t need to know about an oxbow lake”? (I do like a good oxbow lake, by the way. The one pictured is in Sarawak, Malaysia).  And do they ever say to the English teacher, “But I don’t need to have read Great Expectations in order to write a good CV”?  Probably not, but they sure as heck say to the maths teacher, “But when will I ever use a quadratic equation once I leave school?” Continue reading “When am I ever going to use this?”

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