Data’s veil of ignorance | Adam

A few years back I went for a pizza with an old friend. We shared a pretty large pizza but somehow ended up with just one slice left between the two of us which we both desperately wanted. Bearing in mind that we would both happily lie, trick or outright fight each other for the last slice, our ensuing discussion about how to apportion it ended in a stalemate, with neither of us agreeing on a compromise. At this point, my friend suggested a solution: I would cut the slice in half, and he would choose which half to take.

Brilliant. It was in my interests to cut it as equally as possible,…

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Are educational videos rubbish? | Adam

A little while back I was observed teaching my year 10s about the development of the periodic table and Mendeleev’s contributions. As per usual, I explained a bit, the students did some work, we went over their work, then I explained some more. I used diagrams, tables and pictures to aid my explanations.

In the post-obs feedback, the observer said to me that at a certain point in the slides there had been a link to a video, and it was a “shame” that I hadn’t used it. The lesson would have been better if I had have used the video.

This memory came back to me recently when the shoe was on…

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The six best blogs I’ve read this year | Adam

I love reading education blogs, and this year has been a great year for it. There has been a ton of incredibly interesting stuff published, and I know that my practice has changed for the better because of it. I’ve narrowed down my list of “best” blogs as much as I can, and I’ve tried to limit it to blogs that are just so comprehensive as to feel like nothing else needs to be written on the topic. Because it wouldn’t be right not to, I have a couple of honourable mentions and bloggers to watch too. A little while ago I collected the blogs which influenced my development the most which you can…

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The Slow Practical | Adam

In a previous post, I described a simplified model of Cognitive Load Theory. The advantage of the model I presented is that it allows teachers a ready framework from which to make decisions in and before class about how best to optimise their instruction for learning. This post will make more sense if you read that one first, as it concludes with the scheme below:

The image above represents the equation in a very general sense. The cognitive load in practicals is always going to be high. This is why general calls for your students to be “minds on” are not helpful without being provided…

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Curriculum in Science: A Symposium | Adam

I started teaching in the Gove years; a time of enormous curriculum upheaval with all three secondary key stages seeing major changes in a bid for increased rigour, higher standards and improved performance on international assessments. In recent months, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has continued to increase the public awareness of curriculum matters through speeches and policy and, if the education commentariat are to be believed, “curriculum” is the buzz-word of the moment.

But curriculum is a bit of a chameleon word. To some, it means the substance of what is to be…

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Retrieval,workload and pedagogical content knowledge | Adam

I’m really chuffed at the number of people who have got in touch to say they are using retrieval roulettes and that they are willing to share theirs. I use one in 90% of my lessons and in my opinion there are many benefits:
It’s a great starter as not only is it a settling activity, but it’s actually beneficial to student memory, unlike other common starters (codebreakers and wordsearches: I’m looking at you).
You also have the opportunity to destroy learned helplessness in your classes. You can give students the entire roulette (and I do), guaranteeing that with a little elbow grease they…

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Simplifying Cognitive Load Theory | Adam

Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) may be the single most important thing for teachers to know, but it was not necessarily designed with teachers in mind. The product of lab-based randomised controlled trials, it is a theory from the specific academic discipline Cognitive Science. In recent years teachers have found it incredibly useful and many blogs and books have been written trying to explain it and how it can be utilised in front-line education.

In my experience, most will use Willingham’s graphic below in order to explain CLT:

A very general reference to the working memory…

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