The infamous saying “tax shouldn’t be taxing” is something that I feel rings true for its synonym, to assess. Assessment is a key element of teaching and learning, both in its summative and formative forms, and enables for a review of progress. Assessment is most valuable when it translates into effective feedback which supports bespoke, personalised future-learning, both empowering students to take ownership for development and equipping teachers with the ability to facilitate this. However, with full teaching timetables, a growth in the amount of assessments set within schools, and the melting pot of other duties, it has become even more pertinent to find ways to make assessment and feedback not only effective, but also efficient.
Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for what seems like days? The same words and melody looping over and over again? While it might be frustrating, your brain is actually doing some really amazing things as you recall Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance for the hundredth time that day. When a song gets stuck in your head it may have something to do with our involuntary memory, which encodes music in many different ways, helping us to remember a tune we’ve only heard once at our niece’s 11th birthday party. It’s a powerful concept; try applying this to an educational setting, and we can achieve considerable results.
When James McAleese joined Mount Grace School as assistant head in 2015, his challenge was to embed digital learning across the school. Having regularly used GCSEPod at his previous school, he knew that the resource could play a huge part in the digital transformation of the school.
A century on from the First World War, today’s students are increasingly distanced from the lives and experiences of those who fought in the conflict. There are fewer and fewer people who can talk to grandparents and great grandparents about the war, and how it affected people living at the time, from soldiers to women and children on the Home Front.
Despite all the educational changes that have happened since I started teaching History just under a decade ago, one thing has remained a constant. Source analysis is the hardest component for students to understand. This is part of my ‘why’ in that I do not remember any lesson in Secondary, A-level or degree that asked me to develop my ability to use sources. This may be me being incredibly disingenuous, and I am sure that any ability I have is not divined or been bestowed by anything other than practice. It may just have not been made as obvious to me it is now. Nevertheless I have constantly looked for ways to make source analysis more engaging, purposeful and develop the skills for students to engage in a real critique of sources.
We know that teachers are leaving our profession in record numbers, and I have heard of schools where more teachers are leaving than staying. We also know that not enough young people are choosing to become teachers themselves. Teacher training places are going unfilled, and there simply aren’t enough teachers to educate our children of the future. As the population grows, there seems to be little effort to make any changes to recruit and retain quality teachers. Year-on-year, teachers are voting with their feet and leaving the profession.
Since taking on a head of department role four years ago I have had the same flashback every time I sit down at my desk on the first morning back. I was up on the bleak wilds of Dartmoor in October with the daylight fading and rain coming down fast and furious. I wasn’t sure where I was or where I was going. Panic rose in my throat. I was lost.
James and Louise play a game of pool. Louise strikes the ball at a 45-degree angle and watches with great fascination to see how many times the ball bounces against the cushion. She wonders if the number of bounces would change if she had a bigger or a smaller pool table. She drags James around countless pool halls, keeping a record in a hand-drawn tally chart attached to her clipboard, until she believes that she has collected enough data to find a pattern. After several hours of puzzling, Louise finds a rule and is able to use this rule to find out how many bounces there will be on any pool table in the world!