Monthly Archives: April 2012



We must create new jobs as a matter of urgency and the key is leadership

Clifton gives depressing analysis but suggests too that  there is hope


The book The Coming Jobs War-What every leader should know about job creation- written by CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton argues that, of the five billion adults in the world aged 15 and over, three billion tell Gallup they want to work. But there are only 1.2 billion such jobs, leaving a staggering shortfall of 1.8 billion who will be unable to find quality, interesting, full-time jobs.  We are experiencing very high rates of youth unemployment here in the UK, including among recent graduates, but our situation is better than in Greece, Italy and Spain. The Spanish figures show almost half of all 16-24 year-olds in the country are jobless – 48.6%.

Although Clifton focuses mainly on the USA  he  clearly sees his analysis as having a global relevance.  It’s a provocative book and presents a challenge for business and government leaders.  Leaders of countries and cities, Clifton says, should focus on creating good jobs because as jobs go, so does the fate of nations. Jobs bring prosperity, peace, and human development – but long-term unemployment ruins lives, cities, and countries.  Creating good jobs though is tough, not helped by many leaders are doing many things wrong. They’re undercutting entrepreneurs for example instead of cultivating them. They’re running companies with depressed workforces. They’re letting the next generation of job creators rot in state bad schools.  A global jobs war is coming, and there’s no time to waste he claims. Cities are crumbling for lack of good jobs. Nations are in revolt because their people can’t get good jobs. The cities and countries that act first, that focus everything they have on creating good jobs — are the ones that will win. This really has to be a war on job loss, on low workplace energy, on healthcare costs, on low graduation rates, on brain drain, and on community disengagement,” he says. “Those things destroy cities, destroy job growth and destroy city GDP. Every city requires its own master plan that is as serious as planning for war.” The next big breakthrough, and the one that will help keep the United States on top, will come from a combination of the forces within big cities, great universities, and powerful local leaders:

Local leadership: The leadership at the local level is key to creating new jobs. Cities need leaders who will bring in new companies that create new jobs. Companies need to hire the right people. “More money, jobs and GDP turns on who is named manager than on any other decision,” says Clifton. “Fire all lousy managers today.”

Entrepreneurial innovation: “Entrepreneurs are the rainmakers,” says Clifton. When enough entrepreneurs gather in a city and create formal jobs, they start a virtuous cycle. Silicon Valley is a great example of this phenomenon. Other cities are showing positive signs of growth. Business leaders who are willing to take risks will pave the way for new jobs and economic growth.

Education: A few of the most well- known entrepreneurs dropped out of college, and some people believe that college gets in the way of innovation. Not according to Clifton. Great universities are the origin of most highly successful start-ups. They are a critical part of new-company formation, and America has a decided advantage because its top 100 universities are its most differentiating global strength in the war for jobs.

Clifton concludes The Coming Jobs War with ten findings that are “the most important of literally trillions of combinations of data and opinions Gallup has studied” for the United States to win:

The biggest problem facing the world is adequate jobs.

Job creation can only be accomplished in cities.

The three key sources of job creation in America are: the country’s top 100 cities, its top 100 universities, and its 10,000 local ‘tribal’ leaders.

Entrepreneurship is more important than innovation.

America cannot outrun its healthcare costs.

Because all public education results are local, local leaders need to lead their whole cities and all youth programs to war on the dropout rate, with the strategy of one city, one school, and one student at a time.

The United States must differentiate itself by doubling its number of engaged employees.

Jobs occur when new customers appear.

Every economy rides on the backs of small to medium sized businesses.

The United States needs to more than triple its exports in the next five years and increase them by 20 times in the next 30 years.

The basic message here, from Clifton, is that sustainable jobs do not just happen or are the result of government action. Indeed, the all-important ‘start-ups’ and ‘shoot-ups’ don’t occur because of new legislation, new rules, more free money, or any other government tweaking. They occur during moments of unusually high inspiration. More specifically, high inspiration toward entrepreneurship and free enterprise. There is no other way out, he argues There will in practice be no surge in ‘start-ups’ and ‘shoot-ups’ until leaders change the environment from its current state of no confidence to high confidence.

Easier said, than done.What is clear is that our economy  is not creating enough jobs for those coming into the jobs market and    you can have loads of entrepreneurs out there , but  if they cant  arrange lines of credit and loans, or  attract investors, no amount of good ideas is going to create sustainable jobs .Our politicians have no quick fix to  address this.Operation Merlin the governments plan, with the banks, to ease credit shows no sign of working .  Improving the supply and price of credit to the lower end of the market is an urgent priority



57 Secondary schools last year failed to enter a single pupil for GCSE History


Professor Simon Schama, who is a government adviser on History wrote, in 2011, that ‘Academies – where history is discouraged, or even ruled out, in favour of more exam-friendly utilitarian options – must be persuaded to teach it, and for more than a trivial hour a week. Drive-by history is no history at all. Ideally, no pupils should be able to abandon the subject at 14.’

History teaching in schools has been in decline since the 1990s. In 2011, 57 mainstream maintained secondary schools in England entered no pupils at all for a full course GCSE or iGCSE in history or ancient history. The Government hopes that the introduction the English baccalaureate (Ebacc) will encourage schools to increase opportunities for pupils to study history as part of a core of key academic subjects . Early evidence suggests that the measure is already having a positive impact on pupils’ subject choices. The Ebacc   was introduced as an additional measure in the performance tables published in January 2011. Pupils who achieve a GCSE grade C or better in English, maths, a language, history or geography, and two sciences achieve the EBacc. In 2010, 31 per cent of pupils at the end of KS4 were entered for history GCSE. But from September 2011, 39 per cent of pupils taking GCSEs in 2013 will be doing history GCSE – an increase of 26% in the numbers of pupils studying GCSE history and back to the 1995 level.

However, a new report from the centre right think tank Politeia suggests that Lessons in history are being increasingly undermined by an “incoherent, fragmented and repetitive” curriculum that leaves most children feeling “bored”. The study said: “At present, the artificiality of the questions around sources produces formulaic answers of dubious intellectual or academic value.” The study levelled a series of criticisms at the content and structure of the system, claiming History was often “too boring” for schoolchildren. This rather suggests that subjects’ recovery may not be sustained unless much more thought goes into the way the subject is structured and taught.

Pupils studying History will probably have come across both good and bad teachers. A bad teacher can turn the subject into a dull exercise in by rote learning.  But a good teacher can give it shades of colour, and depth, making it entirely relevant too, firing the imagination, helping individuals to develop analytical, and research skills along the way. Bur rather too many pupils  feel that when they are tested  the questions often require very little detailed knowledge or understanding of the subject, and so there is little incentive to drill down into the subject, to a depth where the  real rewards can be found.


The Pro-Social Classroom

Researchers look at model that highlights teachers  social and emotional  competence


Patricia Jennings and Mark Greenberg propose a model, in a just published research paper, of a pro-social classroom that highlights the importance of teachers’ social and emotional competence (SEC) and well-being in the development and maintenance of supportive teacher–student relationships, effective classroom management, and successful social and emotional learning program implementation. This model proposes that these factors contribute to creating a classroom climate that is more conducive to learning and that promotes positive developmental outcomes among students.

Furthermore, they review current research suggesting that there is a relationship between SEC and ‘teacher burnout’. They also review intervention efforts to support teachers’ SEC through stress reduction and ‘mindfulness programs’.  (Mindfulness  is getting more attention among educators than ever before and involves, interalia, encouraging students/teachers to reflect and meditate to relieve stress and to think positively. There is an overlap here with positive psychology and  resilience thinking. Although its sounds  a trifle wacky and a bit 1960s sub-culture, increasing numbers of schools take it seriously ). Finally, they propose a research agenda to address the potential efficacy of intervention strategies designed to promote teacher SEC and improved learning outcomes for students. This model informs their on-going research. They are leading an intervention development project, a collaborative effort between Penn State University’s Prevention Research Center and the Garrison Institute, to complete the development and preliminary testing of the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in EducationTM (CARE) professional development program for teachers. They recently received notice of an award from the US Department of Education Institute for Educational Sciences (IES) that will support this  project.  “The Pro-social Classroom: Teacher Social and Emotional Competence in Relation to Student  and Classroom Outcomes” by Patricia Jennings and Mark Greenberg is now published &  available online at under the link “Online First.”

The Pro-social Classroom: Teacher Social and Emotional Competence in Relation to Student and Classroom Outcomes Patricia A. Jennings The Garrison Institute and Pennsylvania State University Mark T. Greenberg Pennsylvania State University



Are they on the way back?

Legislation doesnt allow for establishment of  new Grammar schools, but existing ones can expand


For some grammar schools ( wholly selective state schools) are elitist institutions (they select pupils at 11) which restrict educational opportunity to a small, already-privileged minority and damage other local schools by cream skimming the top pupils, while damaging the self-esteem of  a majority of pupils who fail to make the grade. For others, they are a method for achieving high educational standards which benefit the whole of society and provide a ladder of opportunity for children from poor backgrounds to clamber out of the cycle of disadvantage.

Andrew Neil, the former editor of the Sunday Times, now a commentator  in the broadcast media,   made a documentary about a year ago on grammar schools .In it  he argued  that the grammar schools provided bright working-class and lower-middle class  children with a route to educational and career success. Far from being elitist and unfair institutions, they were actually effective engines of social mobility, he argued. One of the most striking pieces of evidence for Neil’s thesis is the social background of UK Prime Ministers. Between the Eton-educated Alec Douglas-Home and the Fettes-educated Tony Blair, five successive UK Prime Ministers were from modest backgrounds and four were educated at grammar schools.

Grammar schools undoubtedly polarise opinion and  the arguments over selection are rearing their heads again, following the allegation that a new grammar school is being set up in Sevenoaks. A campaign in Sevenoaks, which has no grammar school of its own, to provide for its brightest children raised a petition of 2,600 names. At present 1,120 of the town’s children have to travel to selective schools in nearby towns. The council’s recent decision means an annexe associated with these schools can now be built in Sevenoaks.

The Education and Inspections Act 2006 and the Academies Act 2010 effectively mean that there can be no ‘new’ grammar schools (ie in addition to the 164 grammar school already operating).  However, it is also the case that  any school can seek to expand by opening another site,  which has been allowed since 1944. But  to do so it must be a continuance of the original school. Hence, the compromise endorsed by councillors in Sevenoaks. The promised extra provision in Sevenoaks will not be in a ‘new’ grammar school, but in two “satellites”, each with 60 places, run by existing grammars in other towns.

What does the government think about this?  Does this amount to a drive to set up new grammar schools and broaden selection in the maintained sector? This government isn’t in fact advocating the establishment of ‘new’ grammar schools. But it doesn’t see a problem with expanding existing grammar schools. Indeed, Nick Gibb, the schools Minister, addressing the Grammar School Heads Association  recently said existing selective schools “would be able to take advantage of crucial freedoms” on admissions. This includes making it easier for popular schools to expand and scrapping rules requiring schools to consult the local community on admissions rules every five years. More grammars should also convert into independent academies, he added, giving them additional powers over the curriculum, staff pay and the academic year.  Junior Minister Lord Hill said recently in the Lords “if people want to come forward with a proposal to open or expand a satellite school, they can apply to the local authority, and to the Secretary of State in the case of an academy. Those proposals would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”  Lord Hill was keen to add  though that in respect of free schools or the academy conversion programme ” we have been absolutely clear in the Academies Act that we have taken the opposite view and have not permitted or encouraged the expansion of selection within the maintained system. We have said-this is the point about the admissions code-that all schools, whether maintained, non-selective or selective, should have the ability, in response to parental demand, to increase their published admissions number. That is the only change that has been made.”  The conservatives see the grammar school issue as divisive and they will not open up  another front now,  in championing new grammar schools, which would also threaten real divisions within  the coalition. That said, there is a grey area surrounding the expansion of existing grammar schools, and there is every likelihood that there will be more expansion of  these schools.


To recap- A single school can operate  from more than one site, but to do so ‘ any other site must be a continuance of the original school.’ But  new wholly selective state schools are not permitted under existing legislation.

It would be rash, though, to assume that all grammar schools wish to expand. And indeed of those who rather like the idea of scaling up   not all will have the space or capital to do so.



Slow take- up hampered by shortages of capital and sites


Its been apparent for some time that the Government is managing expectations down on Free schools. For a combination of reasons the Free schools initiative (as opposed to the Academies initiative) is not taking off in the way that was anticipated. There are two main problems. Shortage of capital, and shortage of sites. As the Times Educational Supplement reported last week , around half free school bidders are still seeking sites.  Katherine Birbalsingh is just one of many who has failed to find a site for her south London bid, and has had to delay opening until next year. Gove once spoke of a “superb new school in every community”. But last year, the department for education – approved just 79.  DFE briefed journalists that this was because they had tight vetting procedures, to ensure that only strong bids that could be justified were getting approved. For example before entering into a funding agreement, each proposal for a new free school is subject to an analysis of what the likely impact of establishing the additional school would be on maintained schools, academies, etc in the area in which the additional school is (or is proposed to be) situated. And ,of course, there have been some wacky organisations making bids who have to be vetted out.  But this is only part of the story. A more prosaic reason was that there was just not enough capital around  and some of the first Free schools were rather expensive to set up. Lisa Nandy the Labour MP and Select Committee member, says that the West London Free School, for example, received £12,416 per pupil in its first year, compared to an average of £7,064. The WLFS, among the most high profile of the institutions, and the first   Free school to sign a funding agreement, has cost the DfE £15m.  Setting up free schools requires upfront capital expenditure, but the education department has taken a 60 per cent cut to its capital budget. The DfE expected building costs for the first 24 schools to come to £124m. But as Chris Cook pointed out in the FT ‘this is a poor guide to the costs of further free schools. For example, many of the first wave have been subsidised by local authorities. Furthermore, several are private schools that have become state schools, so have only small building requirements.’ Cook  added, probably correctly that ‘ Insiders believe the only way to achieve significant numbers of new schools is to find a way to increase the capital budget using private finance – perhaps by letting free schools borrow to pay for their buildings or permitting profit-making companies to enter the market.’  This low number anticipated for opening this year was even less impressive than it first seemed – as the department counted 16 University Technical Colleges towards the total. It appears that the department is planning for around 50 openings of free schools this September. And this is when there is a shortfall of Primary places in London and many other areas of the country, so the demand for new school places is clearly  there, if not the capital and sites. So the funding shortage is not just about Free schools but  has become a major issue for the  Primary sector  too. The £600m extra set aside this year to help local authorities deal with the shortfall  in Primary places will need topping up sooner rather than later, and it looks as if the Government will have to turn to the private sector for help here too.



Focus on  the importance of knowledge of other languages


A survey of over 8,000 businesses released on 12 April by the British Chambers of Commerce, shows that exporting activity continues to increase. However, the findings also suggest that providing firms with more training in foreign languages, and increasing their exposure to international companies would encourage more business owners to export. Economic growth relies upon British businesses being able to export more, so the British Chambers of Commerce is calling for more support for firms to help them trade internationally.

Knowledge of other languages is an important skill for exporters. 61% of non-exporters that are likely to consider trading internationally consider a lack of language skills as a barrier to doing so.

However, of those business owners that claim some language knowledge, very few can speak well enough to conduct deals in international markets. French is the most commonly spoken language, with 73% of business owners claiming some knowledge. However, only four percent are able to converse fluently enough in French to conduct business deals. This number drops significantly for those languages spoken in the fastest growing markets. In 2012, the IMF projects that the Chinese economy will grow by 9.5%, but just four percent of business owners claim any knowledge of the language, with less than one percent confident they could converse fluently.

Re-establishing foreign languages as core subjects within the UK national curriculum and in workplace training would mean that the next generation of business owners are ‘born global’ with language skills. The BCC is calling for the National Curriculum to be revised so that studying a foreign language is compulsory until AS level. Businesses could also be helped in training staff in new languages, if the government offered additional financial incentives such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses that make a significant investment in language training.

Key Recommendations in report:

Re-establish foreign languages as core subjects within the UK national curriculum and in workplace training.

There needs to be a fundamental reappraisal of the importance of language learning to Britain’s future competitive position and business success. The National Curriculum must be revised so that studying a foreign language is compulsory until AS level. It is important  to ensure that the next generation of business owners are ‘born global’ with language  skills. Businesses must also invest in language skills for their existing staff. Additional financial incentives, such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses that make a significant investment in language training, could support both take-up and ensuring a tailored business language offer.



Understanding of the commercial aspects of exporting must be embedded in higher and further education courses. Business degrees and further education qualifications focussed on commercial subjects must include compulsory modules on international  trade and exports so that incoming commercial staff are export-ready as they enter the workforce over the next 2 – 5 years.

Note 1 The Daily Mail reported on 12 April that ‘A report by the CfBT Education Trust reveals that in 2001 321,207 pupils sat a GCSE in French. In 2011 just 141,700 did so. Those taking German plunged from 130,627 to 58,300. Kate Board, head of languages at CfBT, said: ‘There is no doubt this has and will continue to have a significant impact on our ability to participate fully in the global marketplace unless changes are made.’

Language Learning in Secondary Schools in England-CFBT Education Trust- Teresa Tinsley, Youping Han-2012

Note 2 The Daily Telegraph reported on 10 April that few diplomats are fluent in the language of the country where they work. Just one in 40 British diplomats is fluent in the language of the country where they work with the majority lacking even basic grasp sufficient for day-to-day exchanges.



Exporting is Good for Britain: Skills



Pioneering group of mixed schools


The Guardian, in an article last  week, reviewed the state of the government’s education reforms. Amid all the normal stuff about free schools and academies, and the latters performance, it looked at the Barnfield group of schools, which is pretty radical in its own right. In Luton, it has established a group of schools that in effect recreates the role of the council. A local cluster has been formed, which began  in 2007, that includes two (south and west) academies, a free school and a studio school, which specialises in vocational education. The two secondary schools were   significantly underperforming. However, in under three academic years, GCSE results have more than tripled in both academies and from a position of special measures, they are now judged as ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Good’ by Ofsted. These are the highest results achieved in the history of these schools. The Barnfield Federation – which hopes in future to run schools for profit – has the collective financial muscle to commission services that all its schools need. But within its cluster, there is considerable diversity. Its studio school, for example  open since September 2010, is the first of its kind in England: a small school for 14- to 18-year-olds that leans strongly towards vocational education. The other is a former prep school, Moorlands, which became a free school last September, and where the head describes the ethos as a “high standard of education with small classes”. The Federations Vision is “To be Britain’s highest performing federation, where customer and community needs are met, students are happy, successful and reach their full potential” The atmospheres in the two schools are sharply contrasting, says the Guardian.It reported that   ‘On a recent visit to the studio school, a group of teenagers were studying the barest bones of a Shakespeare play. The storyline of Romeo and Juliet had been cut up into single-line plot points, and the children were busy trying to assemble them into the right order. The school has a florist, gift shop, hair salon and restaurant attached, giving pupils work experience. It forges close links with local businesses including Monarch Airlines, preparing children for jobs in the retail, hospitality or service industries. At Moorlands primary school, housed in a cream-coloured Victorian villa, seven- and eight-year-olds are learning French. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” says the teacher, displaying a picture card. “Le fromage – French people like lots of cheese.”  At another picture, a girl shyly tries to pronounce “chocolat”. It doesn’t come out quite right and the teacher prompts her: “Just try, we’re going to try again.” The teacher enunciates: “Sho-ko-la … très bien.”  At Moorlands, acting head Chris Sillars said that although it is now state-funded, the “culture and ethos has remained the same – maintaining the ethos is key to what we’re doing”.  Mark Cronin, principal of the studio school, outlines three “pathways” that children in Luton’s schools might take. “Pathway A are your A* standard ones. They are your high flyers; the best choice for them is probably the English bacc [baccalaureate – good GCSEs in English, maths, history or geography, two sciences and a foreign language]. They have the choice of doing single sciences, languages, humanities. “Pathway B children will have the opportunity of doing a language, humanity, and a vocational subject, but not the English bacc. “Pathway C children are those who probably haven’t achieved quite at the national average. Everyone does their core subjects still at GCSE, but they might be steered towards vocational BTecs,” he says.

More schools are entering partnership arrangements with other schools in the form of formal or loose federations, trusts or chains. There is a growing trend, of which Barnfield is a part, to build high aspiration and attainment on a multi-school rather than  an individual institution basis.

Note: The Federation is led by the Barnfield Education Partnership Trust – members of the Federation include Barnfield College (16 years upwards), Barnfield South and West Academies (11-18 years), the country’s first FE sponsored Studio School (14-18 years enterprise academy) and Barnfield Moorlands Primary School (4-11 years).  There are further academies joining the Federation this year



Great performance is not reserved for a pre-ordained few

Deliberate Practice the Key


Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune Magazine, painstakingly dissected in his book Talent is Overrated enormous amounts of scientific research in the field of performance improvement and utilizes case studies of famous athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, Nobel Prize winners, scientists and prodigies to lay the foundation for his main thesis:  “the evidence shows also that by understanding how a few,  become great, anyone can become better.  Above all, what the evidence shouts most loudly is striking, liberating news: that great performance is not reserved for a preordained few.  It is available to you and everyone”. So, what really separates world-class performers from everybody else?  Researchers identify the secret as ‘deliberate’ practice. This is  something that is not performed in our workplaces by most people, nor by the neurosurgeon at our local hospital nor by the scratch golfer at our country clubs.  Certainly, there are many of these stars who are clearly very good at what they do but they never manage to achieve greatness, as true masters in their field.  In case after case, Colvin recounts the studies of our greatest performers and how they reached the pinnacle of success through this ‘deliberate’ practice.   So practice makes perfect? No, or rather this is not the  complete message that Colvin wants to communicate. In explaining what deliberate practice is he is careful to explain what it is not.   Practice alone, does not make perfect. Simply repeating actions in an unstructured way ie Repetition, repetition and more repetition is not the answer. Instead, it consists of five basis elements:

• It’s specifically designed to improve performance.

• It must be repeated a lot where both the amount of repetition and the type of activity are carefully calculated.

• It requires continuous feedback by a teacher, coach or mentor.

• It must be highly demanding mentally.

• It isn’t (much) fun.

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to this deliberate practice. So, it encompasses activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

Colvin conjures up a golfing  image to describe what he means “Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day – that’s deliberate practice.” Colvin writes ‘Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields. Understand that talent doesn’t mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It’s an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well.

British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, “The evidence we have surveyed … does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.” In short ‘There’s no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice’. Vladimir Horowitz supposedly said, “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.”

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else-Geoff Colvin (ISBN 9781591842248),





Consultation- part of Labours policy review-how to ensure accountability, while promoting autonomy of schools


As part of Labour’s Policy Review, Stephen Twigg MP, the Shadow Education Secretary, has launched a consultation to ask how Labour might devolve more power from central government, as a means for improving education standards.  Twigg believes that the current Government has overseen a huge programme of centralisation in our school system. He says that it is neither desirable, nor practical for so many schools to be directly accountable to no one, but Central Government.

The consultation document sets out the rationale behind the process and calls for ideas for devolving more power locally.  It states ‘This consultation aims to examine how we can reform our education system to ensure both the freedom to innovate and manage schools to drive up attainment and success- for all children- and necessary local accountability. That means involving parents, communities, and local government in ensuring that schools play a positive role in local areas, delivering high standards and innovation. Labour will be consulting on the best way to ensure local accountability in education, while promoting autonomy for schools.’

The outcomes of this work will ultimately be fed into the Education and Skills Policy Commission, which considers these areas of policy as part of Labour’s Partnership into Power policy development process

You can respond to this consultation by completing the downloadable form found at this link and e-mailing your response to Additionally you can post your form to School Devolution Consultation, Office of Stephen Twigg MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Devolving Power in Education: School Freedom and Accountability

Click here to download the consultation document



Five strategies and fifty techniques to improve teacher practice


What motivates Professor Dylan Wiliam is how to make  pupils learning environment better. During his early years of teaching in private and inner-city classrooms, Dr. Wiliam focused on physics and mathematics. He later joined Chelsea College, University of London, which later became part of King’s College London. Here, he worked on developing innovative assessment schemes in mathematics before accepting leadership of the King’s College Mathematics Education Programme. He co-authored a major review of research evidence on formative assessment with Paul Black and has worked with many teachers in the United Kingdom and United States on developing formative assessment practices to support learning.

Making teaching more responsive to the needs of our pupils is what, he says,  drives him.  Dylan Wiliam stresses the importance of formative assessment as a key process for increasing teacher quality whilst having the biggest impact on student outcomes.  We now have a greater understanding of the very significant impacts that good teachers have on pupil attainment.  And he wants to make sense of what the best teachers do in the classroom, and the nature of best practice, then to share this practical  knowledge with other teachers, so they and their pupils benefit. We must understand that teaching is very complex, he says. It  is very difficult to change practice and teachers never get really good at their jobs, but, with help and targeted  support, they can improve significantly. In education, research currently doesn’t really lead practice, although people assume this is the case . He sees his job as following  behind  the best  practitioners and  seeks to make sense of what they do .He then  acts as broker to help other teachers, filtering this through the latest available  research, to identify practical techniques that improve classroom  teaching.

Although he knows the damage that poor teachers can do, he wants no witch-hunt to get rid of  them out of the profession. He says that instead we should  focus our  energies on ensuring   that the teachers we have in the system    get the necessary  support to get better, day in day out. (What about the teachers who get support but fail to improve?)

So what are the key elements of the formative assessment approach? Professor Wiliam describes this succinctly in a video interview. There are five key strategies:

Sharing with students the learning intentions

Finding out where the students are- and what they already know

Feedback- not so much looking back- more looking forward to the  next steps in   the students learning

Students should be seen as learning resources -helping each other in the learning process 

Activating students to become  owners of their own learning

He identifies about fifty classroom techniques that teachers can use to embed these strategies in their classroom practice.

Embedded Formative Assessment-Professor Dylan Wiliam-2011

 Amazon Link