Educational bottlenecks

ResearchED 2017 Session 1: When the maths hit the fan

Despite this session being centred around the impact of the new maths GCSEs, I thought it would be interesting to gain the perspective of maths teachers and specialists on their experiences of the new approach. The Institute of Ideas hosted the session, with a panel of Dr Jennie Golding, Dr Sara Humphries and Joanne Morgan. My overall impression from the initial discussion was that there was a general feeling that the maths syllabus as it was needed an update, the new take on things gave neither enough time to cover all areas, did not work for students who found maths difficult and seemed in places unconnected. All of which sounds familiar to science teachers across Continue reading “Educational bottlenecks”


Resource: Argument planner

A difficulty I find my students repeatedly stumbling through is the ability to spot and present arguments in science. This is mainly seen on questions that require an answer relating to a human response; why might people think X or what are the benefits from Y..? Getting students beyond an inadequate answer Continue reading “Resource: Argument planner”

Diff’rent Strokes

Every now and then I find I come across a comment or idea in education, usually expressed in an off-hand way, which reminds me of the shallowness of my educational knowledge. At last September’s researchED for example, Phillippa Cordingley at last September’s researchED fielded a question from the audience about something to do with fire-fighting in year 11 and made a quick remark about the emotional boost that you teachers can get from the process. I thought there was a fascinating insight there into why some school level policies become favoured or entrenched, but she had already moved on to the next part of the question and didn’t expand further. Likewise, last Continue reading “Diff’rent Strokes”

And what exactly do you mean by “critical thinking”?

There’s been an interesting shift in the tactics of the online grumbling-community in the past few years. Not in the general tenor of online debate (which continues to sink like Arnie at the end of Terminator 2 but leaving a raised middle finger instead of a thumbs-up) but rather in the tactics employed by people presenting their arguments. There has been a definite increase in people deploying the twin techniques of demanding evidence and calling out fallacies. Or at least it would appear so on the surface.

Take the use of evidence in arguments. Initially it would seem to be a good thing that people are asking for sources of Continue reading “And what exactly do you mean by “critical thinking”?”

Don’t get me wrong – the problem of negative results and answers

Abstract: thoughts about the difficulties and benefits of negative questions and experimental results relating to anchoring, cognitive load, age and ability and curiously not squeezing in any references to Rogue One which is out TOMORROW

Last week I delivered some CPD which partly involved the uses of multiple-choice quizzes to reinforce content. I use multiple-choice quite regularly as homeworks (and of course it is now a part of the A level testing regime so students need to be familiar with the style), constructing them myself to Continue reading “Don’t get me wrong – the problem of negative results and answers”

An experiment in psychic power

I pulled one of my favourite lessons this week for Year 7 and Year 9 – The Zener card experiment. If you are not aware of Zener cards, they are set of five symbols drawn on cards that are used in a classic ESP experiment.It’s the test used by Dr Venkman at the start of the 1984 historical documentary Ghostbusters. Essentially, one person (the experimentor) selects one of the cards at unseen at random and the other person (experimentee as I shall call them, because why not) attempts to use psychic powers in order to guess what is on the card. The reason I like this lesson in particular is that it gives some really nice insights into the problems surrounding experimental science.

I start by explaining the Continue reading “An experiment in psychic power”