Collected below are a set of research papers and publications related to learning and teaching which over recent years have proved useful to me.
Rethinking Assessment. “Across the world assessment is not working. We are not evidencing the kinds of dispositions and capabilities that society increasingly wants. Educational jurisdictions are placing too much reliance on high-stakes, standardised testing. They are testing the wrong things in the wrong ways. High-stakes assessment is having a damaging impact on the health and wellbeing of students and it is not giving universities, colleges or employers the kind of information they want. Assessment is out of sync with curriculum and pedagogy. Where we have become increasingly evidence-based in teaching and learning, we are failing to keep up with the science of assessment, preferring to rely on outdated, outmoded and unsubtle methods. Our young people require all of us working in education to establish greater clarity about the uses of assessment in education, linked to a greater understanding of the science of assessment. We need nothing less than a paradigm shift in our understanding about how best to create assessment systems that use more effective ways of evidencing the full range of student progress.”
This 2021 call for a paradigm shift provides an excellent overview of innovative approaches to assessment. The author has done a great job in giving us the big picture. It remains to be seen if those who hold power and exert infleunce can be persuaded to invest in the paradigm shift.
Oracy in Schools. “Oracy education does not only mean teaching children ways to talk that will help them to do well in future job interviews or work settings. It means teaching children the spoken language skills that will enable them to make the most of the education they are offered in their classrooms every day…. Good, inclusive oracy education provides children with the speaking and listening skills they need to think and learn.” Oracy Cambridge
This all party parliamentary report sets out the case for more and better purposeful talk in schools: a no brainer as they say!
Agile Leadership. This paper is an excellent, well-researched summary of the transfer of Agile Leadership into schools. The report challenges conventional management approaches arguing that developing ‘agile leaders of learning’ enables improved understanding of complexity and dealing with the unforeseen.
“Developing ‘agile leaders of learning’ enables improved understanding of complexity, and helps leaders — whether principals or teachers — to adapt to changing demands, and seek unique solutions in partnership with colleagues and peers.”
In this section below I provide the theory that’s being talked about the most! The articles are the ones which have gained most traction in the UK Education sector recently. Most were written a decade or so ago.
The case for fully guided instruction.
The authors argue that when teaching new content and skills to novices, teachers are more effective when they provide explicit guidance accompanied by practice and feedback, not when they require students to discover many aspects of what they must learn. As we will discuss, this does not mean direct, expository instruction all day every day. Small group and independent problems and projects can be effective—not as vehicles for making discoveries, but as a means of practicing recently learned content and skills.
The most effective study strategies
When teaching new content and skills to novices, teachers are more effective when they provide explicit guidance accompanied by practice and feedback, not when they require students to discover many aspects of what they must learn. This does not mean direct, expository instruction all day every day. Small group and independent problems and projects can be effective—not as vehicles for making discoveries, but as a means of practicing recently learned content and skills.
Why students (mostly) don’t like school and what you should do about it
The cognitive principle that guides this article is: People are naturally curious, but they are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, people will avoid thinking. The implication of this principle is that teachers should reconsider how they encourage their students to think in order to maximise the likelihood that students will get the pleasurable rush that comes from successful thought.
Ten principles for effective learning
The much-vaunted Rosenshine Principles of Learning. Non-controversial, even bland – they are a good starting point for discussions about learning. Nothing about metacognition, purposeful language development or integration of technology makes them feel a little tired. The 10 principles in this article come from three different sources: research on how the mind acquires and uses information, the instructional procedures that are used by the most successful teachers, and the procedures invented by researchers to help students learn difficult tasks. The research from each of these three sources has implications for classroom instruction, and these implications are described in each of these 10 principles.
Interleaving and Spacing
Learning sessions in which studying information or practicing problems are spaced in time with rest-from-deliberate-learning periods between sessions generally result in better learning outcomes than massed practice without rest-from-deliberate-learning periods. Interleaved practice also consists of spaced sessions, but by interleaving topics rather than having rest-from-deliberate-learning periods. Interleaving is usually contrasted with blocking in which each learning topic is taught in a single block that provides an example of massed practice. The general finding that interleaved practice is more effective for learning than blocked practice is sometimes attributed to spacing
Teaching – Best Evidence Review.
This summary published in June 2020 is a short easily readable digest of ‘best bets’ in teaching. It offers four priorities for teachers who want to help their student learn more:
- understand the content they are teaching and how it is learnt
- create a supportive environment for learning
- manage the classroom to maximise the opportunity to learn
- present content, activities and interactions that activate their students’ thinking
Learning to Learn published paper: February 2016. In 2010, a comprehensive secondary school in the south of England implemented a whole-school approach to ‘learning to learn’ (L2L). Drawing on a range of evidence-based practice, a team of teachers worked collaboratively to design and deliver a taught L2L curriculum to all students throughout Key Stage 3. This paper argues for a blended approach and shows how it led to improvement in attainment with lower Secondary pupils.
The Science of Learning.
A short, succinct summary of learning interventions which have impact. The work of a small group of US College Professors. Based on cognitive science and six key questions around understanding, retention, problem-solving, transfer, motivation and ‘common’ misconceptions. This document identifies six key questions about learning that should be relevant to nearly every educator. Deans for Impact believes that, as part of their preparation, every teacher-candidate should grapple with — and be able to answer — the questions in The Science of Learning. Their answers should be informed and guided by the existing scientific consensus around basic cognitive principles. And all educators, including new teachers, should be able to connect these principles to their practical implications for the classroom (or wherever teaching and learning take place).
The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice. A report from the OECD on the nature of learning, including cognitive, emotional and biological perspectives. With contributions and evidence for different types of application: formative assessment, co-operative and inquiry-based forms of learning, technology-based applications – as well as learning beyond classroom environments in communities and families. Favouring a constructivist approach the final chapters look at strategies to overcome organisational resistance to change.
Innovative Pedagogy 2015. A summary of recent developments in learning and assessment interventions. Worth looking at this and previous years for material on flipped learning, learning to learn, BYOD, threshold concepts, learning by argumentation, context based learning and analytics.
Optimising Talent. Dylan Wiliam argues that the curriculum needs to be overhauled and be balanced, rigorous, coherent, vertically integrated, appropriate, focused and relevant.
What makes great pedagogy and great professional development. Three research questions shaped this 2015 NCTL publication. What makes great pedagogy? What makes great professional development that leads to consistently great pedagogy? How can leaders lead successful teaching school alliances which enable the development of consistently great pedagogy? Findings have a big emphasis on: student voice, embedding thinking skills and metacognition, scaffolded assessment for learning with professional development focused on improving student outcomes. Who can argue with that lot!
Developing Teachers: Durham University and The Sutton Trust. A short publication on what constitutes good teaching, bad teaching and how to do something about it. Influential and well-marketed it is limited in its research and its conclusions, over-reliant from case studies from a small circle of schools and their advocates, but nevertheless provocative enough to use to stimulate discussion.
John Hattie. Two monographs which explore what works in classrooms and schools according to the Hattie canon. Each worth a read though he can be, and often is, dogmatic.
Learning About Learning. A study of the core texts used in Teacher training in the US and how they could be improved. Six useful interventions for teachers designing resources or using lots textbooks in their classroom practice.