Explore England’s changing free school meals rates – Education Datalab blog

Most of the time our work involves using the National Pupil Database to examine particular aspects of the education system. However, it can also throw up interesting insights into the state of the…

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Academic and non-academic subjects

Scenes From The Battleground

One of the worst things that happened in education in the 2000s was a seeming reduction in the number of academic subjects. MFL ceased to be compulsory, and some perverse changes in the league tables gave schools an incentive to concentrate on vocational qualifications. In the last few years, particularly with the introduction of the Ebacc and other changes in league table measures, efforts have been made to reverse this. During some of the debates it became clear how divisive it can be to refer to some subjects as “academic” and yet this is something we do quite easily, often without thinking what we mean.

If I had to put into words what I mean when I describe a subject as “academic”, I’d say an academic subject was one where mastery of it was best characterised by further study. The people who are best at history, are historians and they…

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A Toolkit to help you resist Inquiry-Based Learning

Filling the pail

So you have found yourself under pressure to implement inquiry-based learning, project-based learning or something like that. How do you respond?

I tend to see things through the lens of cognitive load theory (CLT). A key finding is that learning new, complex concepts like algebra or writing is likely to overload working memory (but not learning very simple things like lists of words). Guided instruction reduces the load, and fully guided, explicit instruction is better still.

However, despite a few abortive attempts, cognitive load theory does not incorporate a theory of motivation. And another important finding is the ‘expertise reversal effect’ where, once sufficient expertise has been developed, experiments show that problem solving is better than explicit instruction. This may be because, at this stage, it adds to episodic knowledge – ‘ah, I’ve seen something like this before!’ It probably also aids transfer by cycling students through different kinds of…

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Experiments aren’t everything

Filling the pail

In my own PhD research, I run randomised controlled trials (RCTs). These involve setting up two or more experimental conditions, varying only one factor between them and then randomly assigning subjects – in this case, students – to each of the conditions. RCTs are considered the gold standard for working out if one thing causes another because you manipulate just that one thing and nothing else. By randomly assigning students, we know that there are no other systematic differences between the members of the groups that could account for any difference in outcomes.

You may therefore expect me to be an evangelist for experiments. You might expect me to take a dim view of other ways of trying to establish cause and effect. But that’s not quite right.

I am also impressed by correlations and the evidence that correlations provide adds to the evidence we have in education. It is…

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Times Tables

Distant Ramblings on the Horizon

After reading this excellent post from Mark Enser (@ensermark) I thought it might be helpful to create a little cut-out and keep ready reckoner for the number of hours added to a teachers workload by marking. It’s very simple, though I’m sure you could build a more sophisticated model to help in your own context (and this model obviously is geared towards the secondary context).

Across the columns – Number of minutes to mark each book

Down the rows – Number of classes (of 30) the teacher has.

Number in the table – Hours of work per time the books are marked.

Minutes per book
1 2 5 10
Number of classes 5 2.5 5.0 12.5 25.0
6 3.0 6.0 15.0 30.0
7 3.5 7.0 17.5 35.0
8 4.0 8.0 20.0 40.0
9 4.5 9.0 22.5 45.0
10 5.0 10.0 25.0 50.0

So, in the extreme case here, a teacher…

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Using Knowledge Organisers and Call & Response to Challenge Bottom Set or Stealing Ideas Part Two!

Last year I had the pleasure of teaching ‘bottom set’ year 7. These students are so keen to learn and work hard yet, the curriculum is often watered down for them to match their capabilities leaving them even more behind. I made the decision to tackle The Iliad with them just like the rest of year 7.

Using Knowledge Organisers and Call & Response to Challenge Bottom Set or Stealing Ideas Part Two!

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Eating cake does not make you fat

Filling the pail

This post is inspired by the logic of a post by Ollie Lovell.

Like most of you, I had come to believe that eating cake makes you fat. I was convinced by the evidence that cake is an energy dense food of little nutritional value and that, all other things being equal, eating lots of it would lead to weight gain.

I personally avoid eating much cake, preferring a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and so I had come to think of myself as being on one side of this debate.

However, a couple of things happened recently that made me reevaluate my position by rethinking the definition of ‘eating cake’

First of all, it is quite possible to eat cake only rarely, while enjoying a diet full of healthy food and while pursuing an active lifestyle involving plenty of exercise. Such a combination is actually very good…

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