Vive La Blog!

There has been much talk on twitter recently about blogging.  There are a number of people who think that blogging has had its day.  Their justification for this is that everything that needs to be blogged about has been blogged about and that there’s nothing new to write about.  I disagree.  Some also think that the twitter threads are the way forward.  I also disagree with this.  Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like them!

I love the way our profession is talking more and more about research evidence.  It’s my strongly held belief that a child’s education is too precious to be left to chance.  It shouldn’t be based on what we think might work, but on what the evidence says is most likely to work. We’ve come a long way with this.  We know about the importance of retrieval practice, spaced practice, metacognition, feedback, schema formation, cognitive load theory, explicit vocabulary instruction etc.  We know that these are our ‘best bets’.  However, in terms of the evidence informed journey, knowing what the evidence says is really only the beginning.

Having identified the ‘active ingredients’ of evidence informed teaching, the next and most important stage of the journey, is to look at how we mobilise these approaches in the classroom.  This is the area we know very little about and to me, is the next, exciting stage of becoming evidence informed.  For example, in the EEF’s ‘Cognitive Science Approaches in the Classroom Review’ retrieval practice is one of the approaches discussed – and it’s an approach that is being widely implemented in schools at the moment.  However, we know very little about how to do it well.  The review looked at 21 studies on retrieval practice, however, only one of the 21 studies was delivered by regular class teachers. Others were delivered by researchers.  So we know that it works, but we’re not really clear on how to make it work in the busy and complex world of the classroom.

This is where bloggers come in.  I think it’s fascinating to hear stories of how teachers up and down the country and in fact all over the world, are working on mobilising this research in their classrooms.  Sticking with the topic of retrieval practice, in recent weeks there have been some great blogs on retrieval practice – such as this one and this one. In the first blog Claudi BenDavid talks about the importance of getting the conditions of retrieval right, i.e. not looking back in their books, as well as supporting this with a culture of error in your classroom.  These are both essential, if retrieval practice is going to stand a chance of being successful.In the second blog, Fahim Rahman reflects on how he has used retrieval practice in his lessons and how he is now adapting his approach.  He found that he was spending too much time on retrieval and not using it to really make students think deeply.  

I think teachers opening up their classrooms, reflections and thoughts to their peers like this is to be applauded.  

Are these teachers claiming that this is THE approach that all teachers should use in their classroom? No.  They are thinking about what the research says, trying out new approaches to implement this research in their classrooms and then sharing their successes and challenges through their blogs.  A bit like teachers do in staffrooms and meetings up and down the country every day.  Blogging gives us an insight into the discussions that are happening in these staffrooms and meetings and allows us all to benefit from them – which I think is a marvellous thing!  As we continue on our journey to becoming evidence-informed, it’s really important that we continue to hear from teachers about how they are putting this into practice in their classrooms.  When it comes to research evidence, we need to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.  Why that evidence will support learning and then how we can make it come alive in the classroom.

So thank you to all those teachers who are brave enough to share their thoughts about the ‘how’ through blogging and keep using the #edublogshare hashtag. I think you are brilliant and please do carry on – and resist the dark side….twitter threads!

Shaun Allison

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