Tag Archives: ofsted

A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 1)

Debates around education on social media can sometimes be hard to follow if you aren’t well versed in the jargon of education in the U.K. With that in mind, we’ve produced this handy glossary of commonly-used terms.

academisation

/əˈkadəmʌɪˈzeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

1. the process in which a school undertakes a Faustian pact resulting in the handing over of its pupil data to Amazon, the selling of the school fields to Starbucks, and eternal damnation for all staff in exchange for better SATs/GCSE results.

or

2. the process in which a school merely alters a word on their signage and stationery.

children

/ˈtʃɪldrən/

noun

small human beings cared about by progressives and hated by traditionalists.

free school

/friː ˌskuːl/

noun

evil, bloodsucking entity, set up to appease the greed of its vengeful ruler by educating the children of the local community.

Gove, Michael

/ɡəʊv ˌˈmkəl/

noun

pantomime villain, originally from Old English folklore where he is often depicted as having the body of a Tory MP and the head of an agitated baby; in many stories in which he features, Gove is vilified by the adults of the village for trying to give their children more knowledge.

Grüppwerk

/ɡruːpˈvəːk/

noun

Kraftwerk tribute band marked by their performance style in which one of the members arranges all of the songs, plays all of the instruments and prepares all of the lighting, sound and stagecraft, whilst the rest of the band take the opportunity to muck about and do nothing.

learning styles

/ˈləːnɪŋ ˌstʌɪlz/

noun

antimicrobial resistent organism that continues to thrive despite numerous attempts to medicate against it.

literacy

/ˈlɪt(ə)rəsi/

noun

word used as part of a compound noun to give an air of legitimacy to an otherwise woolly term, e.g., digital literacyvisual literacyliteracy literacy.

neo-

/niːə(ʊ)/

prefix

versatile combining form that can be adjoined to the beginning of any noun in order to make that thing sound more sinister than it actually is.

neo-trad

/niːə(ʊ)ˈtrad/

prefix

traditionalist, only more sinister. Synonyms: right-wingTory, Nazi, Sith Lord, Agent of Hydra.

Ofsted

/ɒfstɛd/

noun

capricious inspectorate, prone to systematically dishing out unfair judgements. Unless that judgement is ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, in which case it is entirely accurate and should be emblazoned across letterheads and banners. 

pedagogy

/ˈpɛdəɡɒdʒi/

noun

from the Greek παιδός, (paidos), “teachy”, and ἄγω (ágō), “teaching”: literally, “teachy teaching”.

progressive

/prəˈɡrɛsɪv/

noun

1. a teacher committed to the values of progressivism.

or

2. a teacher just out of initial teacher training.

Robinson, Sir Ken

/ˈrɒbɪns(ə)n ˌˈsəː ˈkɛn/

noun

chivalrous knight of YouTubian legend; the folk tales tell of how Sir Ken is bestowed with a golden tongue by TED the Enchanter, and of how he uses this tongue to defeat the Great Sages of Rote Wisdom by invoking the Spirits of Dance.

rote learning

/rəʊt ˌˈləːnɪŋ/

noun

1. that which Sir Ken Robinson opposes, instead suggesting more dance in the curriculum.

2. the most common and effective way to learn how to dance.

Shift Happens

/ʃɪft ˈhap(ə)nz/

noun

bullshit.

traditionalism

/trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəlɪz(ə)m/

noun

a diabolical cult dedicated the denigration of fun, posters, role play and group work; based on ideology (cf. progressivism, which is ideology-free and entirely based on pragmatism and principles); followers of traditionalism dislike children and can be mostly found in schools.

troll

/trɒl,trəʊl/

verb

to disagree with a view on education that one holds; this is a transitive verb which can only be done unto the first person me and not unto second or third person pronouns such as him, her or you – “he trolled me” is correct usage, whereas “I trolled her/you” is incorrect.

noun

someone who disagrees with your view on education.

 

 

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I ❤ January 2015

When TV shows run out of ideas, they fall back on that old faithful: the clip show compiling all of the ‘best bits’.

And when they run out of their own TV shows, there are always clip shows made up of the best bits of other people’s shows: the I ❤ 1984 (etc.) model, featuring talking heads from D-list celebrities reminiscing about the time that dog said “sausages” on That’s Life.

As a D-list blogger myself (what do you mean I’m getting above my station?), this regurgitation of other people’s brilliance is the perfect model for me to reminisce on the best blog posts of each month (with the added implication that I’ve run out of ideas).

(In all seriousness, I got to the end of 2014 and realised I’d read so many great blogs but not really collected them anywhere. So this monthly blog is a way for me to compile an anthology of some of the best reading in one place and be able to access it when I want to call upon it again.)

So without further ado, this is my ‘clip show’ of the blogposts that I read and enjoyed the most in January…

  • The nonsense of the grade descriptors by @chrishildrew: Chris went down the rabbit hole of grade descriptors and has exposed us to the mad tea party. As Alice said, “How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”
  • Why I Hate Highlighters! by @HuntingEnglish: I like this because Alex confirms what I think I might have always feared, but never quite confronted: highlighters often put a garish neon gloss over a lack of actual learning. Rumours are unconfirmed that this is the first in a series of ‘Why I Hate…’ blogs, which will feature other such objects of Alex’s anathema as children and Maths teachers. (For balance, and because I like him, this is highlighter advocate @jon_brunskill‘s rebuttal.)
  •  Some Problems With “Action Research” by @Bio_Joe: Thanks to this brilliant post by Joe, I’ve now added the word significant to my list of words-that-are-used-in-a-way-which-often-leaves-their-actual-meaning-behind-in-order-to-promote-a-pedagogy (see impact, evidence, research, etc.) The “study” Joe picks apart here comes from a website riddled with spurious arguments and “research” in the name of “evidence”. Which is a shame because it is an area I’d like to see some reasoned thought around.
  • Can we teach students to make inferences? by @atharby: Andy precisely and eloquently pinpoints the very reasons why teaching thinking skills is largely unhelpful, and why building student knowledge is a much more effective approach. I wish I’d had this to hand when I sat through a cognitive acceleration training course that promoted thinking skills in English recently.
  • How do we get them reading? by @katie_s_ashford: Katie generously shares the fruits of her scrutiny on the research and approaches to solving “the problem of reading”. These systematic and practical ideas are absolute gold – send this to your literacy coordinators/English department/SLT/everyone now.
  • Undermining teachers is easy by @LearningSpy: The blogdaddy David Didau reiterates the necessity for schools to master behaviour as requisite for learning, and decries the damaging line of thought (avowed in this instance by a school inspector, no less) that states that good behaviour is merely a product of good teaching.
  • A lesson is the wrong unit of time by @BodilUK: A second blog from Bodil, in which she questions why our discourse and measurement always revolves around ‘the lesson’ as a unit, when the reality of learning expands way beyond that unit’s boundaries. She’s absolutely right, as usual.
  • I Did Not Speak Out by @SurrealAnarchy: Martin’s writing always provokes deep thought, and this clever channelling of Pastor Niemöller is a stirring illustration of the constantly shifting focuses and measurements in schools (and the impact of these on pupils and teachers).

Inspector who? What to make of Ofsted’s latest regeneration

Lada Riva advertHere’s something you can try at  home:

Take three deep bowls (each large enough to immerse your hands in). Fill one with cold water, one with water at room temperature, and fill the final one with hot water. Place them in front of you in a row, with the bowl of room temperature water in the centre. Now place one hand in the bowl of cold water and one hand in the bowl of hot water and leave them for about 20-30 seconds. Take your hands out and quickly  place both in the room temperature water. Interesting, eh?

Now let’s stop pretending that you actually did all of that (but kudos to anyone who did: you’re in my fraternity now – I’d show you the handshake but, you know, you have wet hands). The sensation that one feels when placing both hands in the room temperature water is that the hand that was in the cold water first now feels as if it is in hot water, and the hand that was in hot water now feels as if it is in cold water.

This is called perceptual contrast – the idea that our perception of something is affected by the context in which it is placed. In this instance – as in most examples – by presenting two different things directly after one another, our perception of the second thing is altered. It’s a form of anchoring, which I wrote a little about here.

This phenomenon isn’t just present as a physical sensation – it also works psychologically. You will have seen lots of optical illusions like the one below. They basically work on the same principle – we perceive the contrast between the two orange circles to be greater than they are. In fact, as your relentless experience of this type of trick has probably told you, the two orange circles are actually the same size. It is the context that makes you perceive the contrast.

Which of these two orange circles is bigger?
Which of these orange circles is largest of the two?

But where perceptual contrast really comes into its own is in the world of retail as, in the words of psychologist Robert B. Cialdini, a “weapon of influence”. In his book ‘Influence: Science and Practice’, Cialdini refers to how both clothing retailers and car dealers use perceptual contrast to make more sales. He writes:

Suppose a man enters a fashionable men’s store and says that he wants to buy a three-piece suit and a sweater… Clothing stores instruct their sales personnel to sell the costly item first. Common sense might suggest the reverse: If a man has just spent a lot of money to purchase a suit, he may be reluctant to spend very much more on the purchase of a sweater; but the clothiers know better. They behave in accordance with what the contrast principle would suggest: Sell the suit first, because when it comes time to look at sweaters, even expensive ones, their prices will not seem as high in comparison. The same principle applies to a man who wishes to buy the accessories (shirt, shoes, belt) to go along with his new suit. Contrary to the commonsense view, the evidence supports the contrast-principle prediction.

The same principle is applied to car sales. Quite often you’ll see an advert for an ‘on the road’ price of a car. Once you’ve acquiesced to pay this price for a car, the dealer will offer you add-ons. After you’ve spent thousands on a new car, a few hundred on some added flashes and gadgets seem trivial and you are more likely to pay for these. I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve paid for add-ons to expensive purchases that I’ve made.

This ‘weapon’ is also prevalent in restaurant menu design. Menu Engineer (‘Mengineer’?) Gregg Rapp talks about how he places expensive items on menus as decoys to make other items seem more reasonable. See him expose his tricks in this video (skip to around 2mins for his use of perceptual contrast):

It is with this phenomenon in mind that I think we should have reservations in our reception of Ofsted’s revised school inspection handbook, released this week.

After years of campaigning for Ofsted reform (by the way, that is a brilliant list of blogs compiled by de facto Chief Librarian of the campaign, Joe Kirby), the Rebel Alliance, led by legendary master Old Andrew Kenobi and flaxen maverick Jedi hero David Didau have recently begun to engage the inspectorate in dialogue. This has resulted in reiterations of policy and rewrites of the handbook, culminating in this week’s revised guidance.

"You're my only hope." Deep in the BlogCave, David and Andrew receive a holographic message from new EdSec Nicky Morgan.
“You’re my only hope.” Deep in the BlogCave, David and Andrew receive a holographic message from new EdSec Nicky Morgan.

The revisions have been received quite warmly – who could complain about the reiterations that inspectors – and I might be paraphrasing here – “definitely 110% guaranteed-or-your-money-back won’t be grading individual lesson observations, oh no siree, Bob, not this time and you can take that to the bank”?

But is it enough? Are we in danger of accepting this Gallifreyan regeneration of the inspectorate because, well, it’s a bit different to the last one and the perceptual contrast means we see that difference as greater than it actually is? Is this a reboot or is it just a shot-for-shot remake with a different cast? I must admit, I think that the differences between this revision and the last aren’t as great as I’d expected them to be.

It’s really important that we look at the inspection process from September in isolation and not in the context of the last few years. It doesn’t matter if it is better than what we had before – perceptual contrast has no actual value. What we should be asking is, just as the relentless bloggers have been asking all this time, is this incarnation fit for purpose? Is this incarnation actually right? I’m not sure that it is… yet.

So let’s take up Joe Kirby’s rallying call:

Now, above all, is the time to keep up the pressure. The education blogosphere is organising. We, the teachers, are reclaiming our profession. The momentum is rising. The next campaign target is to stop Ofsted grading teaching altogether.

If we sustain it, radical reform of the inspection regime is within reach.

Now, go and dry your hands.


Bibliography:

‘Influence: Science and Practice’ by Robert B. Cialdini