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Wednesday 20 November 2013

The importance of qualified teachers - SecEd

The importance of qualified teachers - SecEd

Even the government is divided over whether unqualified individuals should be allowed to teach in state-funded schools. - See more at: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/blog/the-importance-of-qualified-teachers#sthash.UWcsZ2TY.dpuf

Saturday 2 November 2013

The Future of Education: From curriculum-based learning to learning-based curriculum

Looking forward to meeting the challenges of the 21st century education, educational systems need to move away from  the ideas that shaped the education of earlier generations.  Whereas in the past, learning in schools was curriculum-centred, where knowledge and understanding were key to measuring achievement (memory-based learning), the demands of the digital age, with its rapid technological advancement, require the shift towards learning-centred curriculum, which is skills-based learning with emphasis on application, problem-solving and other higher order learning strategies. 

Although any learning is based on knowledge foundations and understanding, since the widespread availability of technology, including mobile technology, knowledge has become so readily accessible that the modern curriculum needs have changed.  This means that teaching and learning, to be relevant to the needs of the modern society, must focus on developing other skills, including critical thinking, creative reasoning, imaginative solutions to problems, evaluative skills and multi-dimensional communication skills.

This shift from curriculum-centred learning to learning-centred curriculum, where the focus needs to be on developing learning self-regulation and autonomy, requires the change in assessment focus from testing aimed at assessing knowledge and understanding to assessments that match the objectives of the learning-centred curriculum aimed at teaching higher order learning skills relevant to further studies and future career development.

Since learners are at the heart of the learning-centred curriculum, some traditional teaching methods, of didactic nature, need to move way to new methodology expected to develop pupils’ learning self-regulation.  As the importance of learning independence to future success cannot be underestimated, schools are faced with the challenge of developing autonomous learners capable of their own mastery of learning.  Although some pupils possess a natural ability to learn effectively and therefore can be more motivated to learn than others, these meta-cognitive skills need to be explicitly taught, through the use of classroom formative assessment strategies, to develop pupils’ self-regulation essential to motivation and learning independence.  

Drawing on research based findings into the importance of developing pupils’ self-regulation, we know that children who are well motivated to learn are capable of using their self-regulatory skills effectively for higher achievement, whereas children who are not skilled at using self-regulatory skills, tend to be poorly motivated and over-reliant on teachers, which has a negative effect on their progress. Indeed, Boekaerts (1995) asserts that “It is important that teachers make their students independent of their help by preparing them for bugs, by teaching them how to consult resource material and how to use their social support network”.

As these independent learning skills are essential to developing learning sustainability needed for future multiple career changes and personal development, schools need to focus on developing their learning-based curricula and effective assessment systems that engage pupils in their own learning and, through feeding forward and other formative strategies, to facilitate pupils’ mastery of learning.  Therefore the shift in the locus of control from the teacher, in a more traditional curriculum-centred learning, to the pupil, in the new learning-centred curriculum, should be at the heart of education in the digital age.



Boekaerts, M. (1995). Motivation in Education. The British Psychological Society.


Dr Joanna Goodman

Thursday 31 October 2013

Should Students be Taught by Unqualified Teachers?

Debating the issue of the necessity for teaching qualifications for individuals employed by schools as ‘teachers’, the government views are divided, with Mr Gove advocating that  academies and free schools (semi-independent schools funded by the central government) may draw on the subject knowledge and passion of people without formal teaching qualifications, while Mr Clegg is of the opinion that schools should employ only qualified teachers to ensure “basic quality standard”.  Educationalists, including heads of the Institute of Education, college principals and Dr Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, believe that “standards in further education as well as in schools are threatened by the absence of a national policy for trained and qualified teachers and trainers”.  However, Mr Gove’s department disagrees, stating that state maintained schools and colleges should be able to “hire brilliant teachers who have not got qualified teacher status – and have the same advantage that private schools have to bring in great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists to inspire their pupils”, as reported by The Telegraph on 30 October 2013. 

Dr Seldon, Headmaster of Wellington College, compares teaching to parenting, where qualifications are not needed, and believes that Mr Clegg and others, who argue for teachers to be qualified, are misguided regarding the teacher’s role who, he says, is “much more akin to that of a parent (...) yet no one is suggesting parents go off for a university course to qualify as a parent”.  Although in his conference speech he makes references to teaching as a profession (strange analogy to parenting here) and acknowledges it as a reflective practice highlighting passion, intellect, love of subject and children as required qualities, his focus on teaching also fails to recognize that the aim of teaching is to enable learning, hence, I assume no references to pedagogy or necessity for teacher training.

Arguably, subject expertise and passion are teachers’ great qualities, however, for effective, by which I mean active, self-regulated and autonomous learning to occur, the focus of this debate needs to shift from the teacher to the learner. In this whole debate on qualified/unqualified teachers, we seem to have lost sight of what teaching and learning are all about.  Learning is complex and, although some students can be naturally attuned to meta-cognition, this is not the case with the majority of learners who need to be taught how to engage actively with the learning material, where knowledge acquisition is right at the bottom of the learning taxonomy.  Therefore ‘good teachers’, to be effective in class, need much more than subject expertise and intellect. Great teachers are able to facilitate learning through the use of formative strategies in class and know when to step back, to allow for pupils’ reasoning, application and self-discovered, independent learning to occur.

In order to have a better understanding of principles which encourage children to learn and why some children are more successful than others, extensive studies into the psychology of learning focused on motivation and, in particular, on the association between motivation and learning outcomes have come to the fore (Boekaerts, 2002; Dweck, 1986), and it is relevant, when discussing classroom learning, to explore some theoretical aspects of learning which scaffold classroom interaction. Learning is one of those terms about which many assumptions are made, but around which there is a silence in terms of assertions because it is complex and specific to different learners, and no single strategy works for all (Schunk et al. 1998).  According to Hirst and Peters (1989), “Educating people is not done by instant fiat. It takes time, and a variety of different processes of learning and teaching are involved”. Drawing on a range of European studies, including her own research in Holland over the last twenty years, Boekaerts (1995) concluded that motivation, an essential element of successful learning, conceptualized in her research as specific self-regulatory skill, was necessary for learners to experience success in educational outcomes.

Since learning is not just limited to knowledge acquisition, for effective learning to occur, learners need to be equipped with appropriate skills, which means they need to know how to learn in order to be fully successful. These skills are developed through classroom interactions and classroom dialogue by trained professionals whose aim is not just to impart or introduce knowledge, or new material, but to ensure that learning at a deeper level takes place and progress is made by individual students.  To assert, that this can be done by any unqualified individual with subject expertise, or indeed to liken it to parenting, is, frankly, both insulting and ridiculous.  Although I agree that not all qualified teachers are excellent and some industry experts can make excellent teachers, the training, including newly qualified teachers’ induction process, provide common ground for development and reflection, giving teaching a professional framework.

Likewise, references to independent schools having the opportunities to employ unqualified teachers are hardly appropriate. Firstly, the vast majority of independent school teachers have QTS (qualified teacher status).  I have been recruiting teachers to independent schools for many years and it has never been a consideration to recruit an unqualified teacher. Secondly, even if the private sector has the ability to employ unqualified academic staff, independent schools, and not all of them are beacons of excellence, work under different conditions to maintained schools, and what may be appropriate in some independent schools, would not necessarily be appropriate in state-funded schools where about 93% of pupils are being educated.

In my view, the debate should focus more on learning, rather than on teaching. It is more about developing pupils as independent, sustainable learners – skills which are key to future success in the digital age, where students need to be prepared for life-long learning and multiple career changes.  To assert, that this job can be done by unqualified individuals, however charismatic and knowledgeable, is to deny students opportunities that they deserve.  Teacher effect on learning, including feedback, is huge (J. Hattie’s table of effect sizes below).  Students have only one chance of every year in education and their learning should be guided by qualified teachers who are committed to life-long learning themselves.


Hattie's table of effect sizes.

Effect Size
Source of Influence
Class environment
Teacher Style
Peer effects
Simulation & games
Physical attributes of students
Audio-visual aids
Team teaching
Physical attributes (e.g., class size)

Terms used in the table (Interpreted by Geoff Petty)

• An effect size of 0.5 is equivalent to a one grade leap at GCSE

• An effect size of 1.0 is equivalent to a two grade leap at GCSE


Hattie says ‘effect sizes' are the best way of answering the question ‘what has the greatest influence on student learning?'. An effect-size of 1.0 is typically associated with:

• advancing learners' achievement by one year, or improving the rate of learning by 50%

• a correlation between some variable (e.g., amount of homework) and achievement of approximately .50

• A two grade leap in GCSE, e.g. from a C to an A grade


Dr Joanna Goodman

Sunday 13 October 2013

Assessment without levels - Assessment

Assessment without levels - Assessment

National training in different locations.

Please contact me for additional bookings or bespoke sessions specific to your requirements.

Also conference presentations and training aimed at independent schools.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: How to Help Every Child Succeed in Education (and Life)

To succeed in education, and in life, young people have to be prepared for bugs.  Adults who are over-protective and micromanage children:  parents through praising them (how clever and brilliant they are) and teachers through spoon-feeding for exam preparation and/or feedback focused on ability, actually turn children off learning and discourage them from trying to solve problems for themselves. 

“’I can’t’ isn’t a reason to give up, it’s a reason to try harder.” (Voltaire)

If children are not used to learning from their own mistakes, they become defensive about trying when faced with difficulties and tend to blame outside factors, for example teachers, material, lack of resources or not enough time for their own failings.  Moreover, when students are not allowed to deal with setbacks as natural part of learning, they shy from taking on challenges, become bored, give up at the first hurdle because they are afraid that their deficiencies may be exposed, and instead of putting more effort into trying or ‘having a go’, they put effort into hiding their mistakes, switch off learning and may misbehave as a way of diverting attention from getting low grades or appearing stupid.

Influenced by praise, (“Well, done! What a clever boy/girl you are.”), children may take their natural ability for granted and believe that it is enough to be clever to achieve.  Therefore when they encounter difficulties, often when the material gets harder, they lose confidence and stop enjoying learning or problem solving.  This kind of attitude, where children stop trying when faced with difficulties, lowers their achievement and stops them from developing their learning autonomy, which is an essential skill for learners in the digital age as young people have to be prepared for multiple career changes – learning after school!

Grading of pupils’ work can have a similar, negative influence on their future learning and achievement, where top grades can signal a ceiling on learning and reinforce belief in natural ability without too much effort (until the goalpost move), and students attaining lower grades can be satisfied from a particular grade without making more effort to achieve higher – the “C-grade for life syndrome” and satisfaction from mediocrity without much questioning or desire for improvement.  Therefore specific feedback for improvement, formative-type feedback, is absolutely crucial to achievement, learning and future progress.  It is imperative that educational leaders are committed to in-depth understanding of what assessment for learning involves and that schools have effective assessment processes, including feedback, based on reporting where students are in their learning, where they need to get to (closing the gaps) and how to get there, and that teachers use assessment information when planning future learning.

Among many school aims, one of the most important ones is preparation for future life – life after school.  In the 21st century, more than previously, because of rapid technological advancement and fast moving job market, students need to be prepared for ‘learning for life’.  To be successful, they must embrace learning and understand the important role of effort in achievement.  They must be taught resilience and how to deal with setbacks.  Since adult praise – ‘my child is special-type’ (Dweck, C.) is a major factor in influencing ego and undermining achievement, young people need to be taught that learning and effort are more important than being clever so they believe in their unlimited potential through effort and getting better.  It is important to future progress that schools get their assessment procedures right and provide their students with effective feedback for learning that is task-related, not person-related.  Any feedback which is person-focused, e.g. “That’s a really high score.  You must be good at this topic”, is counter-productive to future learning and can lead to underachievement.  For long-term success, students should be rewarded for effort and persistence so they understand that everyone can learn and achieve.  This is critical to developing learning sustainability, which is fundamental to future success and employability.

On the danger of praise and positive labels, Dweck writes:

...almost 40 percent of the ability-praised students lied about their scores. And always in one direction.  In the fixed mindset, imperfections are shameful – especially if you’re talented – so they lied them away.

So telling children they’re smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim they were smarter.  I don’t think that this is what we’re aiming for when we put positive labels – “gifted”, “talented”, “brilliant” on people.  We don’t mean to rob them of their zest for challenge and their recipes for success.  But that’s the danger.

When you’re given a positive label, you’re afraid of losing it, and when you’re hit with a negative label, you’re afraid of deserving it.

Recently, in the British press, in response to summer public examination results and educational reforms afoot, much has been written about “helicopter parents” (hovering above every child’s move).  Despite their best intentions, their actions can have a negative effect on their children’s achievements and it is important for schools to communicate this message to parents.  In my experience, many parents are not aware of the danger of praise and that caring about learning is more important than caring about grades.  Openness of communication is important. And so is trust. 

Students need to understand the value of learning from own mistakes and that everyone can improve through effort, and we need to be consistent in conveying this message across.

Dr Joanna Goodman, Director of Cromwell Consulting Ltd

Wednesday 7 August 2013

What do Grades Mean?

A ‘grade’ is a summative expression of performance in a task or examination taken at a particular time.  Grades can be expressed as letters (A, B, C), numbers (6, 5, 4), grade descriptors (excellent, good, satisfactory) or sometimes as percentages which correspond to particular marks or grades.  Attaining a particular grade in an exam, for example, should not be confused with measuring progress or being an indication of progress over time because a grade given for a piece of work or for an exam performance is just a reflection of that particular performance and nothing else.  Examination grades are not only an approximation of a particular achievement as the same student on the same exam paper can produce different outcomes on different days.  Grades also depend on types of questions set, mark schemes and the quality of markers, including the reliability of the whole process of quality assurance.  Parents and policy makers would like to believe in the exact reliability of examination grades, however, this is not the case because, for many reasons, there is an element of error in any test.
In case of public examinations, grades are moderated and standardized to ensure, as far as possible, grade validity and reliability so certain comparisons can be made, and to warrant confidence in the system.  Ensuring comparability of examinations in different subjects, has been more controversial and harder to achieve in order to reflect a different level of difficulty of different subjects.  Although statistical models are applied to analysis, for example, GCSE grades for different subjects with different degrees of difficulty, an absolute inter-subject reliability is not easy to achieve because not only some subjects are harder than others, but there are gender difference in relation to achievement across subjects and there are differences in attainment between top grades and lower grades, where on average differences between the highest grades are twice as big as those between the bottom grades.  In England in 2004, about 600,000 candidates’ GCSE scripts were analyzed[1] in order to construct greater grade reliability between different subjects. 
Samples on the scale of 600,000 candidates are very large indeed and not applicable at school level, where students’ work is routinely graded in the course of their studies.  Therefore it can be quite difficult to establish a degree of certainty of what the actual grades mean and how they translate from achievement in one subject into another.  This grade consistency can be even difficult to achieve within one subject, unless a robust moderation system is in place.

On a practical level, I am often asked what attaining a “6” or “64%”, for example,  in a test means.  What this means is exactly what it says: that a particular student’s performance was judged as “6” or “64%” attainment in this particular test.  This grade or score does not give any other information and, as mentioned above, is only an approximation of a student’s performance.  It is a summative judgement of a performance in a particular task.  It is a performance at a given time and it is not a predictor of any future performance which can change with effort, task and many other variables.  Similarly, assigning a student to a particular set (where schools have different ability sets in some subjects), reflects the best-fit ability position at the time and should not be in any way a predictor or an indication of where the student may end up with further learning and effort.  In other words, these are positions in a given time and should not be viewed as fixed positions as this could be counter-productive to future learning and student effort.
When I asked students what type of feedback was helpful to their learning and whether they understood grades/marks in different subjects, these were some of the typical answers:

“Corrected work and told us how to be done right.”
“It is different in different subjects and I don’t really understand what the grades mean.”

“I understand grades and marks some of the time.”
“It is useful when teachers tell us what we’ve done well and how to improve.”

“It helps when it shows were you could’ve done better. I don’t really know what is a B in history and what it is in science.”
It seems that students are rather confused regarding what their grades mean and make frequent references to guidance on improvement, which is what they seem to value as helpful feedback to future learning.

There is another risk of too much focus on grading: students may see themselves as being a certain grade performer, e.g. a C-grader or even and A-grader without putting further effort as they can be satisfied from the grades already attained.  This attitude puts a ceiling on learning, even at the higher end, where students may stop trying their best through continued effort and develop a ‘fixed mindset’ (satisfaction from own ends).
Parents, who have their best intentions at heart, may contribute to this type of mindset as they often put too much emphasis on grades and can praise ability as a form of encouragement, which is counter-productive to effort and learning development, and results in students’ setbacks because they are reluctant to try in case they fail and may become defensive, blaming outside factors for their lack of achievement (Dweck[2]). 

The meaning of grades can be even more confusing, when looking at the grading of transfer tests/examinations, where different institutions set their own grade criteria and boundaries. The examples of such tests, where there is no moderation and no grade standardization, are transfer tests to different or senior schools, for instance ISEB Common Entrance examination.
Confused about the meaning of grades in these situations? 

I am.  
We should be questioning the validity of such examinations as they can have a negative impact on learning and render grades quite meaningless, to be frank.  They also contribute nothing in terms of performance/data analysis because of the lack of any standardization.  The only purpose they serve is selection to particular institutions according to their own criteria. 

Therefore, if we are really concerned with learning and individual progress, we should be questioning the meaning of the status quo regarding reporting educational progress in the form of grades or levels, where level descriptors inhibit the overall performance and undermine learning[3], and grades can be ambiguous and can put a ceiling on learning.
To serve students well, we need to have high expectations and involve them in their learning to a greater extent, where we value their voice and guide them to their next steps of learning through formative feedback, and the grades will take care of themselves...

Dr Joanna Goodman

[1] Comparability of GCSE examinations in different subjects: an application of the Rasch model


[2] Dweck, C. (2000). Essays in Social Psychology. Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. Hove: Brunner/Mazel.


[3] A report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum review