@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

31 thoughts on “8 Teaching Ideas To Bin in 2016

  • 31st December 2015 at 12:07 am
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    I would change “The Rebirth of Textbooks” to “The Rebirth of Poor Quality Textbooks”. Good textbooks can be hugely beneficial to students, particularly if students are able to take them home (e.g. for KS5 students). I would much rather have students become proficient at using textbooks than waste time sifting through online sources trying to find content pitched at the right level. Admittedly this is approaching it from a science perspective, where high quality textbooks are always likely to retain relevance regardless of the minutiae of specifications. On the flip side, poor quality textbooks are a complete and utter waste of money…

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    • 31st December 2015 at 12:08 am
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      Forgot to say – other than this tweak I could not agree more wholeheartedly with your points!

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  • 31st December 2015 at 1:25 am
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    Rigor (gag) and any form of that word. I’d like very much for that word to be tossed in the trash and forgotten about.

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  • 31st December 2015 at 11:34 am
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    Interesting. I would disagree with abolishing text books……but suspect it is subject related. In the sciences, it is very useful to have a well set out representation of the basics which can help students to establish frameworks of understanding, and act as a reference source……(but, I’m not a teacher).

    I’m surprised that you singled out number 8 as your most wished for. There is a philosophical difference ensconced in the whole trad/prog debate which exists within individual teachers even if they are not aware of it. The debate can help to make individuals aware of their own biases, and might explain their or others reactions to things. There is also the question about what individual policy works best (although hideously complicated), and the debate has helped to clarify the role of evidence and research, as well as highlight what happens to individuals if a specified pedagogy is enforced (usually in the face of no evidence).

    Overall, I think that workload is the biggest problem facing education at the moment, and suspect that as a Society we are asking for too much.

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    • 31st December 2015 at 11:44 am
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      I do think the progressive and traditionalist debate is needed and you are right, teachers do you need to be aware of their biases. Just the way we discuss it on social media is not helpful or productive in many parts for the collective.

      Workload/Recruitment does need to be our single objective for 2016.

      Textbooks: very much subject specific. Maths almost certainly.

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      • 31st December 2015 at 12:16 pm
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        Thanks for your reply. I agree that the timbre of the debate on Twitter is often unhelpful, but the debate itself is required. I have read Steve Watson’s blogpost, and think his main assertion is to do with free market introductions into education rather than the trad/prog debate. It is very difficult to de-convolute some of these issues, and keep the discussion appropriately focussed.

        Here’s wishing for workload reform, and appropriate focus in 2016. Happy New Year.

  • 31st December 2015 at 11:53 am
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    How about binning “Assessment for learning”? At a stroke it would reduce teacher workload (no more “can do” statements to be ticked off on a spreadsheet), and no more compulsory writing of aims and objectives on the board every lesson!

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  • 31st December 2015 at 9:20 pm
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    To bin the “progressive” vs “traditional” debate would be to allow one side to win by default. It doesn’t matter how boring you think it is, one side is going to win, although it might take a long time. And if the less good side wins, then children’s educations are damaged.

    The same can be said for most politics, and I struggle to keep my eyes open during discussions about fiscal policy, but it is important stuff and it needs to be out in the open.

    In reality, teachers at the chalkface actually don’t care what it’s called, they just get on with teaching,

    Yes, but in many cases very badly, because they are teaching to a mental scheme/ideology that is ineffective.

    That they don’t think that they are encumbered by a teaching ideology doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

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  • 1st January 2016 at 8:00 am
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    I don’t entirely agree with abandoning text books. They are a useful focus in many subjects. Much time is often spent on creating worksheets and power points instead of using textbooks for information and consolidation.

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  • 1st January 2016 at 4:59 pm
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    With you on all points, except the text books. I argue for them, because, when I was a young pupil, I was very grateful to be able to reread information in text books – PARTICULARLY maths!

    My suggestions for consigning to the bin would be ‘teacher assessment’ and alongside, it’s partner in crime ‘moderation’.

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      • 2nd January 2016 at 5:42 pm
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        There will be lots in this blog. Where exactly? Have already had the literacy police after me …

    • 13th January 2016 at 9:41 am
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      The problem with texts books is that so many students prefer to consume the information on screens and their content is always being undermined by the phrase “Actually, that is explained a bit better at http://www…...”

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    • 20th December 2016 at 10:49 pm
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      Hi, I personally think moderation is really important – try NOT having it and seeing where that gets you! I am currently working in an international school where moderation basically NEVER happens, and when there are new syllabi and curriculum requirements (and, therefore, new marking schemes), moderation could really be helpful.

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  • 2nd January 2016 at 8:29 am
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    I have to say that I’m not even sure what the terms ‘progressive’ and ‘traditional’ mean anymore. Much of what I was taught in teacher training in the 90s was ‘progressive’ but now feels very ‘traditional’. The very best teachers I know use a variety of strategies in a very differentiated ‘child-centred’ way, but among those strategies are some very ‘traditional’ methods and a love and enthusiasm for the subjects they teach.
    So I agree with you: a much more productive debate is about what works best, based on evidence. Happy new year!

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  • 3rd January 2016 at 10:44 am
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    Evidence = happy, enthusiastic, passionate learners pursuing towards androgogy and heutogogy (or the other way round if you fancy). Over my 30+ years I have seen a huge mix of progressive and traditional – from (OMG) rote learning in a French lesson that was probably the most enjoyable I have ever witnessed (the teacher was a Chelsea fan making scousers sing the theme for the lesson through a CFC song in French). Rarely have I seen such enjoyment and every kid could reflect upon their learning to excellent effect. Also memorable was a “learning about learning” type lesson (yes, from the VAK fad) but which involved dissecting competence using non-verbal communication to produce 4 squares from cardboard cut outs – each group has four squares cut up into different geometrical shapes but the squares are different sizes so it’s tricky for the group as each member only gets 20 seconds (I later used this as an SLT team building excercise!) – it was hysterical, engaging and the writing up exercise produced outstanding work (N.B. the children’s exercise not the SLT one although that was also productive from a very different perspective).

    Both have merit and both are flawed and I therefore agree with some of the points made regarding evidential support. The argument cannot be won by either “side” though as, the longer it takes, the more progressive becomes traditional as pointed out by Caseby’s Casebook. The real problem is with ideology and that complicated little swine, as David Cameron might say, will never go away until philosophically we are all on the same page – a job for the College of Teaching? So why not simply address the evidence base and use what works and dump that which has no measurable or observable (not data driven) evidence of success. Indeed, with that pilot type model in place, we could have avoided many a training session watching the Xmas paint dry while being battered with VAK! In short, the essence to great teaching is simple but involves outstanding artistry and guile to make learning come to life. Those who “have it” should be mentoring those who aspire to develop it and it this coaching and mentoring role that is vital if (collectively) we are to put the final nails into the data driven Ofsted regime.

    As for the rest Ross, nails firmly struck! Workload, morale and wasted teacher time is at a critical point when even the (not quite left leaning think tank) The Telegraph points out that 50% are considering leaving the profession within two years http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11909401/Half-of-teachers-could-leave-the-profession-in-two-years.html

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  • 9th January 2016 at 9:11 pm
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    Generally agree with your list. Personally though I think you missed a big one…

    How about adding ‘Growth Mindset as a teaching tool’. The basic principle is sound and all good and well, but the some of the deeper message is essentially pseudo science. Most teachers already believe that students can improve and achieve more if they work at it and are open and engaged in learning. We already give feedback, work on ‘marginal gains’, encourage our students to improve, focus on the effort and improvement as much as/more than the grade. All in all ‘Mindset’ doesn’t change how we teach or add to the methods we use. There are so many better teaching ideas and pedagogies out there, why this one has taking over every other CPD I don’t know. I got the point hearing it the first time I don’t want to hear it over and over again, the message doesn’t change and isn’t really that new. Maybe I’m in a minority, but I am sick of it’s dominance.

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    • 9th January 2016 at 9:41 pm
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      I agree. Was sold down the river when I found the book Mindset. Went to hear Dweck talk and nearly fell off my chair.

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  • 7th March 2016 at 7:28 pm
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    Whereas I agree with all the 8 points I think the worse thing to afflict the profession is Ofsted. Any organisation that is controlled by the current ideology of whatever government is in power with no appeal process is inherently corrupt. After all “There will always be a margin of error … “ In the early days you could not even challenge matters of fact. In my first inspection I was berated for not using drama as social therapy, rather than teaching the skills of drama. This was of course by a non-specialist. Conservatives, always unhappy about state education, are realising that they are still unhappy and the only constant over the last 20 years has been Ofsted. Also the theory behind it all, and most forms of teacher assessment, is that there is a “right” way. It assumes that all pupils are the “right” pupils, all schools are the “right” schools, with the “right” management and there is the “right” kind of teacher. One teacher I worked with I thought as the most boring teacher in the world, yet certain pupils loved the way he worked. Who am I to judge, well an Ofsted inspector at the time.
    Another personal beef is CPD with all the staff in the hall together. School leadership often use the mantra of differentiation and completely ignore it themselves. As a qualified Ofsted Inspector I had to waste a day of my life sat in a hall having the inspection process explained to me.

    Teaching is a complex interaction between individual teachers and individual pupils and nobody has the complete answer. I have been around long enough to see that one “good” idea usually undermines another “good” idea.

    Also the idea that pupils can be classified and that all pupils will progress at the same rate over time is the greatest fallacy that Headteachers have accepted from the number crunchers.

    In short accept that pupils and teachers are people and we will have a brighter future.

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  • 7th March 2016 at 7:39 pm
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    PS I realise the above may seem a bit negative, so a positive suggestion. Instead of formal Ofsted inspections, inspectors work undercover as supply staff. This would provide continuous, insightful accounts of schools, and, as Heads would not know which supply staff were inspectors, greatly improve the general provision of education. 🙂

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      • 8th March 2016 at 8:39 pm
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        You are of course entitled to your opinion, and obviously a more eminent educator than my humble self, however you seem to miss the irony of the smiley. Having said that I do have the belief that school leaders have been bribed by the government to accept all the changes and “innovations” since Baker. When practising teachers can see the nonsense that has been rolled out over the years Heads have accepted everything en bloc instead of defending education. Many, I believe, shelter behind the tick list mentality that displaces true management. Instead of protecting their staff some have revelled in the way developments have given them power to abuse. This may appear cynical, but whenever have Heads joined together to reject anything from government and said not in our schools? I accept I am not perfect and someone may be able to give an example where Heads did reject an initiative, but it always seemed to me it was teachers taking action to defend education.

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