Alphabetical Signposts To Teacher Excellence – E

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Ebbinghaus (Hermann) A pioneer of memory research. He is most known to me for producing the “Forgetting Curve” –  a graph that shows how quickly new information is forgotten when it is first learned and the effect of spacing out the revisiting of such content over time. The curve gets less steep the more the content is revisited – retrieval strength is increased. Implications for this are regular low stakes knowledge quizzes in the class room to ensure that students are allowed to practice retrieval when they are safe from distraction.

Ed Southall @solvemymaths is author of one of my favourite books, “Yes, But Why?” which breaks down the subject knowledge required for maths teachers. It is an excellent read and, in my opinion, essential reading for all teachers, especially new to the profession. Ed is also co-author of “Geometry Snacks” and has a great website Ed is also the Head of the PGCSE course at Huddersfield University.

Edutwitter – I can honestly say that I have improved my practice 10 fold since joining the online community. I now feel more informed and even more supported, particularly with maths. So much expertise and so many helpful people.

Effect size – Effect size is a simple way of quantifying the difference between two groups that has many advantages over the use of tests of statistical significance alone. Effect size emphasises the size of the difference rather than confounding this with sample size. ‘Effect size’ is simply a way of quantifying the size of the difference between two groups. It is easy to calculate, readily understood and can be applied to any measured outcome in Education or Social Science. It is particularly valuable for quantifying the effectiveness of a particular intervention, relative to some comparison. It allows us to move beyond the simplistic, ‘Does it work or not?’ to the far more sophisticated, ‘How well does it work in a range of contexts?

One way to interpret effect sizes is to compare them to the effect sizes of differences that are familiar. For example, Cohen (1969, p23) describes an effect size of 0.2 as ‘small’ and gives to illustrate it the example that the difference between the heights of 15 year old and 16 year old girls in the US corresponds to an effect of this size. An effect size of 0.5 is described as ‘medium’ and is ‘large enough to be visible to the naked eye’. A 0.5 effect size corresponds to the difference between the heights of 14 year old and 18 year old girls. Cohen describes an effect size of 0.8 as ‘grossly perceptible and therefore large’ and equates it to the difference between the heights of 13 year old and 18 year old girls. As a further example he states that the difference in IQ between holders of the Ph.D. degree and ‘typical college freshmen’ is comparable to an effect size of 0.8. Cohen does acknowledge the danger of using terms like ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’ out of context. Glass et al. (1981, p104) are particularly critical of this approach, arguing that the effectiveness of a particular intervention can only be interpreted in relation to other interventions that seek to produce the same effect.” (Coe 2002) Articke here on “flaw in the idea of comparing effect sizes” from Greg Ashman. Robert Slavin’s blog – “How big is big?” looks at effect sizes.

EEF TOOLKIT is a great place to start a conversation with regards to educational research and provides us with some best bets by keeping us more informed. There is a break down of cost implications and the strength of the research with some recommendations.

Eighty-Twenty Principle – Pareto’s 80:20 principle when applied in education with regards to effort:impact is fascinating. The idea is that 20% of what you do leads to 80% of the outcomes. The related to effort, curriculum content and much more. More here from Kris Boulton.

Eisenhower Productivity Matrix – a matrix that allows you to prioritise tasks better by them against urgency and importance. More here.

Elaboration – another of the six learning principles from The Learning Scientists whereby students acquire knowledge and then begin to ask questions about that knowledge to deepen understanding and increase storage strength. Lots more information about this here. It is also one of the ideas that Dunlowsky explores in his Strengthening the Student Toolbox article – more research needs to be done on this relative to spaced practice and retrieval practice.

Element interactivity – this refers to the levels at which different elements of things that we learn interact with each other. Elements that can be learned in isolation have low interactivity and are not very burdensome on working memory. Elements that have a high interactivity put more of a strain on working memory and are therefore often more difficult to learn. For example, if you wanted to solve 5x + 7 = 2x + 1, the elements in this equation (the terms) interact with one another as we begin to balance the equation so this would be considered to have elements that have a moderate to high element interactivity. John Sweller, architect of Cognitive Load Theory, suggests – “Low element interactivity materials allow individual elements to be learned with minimal reference to other elements… High element interactivity material consists of elements that heavily interact and so cannot be learned in isolation… Element interactivity levels are determined by estimating the number of interacting elements… simultaneously take into account the nature of the information and the knowledge of learners.”

Energy – Teacher and student energy is really important for performance and learning. When these things change, it has a massive effect on outcomes. Here is an article on managing your energy, not your time. A nice idea would be to keep a log for a week on when you have “high, moderate or low energy levels” and to plan your tasks around this. On occasions when you have high energy you may want to plan a unit of work. At times of low energy you may want to carry out some administrative tasks. Asking students to do this may also be a useful exercise when they are studying. High energy may mean that they practice retrieval which is relatively burdensome. Low energy might mean that they create a schedule or create some flashcards. Training staff and students to manage their energy levels as well as time could be a useful activity.

Engelmann (Siegfried) – quite literally a genius. Creator of the Direct Instruction programme in the 1960s – full scripted lessons for teachers that have been so carefully thought out that “prior learning never contradicts future learning” through his “faultless communication.” His other works include “Connecting Math Concepts” – the text books to deliver these programmes up to 11 year olds as well as instruction for reading. His book Theory of Instruction is critically acclaimed. Not everyone buys into his controversial methods – teachers feel deeply uncomfortable with scripted lessons. All I will say, is that, after seeing some of them myself, his textbooks are deeply humbling and his attention to detail and the learning journey is simply extra-ordinary. Keep an open mind. Naveen Rizvi is a big advocate of his work and you can read her incredible blogs from MathsConf14 here and a blog from her on his “faultless communication” principles here. All teachers can learn something from these in my opinion. Blog here from Joe Kirby on Direct Instruction. Kris Boulton also signposts the best places to read about Direct Insruction here. Hear Engelmann talk about it here and see an example of it here with (I’m guessing) 4-6 year olds.

Enser (Mark) @EnserMark has been teaching for 14 years in a range of schools. He started in an inner city all girls school in Southampton before moving to an all boys CofE school in Worthing. He is currently a head of department at an 11-18 mixed comprehensive in rural Sussex. He sometimes contribute articles to TES and you can find his author’s page here. He is currently working on his first book – Making Every Geography Lesson Count, soon to be available from Crown House Publishing. His blog is one of my favourite go-to blogs, which speaks with a combination of common sense and pragmatism.

Engagement – I personally think it is a mistake to plan lessons for engagement. While it might be desirable for students to be learning and be engaged, the illusion of engagement is a poor proxy for learning. David Didau writes, “does engagement actually matter?” here. Greg Ashman explains why he feels engagement is a poor proxy for learning here. “Just because they’re engaged, doesn’t mean they’re learning” says Carl Hendrick here.

Establishing routines – Routines are the cornerstone of what creates a culture and environment for optimising learning in the classroom. Tom Bennett says that a routine is a behaviour that is automatic for students 90% of the time. Routines are not just limited to exits and entries to class rooms or handing out equipment. Define as many routine things in your day as you can and define as many things that you want students to be automatic at as you can. I’ll start – entries and exits, transitioning between activities, defining punctuality, how students respond to questions, how you provide instructions before a task, how you display worked examples, how students carry out pair work, how they line up in the dinner queue, what they do when they see litter on the floor, what happens if a student makes a mistake? What happens when a student says I don’t know? How do they sit? Where do they look? When can they talk? Don’t use wooly phrases like “I have high expectations” – high compared to what/who? Are high expectations defined the same in Blackpool and Eton? Have you CLEARLY defined what your high expectations are and shared this with pupils every day/week/half term? Having high expectations is not enough – demonstrating them through relentless routine and following through is SO key! What you permit you promote. Make it routine to monitor your routines!! My behaviour blog talks about this a lot.

Espressos – Lucy Rycroft Smith writes “Espressos” through Cambridge Mathematics – short research summaries for the busy teacher around education and maths including confidence, number sense, testing timestables and more! These are brilliant and very good for the time-poor teacher.

Etudes – practical classroom tasks which embed extensive practice of important mathematical procedures within more stimulating, rich problem-solving contexts from Colin Foster. Scroll to the bottom of this page for some examples in the different areas of maths.

Etymology – the study of the origin of words and how they have changed through history is a useful way to explicitly teach vocabulary. Blog here from Alex Quigley. Article from E.D Hirsch here. Here is an online etymology dictionary.

Ever-6 FSM – The term given to students who have been eligible for Free School Meals and are disadvantaged. As a Pupil Premium Co-ordinator when my school was winner of the National Pupil Premium Award in 2014, I understand that there are different levels of disadvantage and that it is damaging to put all of these students under one umbrella. Some of the students who fall under Ever6 FSM might just be the most disadvantaged and may struggle to eat, stay warm or may share a bedroom with a number of siblings at home. Tom Sherrington’s blog on this is superb – The Disadvantaged Chasm part 1 and part 2.

Evidence based research is now getting better PR and research schools are doing great work to try to spread this in opportunity areas and beyond. However, there are still some dark corners of schools that need the research light shining on it. ResearchEd, the EEF and other organisations are doing their best to help spread the word to help teachers to stop making intuitive decisions. We need to become more informed in our decision-making, both on in the class room and on a leadership level. Tom Sherrington points us in the direction of some evidence informed wisdom here, which is better than any list I could come up with to begin with. Great advice from David Weston at rEdBlackpool was to make sure that you do not become “tribalised” on Twitter. In other words, “I don’t like person x so I am not going to listen to their research but I do like person y so their research is valid.” Keep an open mind and control our emotions when making decisions on validity of research. Here is my blog from ResearchEd Blackpool. EEF report on Putting Evidence To Work here. Sign up for ResearchEd’s magazine here. Blog from Tom Bennett here on how the evidence revolution is going from the last 4 years. Research + evidence = wisdom from Stephen Tierney. Listen to Robert Coe here. Article from Dan Willingham here.

Examples and non examples – a great way to teach definitions by showing egs and non egs that are confused with egs to separate them explicitly. This is particularly useful for concepts – things are difficult to explain without a picture or diagram – like perpendicular height. Showing examples of heights and perpendicular heights is an effective wa to get around this.

Example problem pairs is a method of presenting a worked example where by the page is split in two. On the left hand side is an example that the teacher works through, first in silence, then narrates over the top to reduce cognitive load. On the right hand side is a very similar related, minimally different problem for the students to answer using the worked example on the left hand side.

Excellence gallery – a display in school dedicated to excellent work in different subjects. Parents and visitors can be taken to visit it. You can have a classroom version to increase rigour and heighten expectations.

“Expertise reversal effect” is an effect from Cognitive Load Theory which implies that expert’s learning can be hindered from providing worked examples, which often much more useful for novices. They would be better given problems to solve or to critically think about the applications of their knowledge.

Expert induced blindness or “the curse of knowledge” is what teachers can sometimes suffer from due to their expertise in a certain domain. This makes it difficult for them to think on the level of a novice and think of misconceptions or appreciate task difficulty. Teacher Toolkit article here.

Experts vs novices in the classroom – excellent blogs here from Greg Ashman and here from David Didau. Daniel Willingham has a whole chapter devoted to his book, “Why Don’t Students Like School?” where he talks about novices and experts thinking and categorising problems in a different way. A very interesting study was carried out by Chi et. al where by undergraduate and post-graduate Physics students were asked to categorize problems into piles. The experts initially abstract physics principles to approach and solve a problem representation, whereas novices base their representation and approaches on the problem’s literal features or surface structure. The key here is not to expect to rock up to school on a Monday morning and teach expertise. Experts have a large set of interconnected, embedded schema in their brains that allow them to think critically. Their knowledge is flexible in that they can apply it many contexts because of their understanding of the deep structure and underlying principles. Novices have inflexible knowledge that can eventually become flexible but it must be introduced as inflexible knowledge. More on flexible and inflexible knowledge here from Daniel Willingham and an excellent blog called “What wrote knowledge isn’t” from Kris Boulton.

Expert vs novice teachers – This blog from Adam Boxer is superb about some of the differences between expert and novice teachers.. TeachingHow2s have an excellent summary from John Hattie here – “Students who are taught by expert teachers exhibit an understanding of the concepts targeted in instruction that is more integrated, more coherent and at a higher level of abstraction than understanding achieved by other students.” John Hattie.

Expert Teaching Qualification – you can now do a Masters in Expert Teaching through the Institute for teaching.

Explicit instruction – a teaching methodology that requires lots of teacher input to teach things from first principles. Can be a lecture or highly interactive with lots of questioning and practice opportunities. Ben Newmark’s blog should be the first you read here. Greg Ashman is a big advocate of this and explains more here. I also blog about the importance of explicit instruction through a sporting analogy here.

Extraneous Cognitive Load is the distraction caused by tasks which occupy working memory but do not contribute to the formation of long term memories. Falling under this bracket would be redundant information, labels or speech, as well as keys not attached to diagrams and the expertise reversal effect (see above).

Explanations and teacher talk – “Don’t take 30 minutes to say what you can say in 30 seconds but if you need 30 minutes… take it!” Sage advice from Kris Boulton. Here are some signposts to advice on explanations and teacher talk from a series of blog posts called Great Explainers – Adam Boxer, Mark Enser and Ben Newmark. Alex Quigley writes about Conducting Classroom Talk. Tom Sherrington’s piece on explaining here. David Didau’s take here.

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