In response to growing criticism about the length of my blogs, I’ve tried to keep this one concise – it’s still above 500 words, so I’ve failed, but you should have seen it before. Enjoy it.
- Increase opportunities for students who are (statistically) likely to under-perform – we can see from the success of KIPP and other schools that given the right circumstances, all students can reach their full potential.
- Extend learning hours, but regularly intersperse periods of classroom teaching with other activities; ensure that every school, especially ones with high intake of students from deprived backgrounds, have a decent and comprehensive set of after-school-hours activities. Schools in predefined area boundaries should collaborate and offer activities that include pupils from all schools in that area. (Would particularly help in rural areas, where this could result in significantly increased choice.)
- We should do much more to encourage educational mobility. There’s plenty of evidence that low SES means children are more likely to leave school without qualifications (Ermish & Francesconi, 2001). This needs to be addressed, but more fundamentally we need to re-assess what we consider to be a successful education: is three A*s at A-level really what every student should strive towards, or maybe alternative measurements – e.g. PISA – are more appropriate? What’s wrong with qualitatively assessing students? – we could give a descriptive analysis of what a student is like; surely (purely from an employability perspective) that’s more valuable to employers than how many UCAS points you’ve accumulated?
- Remove “brain gym” and similar exercises from the classroom. There’s no evidence that they work, but plenty of evidence that they don’t.
- Computer games provide motivation. These can be integrated into lessons.
- We should teach children about basic psychological principles that govern the decisions they make, e.g. escalating commitment, loss aversion, embrace second thoughts and not be afraid of switching answers.
- Make sure that children don’t grow up with the snobbish and harmful perception that vocational courses are somehow lesser than traditional degree subjects – they provide a valuable education by focusing on (a) valuable, transferable skills, and (b) specialist knowledge increasingly employability in that sector (http://goo.gl/59CM6; http://goo.gl/AgJrA).
At the same time, not everything we teach needs to be geared towards future employability, or even developing a skill – knowledge should be recognised as an end in itself. If somebody wants to spend three years writing a thesis on how Duns Scotus used citations, good on them. Considering what people have discovered by experimenting or exploring for its own sake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_LSD#Discovery; http://goo.gl/8u6qp), it seems absurd to insist that all learning has to serve a direct purpose.
- Scientific journals’ business model is unsustainable – charging £30+ to view a paper online for 24 hours makes no sense. The effects of free distribution of collective knowledge will benefit everyone but the publishers. From a pedagogical point of view alone, free and open access to scientific studies will allow teachers to implement the most efficacious evidence-based techniques.
- Ignore what Mark C Taylor thinks we should do to revolutionise tertiary education: his ideas have been widely criticised as “unbelievably misguided”, “reckless” and “wrong-headed”; for example, his proposal to abolish permanent university departments and replace them with short-lived problem-focused programs would be a huge structural change, bringing few conceivable benefits. Those benefits could alternatively be achieved by encouraging inter-disciplinary collaborations on projects in such “zones of inquiry”, and this is where its application in classrooms applies: by encouraging students to synoptically develop an understanding of an area from multiple subjects’ perspectives, knowledge can be applied in a new way that encourages a greater depth of understanding and a holistic view of said area.
- Education is key to social mobility, so we should do everything we can to focus our efforts in improving education on schools with high intake of low-SES/working-class (however defined; not just FSM) students.
- Address the widespread perception that minority ethnic groups and immigrants are given preferential treatment in education, at the expense of the white working class. Expectations placed in children have a huge effect on attainment; Shepherd (2010) found that white working-class parents often have lower expectations of their children, which in turn may explain why social class is such an important determinant in school performance – so expectations from teachers need to be seen to be high. School programs that encourage higher student expectations can be estbalished.