One year of blogging

On Wednesday 18th June the Evidence into Practice blog had its first birthday. I’d originally intended to write something on this earlier in the week, but on Tuesday our school got a call from Ofsted …

When it started out, Evidence into Practice was intended as a resource for teachers at Turnford School who were interested in evidence-based practice and research. As such, most of the early posts were simply links to interesting pieces of research and some resources for our peer-coaching groups.

I made it publically accessible in January but didn’t have much by way of visits until @oldandrewuk and @LearningSpy ‘discovered’ it and began generously reblogging some of the articles on the Echo Chamber and mentioning the blog on Twitter. Encouraged by this positive reception I began writing longer posts – trying to summarise some of the research I’d been reading and attempting to critically appraise some of the positions within the various debates  raging in the blogosphere. Since March, the blog has started to receive a few more visits. Whilst it’s hardly a popular site, it’s been gratifying to see that some of the articles have been well-received as thought-provoking and occasionally insightful.

Here are some of the posts which have generated the greatest interest over the year:

Pseudoscience in education

Can teachers stop believing in nonsense?

This was the most popular post by far. An abiding interest of mine has been to challenge some of the egregious pseudoscience which bedevils education. If teachers genuinely wish to raise the status of their profession, we need to put away these ‘childish things’. Perhaps one of the most important benefits of evidence-based practice is simply to put pay to these misconceptions. Other posts on the same theme include:

The pyramid of lies
Urban legends in education

Manipulating mindsets

Growth mindset: It’s not magic

I’m not against ideas of using cognitive interventions to improve children’s attitudes to learning, but I’m cautious of them. This post received the second most hits this year which perhaps indicates how ‘hot’ Dweck’s ideas are in education currently. My caution regarding these approaches is predominantly because there are genuine practical and ethical issues involved in trying to scale these interventions within the school system – ones which, in our enthusiasm to help students, I feel are often overlooked. Other posts on this topic include:

The hard problem of soft-skills
‘Killing’ with kindness and the dangers of differentiation
Everyone starts with an ‘A’: Is fear a better motivator than aspiration?

The complexity of ‘what works’

A toast to the death of pedagogy

With the implications of the changes in Ofsted finally trickling down to inspectors and school leaders, there has been a welcome debate about the relative effectiveness of different instructional strategies. This post, which made David Didau’s list of his favourite posts of the year so far, argues that with the rehabilitation of direct instruction we have a genuine opportunity to move the debate about great teaching beyond ideological dogma and towards an evidence-based professional approach. Other posts on this theme include:

The effects and impact of AfL
Great teacher talk
What can we learn from the failure of minimally guided instruction?
Does teaching style really matter?
Conflicted about cognitive conflict

Measuring the quality of teaching

What really improves teacher quality?

This post looks at the problems of applying value-added data as a way of measuring teacher quality. My concern is that, given the complexity of measuring the effectiveness of teaching, there are genuine problems in trying to use data to drive improvements in teaching. We risk accountability systems driving some rather perverse behaviour and undermining our goals if we oversimplify these arguments. Another popular post related to this topic describes the use of student surveys as a coaching tool:

Investigating teaching using a student survey

Issues in education research

Meta-analysis in education: Some cautionary tales from other disciplines

An evidence-based profession requires high quality research to support it. Some of our research base is currently rather poor, but there’s hope that we can improve the evidence base over time with more robust studies and a shared professional understanding (and healthy scepticism) of meta-analysis. This post related some of the significant problems with meta-analysis within medicine, psychotherapy and parapsychological research. Other posts on this topic include:

An evidence based teaching profession shouldn’t deal in absolutes
The restless relationship between science and teaching
Education research could learn from climate change reporting.

Looking to the future

It’s been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year but I’d like to build up more links within and without Turnford School over the coming year. I’m hoping that we’ll start to see other teachers from Turnford posting here; adding to the range and variety of interests and opinions reflected on the blog.

I’m fantastically grateful for the many bloggers and tweeters (too many to try and name, you know who you are) who have helped publicise the blog. I’m genuinely hoping to meet a few more from the blogging and research community over this year; look out for me at ResearchEd in September!

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3 Responses to One year of blogging

  1. ijstock says:

    Thanks for your blog over the last year. I’m a relative newcomer too and my own blog has its birthday in September. You’ve written lots that I found interesting and helpful – and good to know that others share some of my ‘constructive scepticism’ as well!


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