Gregorc’s Thinking Styles

Anthony Gregorc, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut, divided the thinking style into 2 axes and consequentially 4 quadrants. The y axis is based on the perceptual preference and the x the ordering preference.

The perceptual preference runs from concrete to abstract and ordering preference from sequential to random.

  • Concrete sequential.
  • Concrete random.
  • Abstract random.
  • Abstract sequential.


Perceptual Quality

  • Concrete:This quality enables you to register information directly through your five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. When you are using your concrete ability, you are dealing with the obvious, the “here and now.” You are not looking for hidden meanings, or making relationships between ideas or concepts. It is what it is.”


  • Abstract: This quality allows you to visualize, to conceive ideas, to understand or believe that which you cannot actually see. When you are using your abstract quality, you are using your intuition, your imagination, and you are looking beyond “what is” to the more subtle implications. “It is not always what it seems.”


Although all people have both concrete and abstract perceptual abilities to some extent, each person is usually comfortable using one more than the other. The person whose natural strength in the concrete, for example, may communicate in a direct, literal, no-nonsense manner. The person whose natural strength is the abstract may use more subtle ways to get a point across.


Ordering Ability 

  • Sequential:Allows your mind to organize information in a linear, step-by-step manner. When using your sequential ability, you are following a logical train of thought, a traditional approach to dealing with information. You may also prefer to have a plan and to follow it, rather than relying on impulse.


  • Random:Lets your mind organize information by chunks, and in no particular order. When you are using your random ability, you may often be able to skip steps in a procedure and still produce the desired result. You may even start in the middle, or at the end, and work backwards. You may also prefer your life to be more impulsive, or spur of the moment, than planned.






All elements of research and literature come with elements of danger. After a conversation with Dr Shrehan Lynch, I have come to the conclusion that spectrums can be used to label and place people on a continuum, I have some more thinking to do… What do you think?


Try The Test 



All elements of research and literature come with elements of danger. After a conversation with Dr Shrehan Lynch, I have come to the conclusion that spectrums can be used to label and place people on a continuum, I have some more thinking to do… What do you think of ‘thinking styles’?


References and Further Reading


The Best That Has Ever Been Thought and Said.

Johnny, an elderly male from south Asia, talked fondly of the colonial rule, he regaled me with his experiences of learning Shakespeare and English literature. He is still enamoured by the use of language, the way it resonates in the mouth and the soul.

I hesitate in our conversation as I notice the tears rolling down his face, not the usual sobs but the calm continuous streams. He then recalled his late wife.

“How we shared English tea and the poetry that brought us together, every night, on this very balcony. ”

He was grateful for his British education because it gave him the words to ‘win’ his bride through a series of Shakespeare inspired poems.

We teachers matter, what teachers do matters, it really matters. Our roles have the capacity to change lives, to create a love for and of all things. The act of learning gives people the tools to express that love in a multitude of languages, verbal, non-verbal, and allows people to dream.

After speaking to various people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, I have gained a perspective of their education in their formative years. Many people talk fondly of their curricula and experiences at school to an almost patriotic point.

We know as educators how important our role in instilling knowledge and skills in our formative years is. We also consequently know that this knowledge and these skills contribute to the beliefs we hold through our adult life.
(Li 2017).

Yes, in our contexts, there is literature to state that teacher beliefs may impact on our practice; this is not controversial or new. If you are taught that there is a right way of doing something, this impacts on our beliefs. We are products of our environment. Hence, it is not a massive leap of faith that we would propagate the same narratives taught to us in our early years.

For those people who grew up in the colonies of the British Empire this patriotism has led to a false ideological stance that puts the British as culturally, intellectually, economically, and in some cases genetically superior. I’d point out here that we could exchange British for any colonial power.

In this piece, I could describe the misalignment and impact of colonised education, but that is for another day. The most important consequence of this education I alluded to earlier, is the impact on adults and in particular educators.

Teachers educated under colonial times will live with the ideological indoctrination of the above, and through no fault of their own, they are likely to propagate the same rhetoric.

Now, you teachers educated in Britain, do you feel an ideological indoctrination?

I would ask you to name 10 people you admire from your school years.


Now bear in mind that the global population is around 80-85% non-white (global majority), does this match your list? 50% are women, 15% are non-heterosexual, does your list match those proportions? If not, why not?

Consequently, the same rhetoric and narratives propagate through generations. I have often heard educators talk about

“The best that has ever been thought and said”

As a child, I wondered the ‘best’ must have favoured the English language and people who of us who have a deficit in melanin.

As educators do we look objectively?
Do we allow the non-conventional (uncomfortable) truths which impact on the curriculum and our practice?
How do school leaders create an environment that supports this more authentic disruption?
Are we guilty of falling back on the anecdotal evidence from our own experience?

We can commit to unlearning the taught ideologies through our schooling. Your choice is to either pledge to change the way you think and act or continue to be part of a herd which damages our society for generations.

Race, UK and​ feeling Othered

Guest Blog from @HalilMrT1

The grief still pours out. No matter what I do the pain lies heavy in my heart which makes it sink further in my chest.

I recently saw this on twitter.


It’s this rhetoric, by the likes of President Trump, that makes people of colour and those from ethnic minorities as a group feel like they will never truly be equal to their white counterparts. This is because it makes it ok, for those of a certain disposition, to be outwardly racist. It makes it ok for government policies to be created to oppress groups purposefully and without shame – you only have to look at the goings-on in the detention centres at the American Mexican border or the stop and search laws here.

It wasn’t until my late teens that I truly started to appreciate how hard my father had to work. He had always wanted to be a teacher – but due to his first-year course at a top university in Turkey not being “of an equivalent educational value” for the universities here in England he had to defer. Unfortunately, once he started to work that was the end of the dream for him in becoming a teacher. He worked until the early hours 7 days a week enduring verbal and sometimes physical racial abuse from drunk customers.

Up until the age of 16 I rarely had friends over. Our “house” was a flat above a kebab shop. But this wasn’t the reason for my not entertaining friends. I was allowed. I mean both my parents were liberal but I guess I didn’t through embarrassment. It’s strange as I write this it makes more sense than it ever did.

Society, whilst I was growing up in the 90s, saw ethnicity and skin colour as a negative…a flaw. Something to laugh at not celebrate. Something to sneer at not embrace. Something to blame rather than engage with. I’ll never forget the one time two of my friends came over to the shop and met my dad for the first time. I was about 13years old. My dad’s English was broken and he had an accent. This amused my friends so much that for weeks they would mimic some of the words my dad had said using an accent so offensive and caricature that it could have belonged on Harry Enfield’s sketch show (“hello peeps”). Yeah…they didn’t come around again. Not because they hurt my feelings but because I felt embarrassed.

Society, whilst i was growing up in the 90s, saw ethnicity and skin colour as a negative...a flaw. Something to laugh at not celebrate. Something to sneer at not embrace. Something to blame rather than engage with. Click To Tweet

Immediately and for a long while after I wouldn’t want people around the house/shop. I found myself exasperated with my dad … I’d rectify him when he said things “wrong”. I made sure I spoke with received pronunciation.

I felt ashamed – worried that our way of life would bring more laughter and ridicule. They made me feel less. Below. Inadequate. The food we ate, the pictures, the mashallahs (evil eyes) hung up, the Turkish books my dad read, the rugs on the floor, Turkish TV and Turkish music blaring through the speakers – in my mind all fodder for anyone wanting to degrade my culture and way of life.

What effect did this have on me? It meant I wasn’t exposed to some activities that my friends were. I distanced myself from many others outside of school so I didn’t socialise with my peers in a non-educational setting. As a result, I didn’t go to the park with them ….to play football…or go swimming… go out to eat…or go shopping (actually I did once I was about 14… it was an experience that ended with the police knocking on my dad’s shop door – another story for another time). These are activities that help to build and develop social interaction, foster a love with nature and help people to be healthy (the last one I failed at spectacularly!). I missed out on this.

Our shop was very much inner city and we didn’t have a garden to speak of really just a concrete yard where we were not allowed to play. Luckily I had my sister (my rock) and a Turkish friend who would come over occasionally. We would tend to stay in play computer games and watch TV whilst my friends were out on their bikes.

Now, as I begin to conceive writing the next few words, my palms are little clammy and my heart rate has increased.

I can’t ride a bicycle.

There I’ve said it!

Partly down to my own self perception of my own being, which had been transferred on to me through fear of being different and the fear of being chastised and ridiculed for being so, didn’t allow for this to happen.

Yes, my parents could have taught us but they worked long nights and didn’t have the time. Although 13 was a little old to be learning to ride a bike (I mean most children learn whilst they are at primary school) it would have been something I could have learnt given the right environment/opportunity to do so. Ironically my father bought me a bike but I never used it.

I longed to learn. I wanted to. But the embarrassment grew as I got older. I bought myself a bike when I was in my late twenties but I never took it out for worry about what others would think. Watching a grown man fumbling around on a bike. I laugh at the thought never mind what others would think.

Only as recently as last year, as a 39 year old man, I was still hiding behind the shame. I was sat in a meeting where my bosses had an idea to raise money for charity by having, yes you guessed it, a sponsored bike ride. “Halil you could ride one of the stages!” Holy Moly, what do I say? my brain says “tell them you can’t ride a bike, tell them you never learnt” my mouth says ” yeah that sounds great. Yeah, why not. I’ll even source the exact type of bike needed” whhhhhhyyyy!? (it was a rickshaw granted it would be easier than a two wheeled wobbly monster but still riding on a road …pedals….brakes…. handlebars! Urgh I shudder at the thought). Luckily for me, it didn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong I love my heritage, my background, who I am and who I was. I never hated myself but I felt embarrassment for being different. I never felt equal. As a result, limited myself from experiences that would otherwise be normal for others.

My role as a head teacher is fuelled by the desire to give every child these opportunities. A curriculum with breadth and depth enriched with trips that level the playing field. I want their lives to be as smooth as cycle lanes. Where their only worry should be which way they are going. Not riding in a lane where the potholes of lack of privilege have to be navigated.

My role as a head teacher is fuelled by the desire to give every child these opportunities. Click To Tweet

Right. I think it’s time to learn how to ride a bicycle… don’t you think!?

What is Cultural Capital?

The term cultural capital comes from the French philosopher Pierre Bordieu. To understand this term, we have to look at his work with the habitus and the field.

The term cultural capital comes from the French philosopher Pierre Bordieu. To understand this term Click To Tweet

What is the ‘Habitus’?

Society is ordered in a certain way, consciously and unconsciously we adopt rules, make choices based on societal interplay, although a conductor does not orchestrate this game.

Bourdieu calls possibilities the ‘field’ and he the way we navigate this ‘field’ and the habitus through choices around knowledge about ourselves. An excellent starting point is to think about choices around gender, race, etc. are the earliest forms decisions we make, now let me reiterate these can be conscious and unconscious.

“literally mould the body and become second nature … operating in a way that is pre-conscious and hence not readily amenable to conscious reflection and modification” (Thompson, 1991, p. 12-13).

The habitus is personal history and experiences intertwined with the society you are in being codified into practice. Alignment to the habitus leads to gains in cultural capital and thus status, money and contacts.

The concept of cultural capital is a currency which allows people to navigate the culture and impacts on the opportunities and experiences afforded to them. Material objects are also as included within the boundaries of cultural capital, but in this blog, I’ll concentrate on the less tangential components such as etiquette, skills, education and preferences.

Bourdieu categorises cultural capital into 3 states.

Embodied cultural capital – This is the conscious acquisition of knowledge and passively inherited, language acquisition and numeracy are examples.

Objectified cultural capital – Having objects and materials, in this way, people can show off their social status. ‘I only eat organic food.’

Institutionalised cultural capital – This is credentialed learning, GCSE, A-Levels, degrees, etc. Institutionalise capital may be exchanged for the objectified state as society rewards (with higher salaries) and vice versa (the ability to gain more knowledge as you are not worried about the finances).

If you are born into a place which affords you the above society gives you more opportunities.

What does the OfSTED framework mean?

I assume that the framework means that school are equipping pupils with a schematic repertoire to navigate society. Which is fine; teaching pupils how to make choices that make them more successful is not controversial. However, what does this mean? Are we teaching pupils to talk a certain way, to portray certain etiquettes, to read a revere a certain type literature? Which again, albeit the ethnocentrism of society in the UK is not overtly contentious.

Let’s break this down if you read Shakespeare? Eat with the right cutlery? Wear the right colour shoes to an interview? This cultural capital will make you more successful. OfSTED have by this inclusion have put destroyed the idea of a… Click To Tweet

Let’s break this down if you read Shakespeare? Eat with the right cutlery? Wear the right colour shoes to an interview? This cultural capital will make you more successful. OfSTED have by this inclusion have put destroyed the idea of a meritocracy, they have smashed myth, as society does not judge pupils on merit but primarily their three status, the knowledge they choose to acquire, their objects and their credentials which are not always linked to the work those pupils put in.

Yes, I know, I’m skipping the ‘whiteness’ in the UK curriculum and the implication of ‘the best that has been thought and said’.

There more on that coming.

Further Reading.

Elaine M. Power (1999) An Introduction to Pierre Bourdieu’s Key Theoretical Concepts, Journal for the Study of Food and Society, 3:1, 48-52, DOI: 10.2752/152897999786690753

Pierre Bourdieu, Key Concepts. Edited by Michael Grenfell.


Where Do I Belong?

I sit here, on my way back from Cyprus to England feeling a little sad, somewhat excited (I’m going to see my children – it has been a long week in that sense) and slightly comforted. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a great flier, mainly because of the truly horrendous journeys (almost always exclusively to Cyprus) we had as a family when my sister and I were kids. My comfort, however, comes from the words I hear in my headphones. Akala talking about his “Scottishness” and the pull he feels of his Jamaican culture but at times not really fitting in anywhere. Too dark for England to light for Jamaica. Why does this comfort me? I’ll explain all but before I do let me tell you why I feel sad.

I’m leaving my Cypriot family on a small portion of that tiny island behind me. I never know if it’s the last time I’ll ever see my late father’s mum, Yasemin Nene (pronounced neh – neh it means grandmother). She is 88, so they tell me but I promise you no one really knows their age in North Cyprus (pronounced Kibris). She is weak in body but strong of mind. She almost has an ethereal quality a 6th, 7th and 8th sense when it comes to understanding how people feel and why they feel. She has an uncanny way of making you feel better – she makes my life better in a way that is unparalleled. Although my father has 3 brothers and 3 sisters and a multitude of cousins aunts and uncles, my Yasemin Nene is my final real link to my dad. She tells me stories about him and his youth that make my jaw drop. Seriously. It’s genuinely impossible for a human to feel the way I already do about my dad but my grandmother tells me things that make the pride I have in my heart overflow through my eyes. To make me gasp for breath.

When he was young, my father loved school. “His head was always in a book” my Nene tells me. Even during his summer job when working at the department of water, during his teens, he would sit under the olive trees for shade and read. He used to tell me this with his eyes closed and head tilted up, as though he was back there looking through the shade of the leaves at the sunlight flickering between them. He was a truly intelligent man, he was perceptive, worldly. He was the only child out of the 7 brothers and sisters to go to university which back during the early 70’s in North Cyprus was a massive deal. Unfortunately that was short-lived though.

My dad was a Socialist, a Communist, a “Lefty”. He believed in the ideal of power to the people and that all should be equal. He believed in his convictions to the point that he was involved in the Right/Left clashes in Turkey (where he was a university student), he attended marches and was part of mass rallies which would invariably end in bloodshed and death. To believe in a political ideal enough that you would die for it-Wow, I mean would you fight, I mean physically fight for the ideals set forward by the labour or conservative parties? My father was made aware by those higher up in his political movement that a manuscript from the opposition party had been intercepted and it had a list of people they wanted to be dispensed of i.e assassinated. My dad’s name was on the list. Needless to say, he fled Turkey and he ended up traveling to England to work with my uncle who had just set up a business (yes another take away!). The idea was that he would go to one of the universities here then go back to be a teacher in Kıbrıs. He never did, he never became a teacher. I’m truly gutted that he never had the chance of seeing me become a head teacher – I know he would have been proud!

My comfort from listening to Akala’s words comes from a feeling of not being alone. It’s interesting – I mean how many countless people in the last 70 years or so have felt the strangeness of not knowing where they fit, where they belong? They suffered in silence and solitude. Look I’m 40 and it’s taken me 28 years to articulate my feelings because I hear someone else, in a similar position, explain how it was for them growing up.

Look I'm 40 and it's taken me 28 years to articulate my feelings because I hear someone else, in a similar position, explain how it was for them growing up. Click To Tweet

In Cyprus growing up I was know as the English boy. In England I was known as the ‘Fat Turk’. I am from both. I was born in Leicester (England) but my blood and culture belongs to Cyprus (both my parents were from there) yet both treated me in a less than welcoming way. This I feel can be someway explained by the colonial ruler and ruled mentality. I remember my dad talking to a customer in the shop. He was an older gentleman and seemed nice enough. It was only when he told my dad that he had served in the British army, in Cyprus no less, that the mantra “the customer is always right” was thrown out of the shop like an unwanted drunkard. My dad proceeded to tell the veteran that if the British hadn’t meddled with the country everything would have been better for the island. The man did not get it, to him “you people” wouldn’t have been able to settle your differences if it wasn’t for us. Did they feel the same about Ireland (northern and southern) and India/Pakistan. Cyprus had for centuries had Greek and Turkish Cypriots living side by side. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t without issue. There was some tension in parts of the country. But on the whole. we lived together. My grandparents and some of my older uncles and aunts can speak Turkish and Greek (fluently) and enough English to easily get by. The food we eat is almost identical and the names of the food we eat are so similar that they might as well be called the same thing. Our way of life, mannerisms, loud (shouty) conversational style and physical appearance are so similar that to the untrained eye they would be indistinguishable. But division, through hook or by crook, was imposed by the British on the island. The effects of which have had a detrimental (mainly financial) effect on the Northern Turkish side of Cyprus.*

My lack of belonging because of my ethnicity was further highlighted at my secondary school. At the age of 13, I remember walking into the canteen (my favourite place as you can imagine) and it was the first time I actually analysed the room. It unsettled me. It changed me and my self perception immediately. I hadn’t realised just how segregated the pupils were. Cliques and groups of people created by the children themselves. But it was visible. White British kids together in a group, black (mainly Caribbean) kids together, Indian children together but separated from the small Pakistani contingent. Damn it! Where do I sit? Seriously it was a real concern. Prior to thi,s I’d sit anywhere with anyone. I still do. But that sense of belonging wasn’t there. I was on my own. The binary of black and white doesn’t help explain this. Because I don’t see myself as either. They saw me as neither. I ended up sitting on my own that day.

For me, now as a headteacher, the hall where children eat is an important place. I don’t allow my children to be segregated in any way; girls and boys sit together, those that have packed lunch and those that have a school dinner sit side by side, and I encourage white children to sit next to the growing number of children of colour and/or different ethnic backgrounds. I am the model for this. I sit with the children and I continually talk to them about their lives, their beliefs their understanding of the world. It’s the best time to connect. Barriers down. I talk to them at length about belonging. It’s one of our four binding words that runs through the School and is part of everything we do (Belong, Care, Persevere, Succeed).

Bring your colour, your culture, your ethnicity to my school they are always welcome, they belong to us all and they will always have a place at my table in our canteen.

Further Reading

*Below is a link to the Economic and social research council “British divide and rule policies pitted Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities against each other, says study” which explains the impact of British divide and rule on Cyprus further.

Action Research – What works?

I have long been a fan of action research, I first engaged in action research in the classroom in the mid-2000s. As a leader or a practitioner, this piece is well worth a read.

The following is written by Mark Quinn.

It can also be found here.

What was the Teacher Action Research Project?

Between October 2018 and June 2019 I delivered a Teacher Action Research Project – TARP – to a group of 8 secondary school teachers from across England, meeting on three occasions at UCL Institute of Education (IOE), where I work. The project was funded by UCL Widening Access and Participation, whose remit is to increase the uptake of places at leading universities by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The teachers chose themes and interventions that they judged likely to make a substantial difference to their own students: some focused on aspects of their classroom practice that they wished to adapt; others conducted their action research on an element of their wider school responsibility. The only stipulation was that they must concentrate on outcomes for their disadvantaged students.

The teachers chose themes and interventions that they judged likely to make a substantial difference to their own students: some focused on aspects of their classroom practice that they wished to adapt; Click To Tweet

Summary of the interventions and outcomes

Three were interested in the process of student learning; they were keen to increase their students’ awareness of how they learn, and to see the extent to which this would contribute to their academic progress. These projects may be labelled metacognitive strategies. The self-regulation of learners was a feature across several other projects. One hypothesised that, to address the demands of new linear exams at A level, teachers needed to address the metacognitive skills of their students and could best achieve this through explicit modelling of written responses; two English teachers conducted projects which focused on boosting subject-specific vocabulary in Key Stage 4. These three enquiries can be loosely grouped as language and literacy. One teacher, whose whole-school role embraces Careers Education, was interested in the link between students’ self-efficacy and realistic career choices; the project of the final practitioner-researcher saw her department take a range of new evidence-informed approaches to teaching Geography at Key Stage 3. These last two come under the very broad heading curriculum development but, like the rest, are complex interventions concerned largely with students’ self-regulation.

There were many common findings across the eight action research projects. Many saw student confidence as a prerequisite to progress; others saw that increased confidence was an outcome of their projects. The same could be said for the issue of teacher-student relationships: some saw them improve, while others identified them as a continuing threat to successful outcomes. Teaching strategies that placed an emphasis on student self-reflection, their metacognition and self-regulation all had promising results for disadvantaged students and others. Likewise, modelling of exemplar answers, emphasis on appropriate subject vocabulary and the embedding of strategies which force students to retrieve prior knowledge: greater focus upon these pedagogical approaches did bear fruit for many of the disadvantaged students whose progress was tracked. Not all projects succeeded on their own terms. Those where the number or complexity of interventions were greatest found it difficult to implement change or to track the impact of the changes they did implement. In some few cases, the participating teachers speculated that their innovation may have in some way hampered the progress of the students they were trying to help, but this was a minority finding. Others were able to reflect upon the extraneous factors which continue to impede the progress of their disadvantage students.

What TARP has to say about innovations that make a positive difference to disadvantaged students


Modelling happened in several ways across the projects. In some cases this involved the use of a visualiser in class to highlight features of exemplary practice; in another it included the repeated use of model answers provided by exam boards; one teachers referred to the ‘talking aloud’ strategy, whereby the teacher models their thinking as they construct an answer ‘live’ in front of their class. One found that ‘it was clear that all students, disadvantaged or not, wanted to see what excellence looked like and had a genuine thirst for knowledge.’ The progress of her High Prior Attaining Pupil Premium students improved, but so did that of most of the rest of the two Year 11 English classes in her study. Another – who had analysed the planning and teaching of A level subjects that had performed well since the reintroduction of linear exams – wanted to see what lessons could be learned by those departments whose results had dipped. A student survey identified more modelling of exam questions as the area that would help them improve the most. Teachers in two subjects agreed to a six-week implementation of explicit modelling – specifically of exam board answers and typically within homework – and to track the impact upon the bursary students through internal assessment and mock exams. In maths half the bursary students in the set improved their grade while the rest remained as they were. The picture was similar in economics, where one bursary student improved their grade while the other remained static.

Building good relations and a culture of trust

One teacher contended that ‘establishing a culture of trust within a class is central to students making progress.’

Some participating teachers pointed to the trust that was an outcome of involvement in the project. One (who did a lunchtime group intervention focused on the students’ knowledge retrieval skills) saw that ‘as the interventions progressed, the girls started to become more and more accountable for each other and encouraging one another to meet the demands of their courses.’ She spotted a relationship between that burgeoning culture of trust in the group and their regard for themselves as learners, which (for all but one of the group) improved also. Another noted that, the more familiar his Year 13 English Literature students were with simple cognitive processes and the rationale behind the approaches to feedback he was taking, the more they trusted him and the tasks he was setting.


Student confidence

For this teacher, this trust in him and his teaching was a contributory factor in the students’ growing confidence going into their exams. One of his students said she had begun to ‘trust my own thinking’.

Among one teacher’s Year 10s, after the four months of her careers and options guidance programme

‘82% of the students felt that they were now more confident to make decisions related to their career paths highlighting that the project has been somewhat successful in breaking down the barriers to career self-efficacy and increasing student confidence.’

She concluded that it was the early and structured nature of the intervention which helped the students be more confident in their decision-making.

A geography teacher, implementing a new Key Stage 3 curriculum, explicitly measured the confidence of her students using ‘feedback circles’ in the lessons. She and her colleagues were alarmed at the high rate of students describing themselves as within the ‘panic zone’ when they were asked to think hard. But, persisting with their innovations – and in particular the demand that their students ‘speak like a geographer’ – they found gradually that ‘most of the students moved out of the panic zone and into the stretch zone’.

Teaching which boosts vocabulary

An English teacher noticed that students, who were unfazed at the prospect of producing two to three pages of work would still feel anxious about giving ‘the right answer’, and this stopped them writing. A ‘heightened focus on relevant terminology’ was one of the factors leading to improved progress for Pupil Premium students with higher prior attainment. The geography teacher’s students, as they moved out of their panic zone, began to expand their discipline vocabulary.

‘This started to finally pay off and after a few weeks teachers and students started to use these words as a matter of course (in the interviews this is something teachers referred to again and again and were quite amazed by.)’

Another English teacher delighted that some of her students had become ‘word hungry’ – asking for vocabulary and prepared to use the thesaurus – but she sounded a warning note too.

‘Students accessed and used a range of complex and higher level vocabulary that they would otherwise either not have the tools or confidence to access… Students are empowered when given tailored vocabulary – however students do not have the skills to be able to build upon this independently.’

They remained reluctant to source higher level vocabulary for themselves, or to transfer the new vocabulary they had learned to other subject areas.

Metacognition and Retrieval Practice

Several of the TARP teachers used their enquiries to test their supposition that students make better progress the more they are aware of the processes of learning. As noted already, an A level English teacher found that his students trusted him and his methods the more they recognised that they had some basis in cognitive science. He concluded that placing subject knowledge at the heart of the curriculum yielded significant benefits that seemed to go beyond simply recalling knowledge.

‘The ease with which the students retrieved information decreased cognitive load. It seemed that being able to retrieve knowledge with relative ease freed up cognitive space to concentrate on structuring essays and writing well.’

The teacher of the lunchtime intervention group found that they began to bring in examples of dual-coding they had produced in Science and discussed flash card examples for their humanities revision.

‘It was evident that they had not only taken a more independent approach to selecting and using appropriate recall and retrieval strategies but were also open and willing to share these with their peers.’


These were small studies, a few conducted across a department or between two or three groups, most confined to a single class. Within that, the teachers tracked the impact of their projects on the much smaller number of specifically disadvantaged students. It is an advantage of action research that it allows participating teachers to spot the often very small, yet significant, changes that can occur when a modification is made to teaching. The methodology is essentially qualitative, which allows the teachers to report on the attitudes and behaviours which are both factors in and outcomes of learning. But the datasets are necessarily tiny, and the measures of attainment – short of public exam data – are assessed by the teachers themselves. (TARP concluded before the end of the Summer term, i.e. before the release of the 2019 public exams.)

The teachers on TARP were clearly invested in the successes of their interventions, and they were mindful of the pitfalls of bias. Several, in their own reporting, speculated upon the possible negative consequences of their study. One teacher’s English department colleagues undertook a lesson study into the expanded use of higher order language to enable their students to express perspective. She noted that they enjoyed the ‘safe’ bank of vocabulary they were given and asked

‘Are we inhibiting students by providing them with too much? Do we over-stimulate or confuse students with SEN? Some students feel they have to use every new word, which then makes their written responses convoluted.’

The geographer in the group also expressed a residual concern for her lower prior attaining students. When she and her geography colleagues rewrote their Key Stage 3 curriculum, they found that their higher and middle prior attainers responded well. But the lower prior attainers – especially those deemed to be at Levels 1 or 2 – did not. She remained confident in the approaches taken by her colleagues but was cognisant also of making too bold a claim.

Final comments

The Teacher Action Research Projects have made a positive difference to disadvantaged students in the eight schools. They have also affected the teachers themselves, their confidence as practitioners and their sense of their place in the profession. All intend to continue with the practices they innovated this year, and several have expanded their plans.

Reflecting on TARP, one commented

‘I think that to be effective educators, we need to be able to process, explore and consider the research before it is implemented, so that it can have a more positive impact on our students.’

The final word should go to another, for whom the project has made her think about

‘how small changes can have an impact without adding to workload and that sometimes it is doing more of what already works rather than incorporating something completely new.’

The full version of this report will soon be available on the UCL website at:

How to Build a Culture Around Data

datahammer.pngActivity 1

When I state the word data, which picture do you most identify?

Hammer: Tool

Aaargh: Fear

Heart: Love

Boring: Waste of time

Whichever picture you chose. Be aware there will be people in your team who fall into the other quadrants. Data is a vital part of our roles in schools, leaders should look to become more data-rich and move towards an evaluation and action model.

Data is a vital part of our roles in schools, leaders should look to become more data-rich and move towards an evaluation and action model. Click To Tweet

Data is used regularly in our society. Here are some examples:

  1. Weather forecasters with their barometric charts;
  2. The nurse tracking pulse, temperature and blood pressure before and after an operation;
  3. The accountant analysing spreadsheets and cash flows;
  4. The marketing Director interpreting survey data on market segmentation and
  5. customer preferences to inform branding and publicity strategies;
  6. The football manager reviewing tactics and results;
  7. Teachers tracking and reviewing the progress of each and every pupil performance
  8. to inform teaching and learning;
  9. Education policy makers monitoring how schools and our education system is doing.’

(Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, June 2003)

Activity Two

Within your own current classrooms, what are the data trends? Over your career, what are these trends?

Usually, schools will start by looking at:

Socio – economic (PP, FSM, Ever6, etc.)





These are a great start to identify possible trends within the classroom, department, and school levels.


Before I go any further, let me set out the stall. Data should never be used as a bat to beat staff. Data should not be used to judge anyone or anything, data is a tool used to analyse and evaluate. Live by the mantra; data is a tool used to ask more questions.

How to use Data

In all types of schools; it’s found that data was perceived to promote teaching and learning by facilitating:

  • More effective allocation of staff and resources
  • Performance management
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of initiatives and strategies
  • Evidence-based discussions with the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), local education authorities (LEAs), governors, among others
  • Challenging expectations of staff, pupils, parents, among others
  • Transitions and transfers – particularly transitions between key stages within schools
  • Identification of pupils’ achievements and setting of targets.

 Kirkup et al 2005

Again all of the above are around asking more questions. I know some you are are being cynical. When I previous have held data sessions, people have been very frank and pointed out that this just a game that OfSTED want us to play.

Self-evaluation is the aim, to be better a school for the pupils you serve, OfSTED or anything external should not be your aim. Leaders ensure your vision around data use is centred around these points.

John MacBeath draws a distinction between self-evaluation that is engineered to meet external requirements but is not embedded within the school’s ongoing review procedures, and that which is embedded and within the life of the school.

(School Self-evaluation: A Reflection and Planning Guide for School Leaders, NCSL)

Self Evaluation for External Use Self Evaluation for Internal Use
Accountability focus narrows the lens. ‘What gets measured get done’.

Done to stakeholders.

Completed as a tick box exercise.

School improvement focussed. The lens is all-encompassing.

Completed with all stakeholders.

Part of the school’s culture.



Things EYFS Practitioners want you to know: Continuous Provision

Guest Post by @Emmccatt 

EYFS always seems to be a subject of discussion on Twitter. It seems that everyone, no matter what phase, job title or area of expertise, has an opinion. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to write a series of blogs delving into the practice of Early Years. This blog will focus on provision and how it is used effectively in the setting.

EYFS always seems to be a subject of discussion on Twitter. It seems that everyone, no matter what phase, job title or area of expertise, has an opinion. Click To Tweet

What is continuous provision?

When Early Years is discussed on twitter, the subject of ‘play’ often comes up. For some, they picture children running around all day not learning anything. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Continuous provision is essentially all of the resources in the environment that have been provided by practitioners to extend the learning of the children in their care. Children are able to access these resources independently and safely, and use them to explore. They are chosen carefully and mindfully by the practitioner so that even in the absence of an adult the children are able to build upon learning. It is not shoving some toys out and watching the children fight over them. Each resource is carefully considered.

How is the provision planned for?

The provision is planned for with the characteristics of essential learning in mind. Development Matters (Non-statutory guidance supporting practitioners in the implementation of the statutory requirements of learning and development under the EYFS framework) defines the characteristics of essential learning as:

  • Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
  • Active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
  • Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

Each child is seen as an individual. Practitioners reflect on the ways in which individual children learn and respond to the environment and use this to inform their practice.

The Early Years Framework states:

 “Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care. They must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child, across all areas of learning and development.”

An important part of the provision provided is that it is never static and always changing. Good EY practitioners will ensure that the environment the children are accessing is planned for with the children’s interests in mind, as well as planning for next steps to build upon previous learning. The aim is always to engage each individual and move forward their learning. Areas in the environment are carefully monitored for use and engagement. Nothing is there for the sake of being there and looking pretty, engagement and learning is paramount.

How do adults engage with the provision?

Adults respond to the child in the moment, what they are doing and use that to extend the child’s learning. Continuous provision does not mean the adults relax and babysit the children engaging with the provision but rather they go in and be part of it. This is what can sometimes be hard for teachers within other key stages to understand as it is so different to standing at the front of a classroom and delivering! Although it is very different, it doesn’t make it less valid and actually a lot could be learnt from EY (expect a blog in the near future).

Sometimes these engagements in the environment between teacher and child can be planned for, but more often than not it becomes planning in the moment. This might be done via open questioning designed to promote higher order thinking. A child in the construction area for example, might want to make the tallest tower they can with the bricks available. A competent practitioner would ask open ended question to facilitate this, guiding them as they make choices and explore as well as reminding them what has been learned before and how that can be applied to the current situation. Practitioners also use these times for opportunities to model and support language development by referring back to vocabulary and using it themselves in the correct context. Alongside this is the making observations of focus children and using this to inform both the ever growing and changing picture of the child and future planning for the class as a whole. Effective practitioners move through various spaces ensuring they are supporting and developing learning throughout the environment whilst also ensuring each particular area is child ready throughout the day.

How is provision used to enable learning?

The framework tells us that, “Settings should provide a ‘challenging’ and ‘developmentally appropriate’ environment ‘based on children’s interests.” Effective provision allows each child to move at pace appropriate to their learning. Purposeful play means children are constantly challenging themselves in an environment that has been designed for that very purpose. Children are given the time, space and support to engage with a variety of activities that have been effectively planned for to extend their stage of development by both scaffolding and pushing their learning forward.

Purposeful play means children are constantly challenging themselves in an environment that has been designed for that very purpose. Click To Tweet

I recently tweeted the below to highlight some of the incredible provision the reception class teacher at my school provides for children to develop and strengthen hands to aid in the writing process.


This activity and others like this are appropriate for the children developmentally, purposeful and engaging. It will provide the foundations needed to write. It is one small example of how purposeful play promotes the necessary skills that create and lay the foundations for school life.

There is a reason why it is called ‘foundation stage’.

GCSE Science Revision

Are you worried about your pupils revising for their science GCSE?

I have secured another deal. Please do direct your pupils to this site for the deal at the end of this blog from @TheScienceBreak


In 2012 when I made the first of my GCSE science videos on Youtube, there were very few, if any people are doing GCSE science videos. That fact, combined with students connecting with the teaching style, meant the channel grew fast. 

Fast forward to now, and there is a lot of choices when it comes to getting help for GCSE science. One issue that remains, however, is finding quality resources produced by teachers, for specific exams boards, that have exam question practice as well as good video tutorials that have exact and concise content. 

When building our website, the key for us was doing what we know best. Creating a set of comprehensive resources, all in one place, that can be used to learn and practice everything needed for GCSE science. We are also very aware that students have different gaps in their knowledge compared to each other and that students learn in different ways. 

The Science Break takes these differences between students into account and gives students the flexibility to learn what they need when they need it, whether it is the entire course or just a few topics here and there. There are carefully explained videos, many of which contain exam practice. There are multiple-choice and short answer questions for every single video and revision notes sheets. And coming soon, topic tests that give real exam-style questions, with answers and associated guidance. The Science Break has been created with the foundation of a lot of experience combined with a lot of work to bring you one of the top GCSE Science revision resources on the internet. 

So how does it work? 

All the videos are listed by subject and topic and can be found quickly, easily and can be viewed as many times as needed. Videos can be watched in interactive mode where there are in-built multiple choice questions and short answer free-response questions. Or they can be viewed without the interactivity and at up to 2x speed. It might sound strange to think about watching at double speed, but it is a very highly requested feature! A quick word about the multiple-choice questions. Each video has 6 of them, each with five options to choose from; This was carefully thought out. The purpose of the multiple-choice questions is two-fold. 

1. It gives the student an idea of the content of the video but importantly, it provides the student with learning ‘hooks’ that help maximise recall of the video content. 

2. The questions reappear at the end of the tutorial so that the student has a second go at them, having seen the tutorial. At the end, the student gets a before and after score, an explanation of the answers and a summary of the total score for the video assessment. There is a ton of learning is just doing the multiple-choice questions. 

And furthermore, there are going to be multiple choice questions in the real exam. So this feature alone is excellent practice. 

The video tutorials themselves are carefully planned, recorded and edited by a very experienced and very successful secondary school science teacher. 

This from a parent after the 2019 results: “All 9s! The only 9s she got. All thanks to you.”

and this from a student: “thank you for creating the website, I’ve found it incredibly helpful.” Sudina who got grade 9, 9, 9 in 2019.

Coming very soon are topic tests written to assess, at exam level, whole topics. ‘It’s not good enough to have a test for each video and say that there are exam-style questions. Exam-style questions never test a narrow set of content. They go cross-content, so the topic tests provide real practice for exams. And they all come with detailed mark schemes that include guidance about the answers. 

You can see that there is a lot of help for GCSE Science here. 

But ‘that’s not all. Notes sheets that accompany each video allow students to work along with the video and have a quick reference or flashcards to recap on the topics. 

Excellent teaching, revision notes, practice questions and answers all help to ease the burden of learning GCSE science. 

And there is more. Our awesome revision planner which helps students to plan and keep up to date with their work. 

So, of course, the question is how much. 

The answer, with a discount from this site, is £25 for all three separate sciences and £15 for combined science. At the moment we only have AQA but Edexcel is in the works. 

And no, ‘that’s not an ongoing monthly cost – ‘it’s a one-off payment for a whole ‘year’s subscription. 

So, grab an access code and head over to and sign up. ‘We’ll send you instructions on how to sign up (although it is very easy).

Good luck! 


Communication Skills: Body Awareness


1. When communicating ensure that your position is not threatening, open and positive.

2. Be aware of your eye contact.

3. Use affirming gestures.

Leadership: 1. When communicating ensure that your position is not threatening, open and positive. 2. Be aware of your eye contact. 3. Use affirming gestures. Click To Tweet

What do the above three sections mean?

Teachers are communication experts, and this development is as part of their day to day practice.

1. When communicating ensure that your position is not threatening, open and positive.

Your position is always important. Standing front on, squared shoulders is likely to be perceived as threatening. Towering over the respondent has a similar impact; the converse is also true. Sideways posture and getting below the eye line may be least threatening.

Mirroring is a commonly used tool. Mirroring is where any positive body language is mimicked. Gestures are subtly copied; this increases engagement and connection.


2. Be aware of your eye contact.

Important. Ask yourself why we ask anyone to make eye contact? To show they are paying attention. Where does this construct originate?

It is problematic; a multitude of people will find eye contact difficult. There is also a cultural aspect here. Eye contact with people in authority in my culture is rude, be aware of this.

3. Use affirming gestures. (Active Listening)

Listen to the words, sum up and repeat the main points. Support this by:

a) Use gestures to show attention. Head nods, eyebrow raises, etc. Use questions to check.

b) Use open question being careful not to lead.

c) Be aware of feelings and emotions.

d) Confirm understanding regularly.