The importance of culture in ensuring effective professional development:


Questioning; Challenge & Engagement

Helpful tips and exemplification for thought provoking questioning…

Gary King

Questioning blog

Questioning is a fundamental element of pedagogy, one you could read endlessly around, but the reality is using questioning to challenge and engage all learners is demanding and potentially problematic to get right. Recently I’ve been working with a team of teachers, shaping our CPD model in preparation for the new academic year. Engaging in dialogue around teaching and learning with colleagues is always a pleasure and extremely informative, and one aspect continually crops up; deep, challenging and engaging questioning. Firstly, I think it’s crucial to outline what we are trying to achieve when we think about the purpose of questioning, for me it includes the following:

  • Allowing students to develop a fuller understanding of a concept because they have tried to explain it
  • To easily recall existing knowledge
  • To be able to link the ideas in the lesson with existing knowledge
  • To tackle problems at a deep level and…

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5 unfortunate misunderstandings that almost all educators have about Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Helpful pointers to common misconceptions about Bloom’s…

Granted, and...

Admit it: you only read the list of the six levels of the Taxonomy, not the whole book that explains each level and the rationale behind the Taxonomy. Not to worry, you are not alone: this is true for most educators.

But that efficiency comes with a price. Many educators have a mistaken view of the Taxonomy and the levels in it, as the following errors suggest. And arguably the greatest weakness of the Common Core Standards is to avoid being extra-careful in their use of cognitive-focused verbs, along the lines of the rationale for the Taxonomy.

The 5 misunderstandings:

  1. The first two or three levels of the Taxonomy involve “lower-order” and the last three or four levels involve “higher-order” thinking.

This is false. The only lower-order goal is “Knowledge” since it uniquely requires mere recall in testing. Furthermore, it makes no sense to think that “Comprehension” – the 2nd

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What is differentiation?


What does good differentiation look like?  As Tamsin Page and Sue Gelder recently explored with our Teaching and Learning Group, the best differentiation isn’t bolted on.  Rather, good differentiation is at the heart of the planning process and should be considered at the start of our thinking, not the end.  What is that we want pupils to learn and think about?  How can this be deconstructed in ways that give everyone in the room access to the challenge?  The attached pdf offers a range of creative strategies – which is the right strategy for what you want pupils to learn?

Differentiation cards

Making Marking Meaningful Pt II

Thought-provoking and practical advice on effective and efficient marking, from Cottenham VC. (Part 2)

CPDL @ Cottenham Village College

In the previous post on Making Marking Meaningful, we shared various practices, inspired by others, that have helped improve marking and feedback at CVC. The focus was on making marking more efficient and effective at the same time. As a result of the work we decided a new policy was needed that better reflected the principles and practices that were being developed. We decided that this policy was not to be a set of fixed practices that everyone must follow, but rather a set of key principles that would guide practice in each department. This would give each subject the opportunity to develop practices that would be best suited to learning in their subject, whilst maintaining consistency regarding the overall purpose of marking and feedback. The draft policy states:

“Marking, feedback and pupil response – A Policy

Marking pupils’ work sits within the wider context of assessment policy and practice that is…

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Making Marking Meaningful Pt I

Thought-provoking and practical advice on effective and efficient marking, from Cottenham VC.

CPDL @ Cottenham Village College

So, you teach English. It’s 7pm. The planning is done. However, in front of you sits a pile of 32 Y10 books, each with an essay on Romeo and Juliet, and a bottle of wine. Question: which should you open first? How can you ensure that you are ‘marking regularly’ in a way that means you can have a healthy work-life balance and that the marking makes an impact on pupils’ learning? Teachers across the country face the same pressure with regards to marking and workload and, in response, there are some very thought-provoking blogs and resources created by teachers designed to make marking both more manageable and more effective. You may not agree with all they say, but they’ll make you think about your practice.

One blog that you should certainly read, offering a very particular view on marking and feedback, is by David Didau, ‘The Learning Spy’ (

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Unforgettable Teaching at Sawston VC

Thanks to Cottenham VC for this helpful summary and outside perspective, regarding our Unforgettable Teaching conference…

CPDL @ Cottenham Village College

In October, four CVC teachers attended an excellent CPDL event at Sawston Village College, which focused on memory and how we help pupils to improve their recall. The timing was perfect in the context of curriculum changes and the increased emphasis on terminal exams and the event posed the question, ‘how can we teach in ways that help pupils to remember?’ and drew on the work of cognitive scientists as well as practice at SVC to explore how memory works and how we can provide ‘unforgettable teaching’.

Source: Unforgettable Teaching: how can we teach in ways that help pupils to remember?

The above link takes you to SVC’s blog on the event, as well as the resources that each speaker kindly shared. Below is a brief summary from CVC staff who attended the sessions:

1. Keynote talk: Professor Sue Gathercole, Director of the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, explained…

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Effective and Efficient Marking – How do we do meaningful formative assessment in ways that work for pupils and are not so onerous for teachers?

Go away I am marking

Attached is a PowerPoint from a recent professional learning twilight session, led by Caroline Venn, Head of RE, and drawing up her work with Sam Armsby (Science), exploring how to ensure that marking is both effective and efficient.  What works for pupils?  What is feasible in the finite amount of time available to teachers?  How can teachers keep on top of marking when faced with huge numbers of books to mark each week?  Caroline explores key principles – being selective about what you mark, thinking carefully about why you are marking that piece, and exploring how you mark to provide meaningful written feedback quickly and clearly.

Effective & Efficient Marking – Teaching and Learning Group Twilight – 2015 (Caroline Venn)

Unforgettable Teaching: how can we teach in ways that help pupils to remember?


Higher expectations.  A bigger curriculum.  A greater emphasis on terminal tests and exams.  The end of coursework and controlled assessment in most subjects.  A common implication of many of the curriculum and assessment changes that schools have been faced with in recent years is that pupils are going to be required to remember more.  This creates new challenges for teachers: we might be very good at teaching for understanding, but how good are we at teaching for recall? What can we do to help pupils to remember what they studied months, or, perhaps, years ago?  On 7th October, at Sawston Village College, we hosted a conference on behalf of CASSA, exploring exactly these questions.  With contributions from an academic researcher, a designer working in the biotech industry, and practising teachers, this conference explored how pupils’ memory actually works and introduced approaches that could help us to provide unforgettable lessons.  This blog shares the materials from that conference. (more…)