Intrinsic motivation in your students – have they got it?


What makes the difference between the students in the UK and those in other countries? This week, whilst the PISA results were published I saw a tweet which said some along the lines of “essentially the difference between the countries comes down to intrinsic motivation”. This got me thinking about whether the students I teach are intrinsically motivated and if not, is there anything I can do about it? Finally, does it actually matter?

Is intrinsic motivation important?

The most successful students in a recent exam were those that had emailed me questions and clarifications before the test. They did this independently. They were worried about the exam. They were bothered. They cared. But was that intrinsic motivation? Unless I speak with them about it I detail I cannot be sure. I need to find out why they did this.

Intrinsic motivation is about the learning process that a student goes through, it isn’t about being motivated to succeed to do well because of a possible reward. It is about enjoyment of learning and what it has to offer. It is separate from being academically successful in that a ‘failing’ student can have high intrinsic motivation.

I watched a fascinating clip on the BBC about students in South Korea. They showed some children who essentially were learning form 8am-11pm every day. They were shattered. They went to normal school and then to private school every day. Why? Because they feel it is the only way that they will be able to get a job when they’re older. Therefore this isn’t intrinsic motivation. It’s extrinsic. It is goal driven motivation. They may be hating the process of learning (and why wouldn’t you if you were doing it for over 12 hours a day!). Yet, has this been interpreted as intrinsic?

Could students from around the world be surveyed on intrinsic motivation, to see which countries have got this right? I assume the PISA data doesn’t record this. But it does raise a question……

Is enjoying learning more important than good results?

I did some small research into what has been already researched in this area and found some fascinating results on what develops intrinsic motivation in children.

Here is a summary of what I have interpreted from the data, and the research findings and references are below.

Implications for practice in schools

  • Consider the rewards system. Don’t reward for the ‘expected’
  • Use verbal praise & sharing of learning to reward
  • Don’t compare students with other students as a method of motivation
  • Be enthusiastic……
  • Don’t tell them you’re doing it for the money!
  • Use progression of ‘grades’ through feedback than just a ‘grade’ itself
  • Relate learning to children’s interests
  • Set high goals and measure students against their own goal
  • Give students autonomy

The research……

‘Reward students to motivate them…but not how you think’
Deci, Koestner and Ryan (2001) conclude that tangible rewards do not contribute to intrinsic motivation and in fact they undermine it, especially in school aged children.The problem is that when rewards aren’t present any longer, the reason to do something, if relying on rewards, have gone.(Covington 1998). The kind of “If someone has to pay me to do this, then it must not be worth doing for its own sake” attitude limits a student’s appreciation of the learning itself. It is only the potential reward that motivates.(Covington 2000)

This is supported by Cameron & Pierce (1994) who found that whilst rewards don’t decrease motivation, verbal praise as a reward does motivate. They found that giving a student a reward for doing the ‘expected’ has a negative effect.

In many cases, rewards in school create a system of ‘winning’ or getting more rewards than your peer, so it is a sense of competition that motivates, it isn’t intrinsic.(Covington 2000) Rewards don’t usually reward the process but the achievement. This goes against being motivated to learn over being motivated to achieve.

Covington (2000) however suggests that ‘pay-offs’ should be more things like the chance to share work or explain to others why their work is important. This kind of ‘reward’ is intrinsically linked to the learning, not the result itself or how they’ve done compared to others.

‘An enthusiastic teacher will motivate students’

Patrick, Hisley & Kempler (2000) found that in a small scale (93 students – 80 women & 13 men!) study that enthusiastic teachers did actually intrinsically motivate students. Other studies have shown that an enthusiastic teacher links with effective teaching.

Patrick et al (2000) even posit that the power of an enthusiastic teacher can awaken the ‘dormant’ intrinsic motivation in a student. This of course then assumes that every student has a dormant motivation, which if true, would mean that if we know how to withdraw it, we can make all students intrinsically motivated.

‘Good grades motivate’

Covington (1999) found that even if grades weren’t high it is possible for students to value learning. Covington (2000) also claims that if a student aims to get high grades just because they want to impress or avoid failure then their value of learning will not be intrinisc. However if a student is improving their grades through having feedback and then implementing it, then they appreciate the learning process itself rather than just a grade.

In contrast Covington (2000) highlights that ‘doing well’ can motivate but so can ‘not doing well’ however this again relates to achievement rather than appreciation of the process to get there.

‘Don’t tell them it’s your job’

Some research (Wild et al 1992) has found that students have more intrinsic motivation if they perceive their teacher to also have it. In one study it found that if a student believed a teacher was volunteering it was more motivating than knowing they were paid to do it. This links with enthusiasm. Unless you’re a great actor, an enthusiastic teacher will be seen to be enjoying themselves and thus be intrinsically motivated.

Deci & Ryan (1991) describe a ‘self determination’ theory which says any social context that promotes an individual’s

“Make it relevant/enjoyable for the student”

Covington (2000) says that if you make the learning relevant and enjoyable for the student they will be more interested in it and this has the potential to combat any negative grades achieved. In fact, it is better in terms of motivation for a student to be personally interested and fail than to succeed but have no interest in it.

Covington (2000) actually suggests running a school around children’s personal interests.

“Make them proud of what they do”

Covington (2000) says that a good grade makes a student feel proud and in turn increases their motivation to learn.

“Set high goals”

Covington (2000) says that a student that has a high goal but doesn’t reach it is more intrinsically motivated to improve than one that is compared to others. This is because competing against others is a ‘personal’ failure in comparison but failing to reach a goal about the goal itself. It’s almost impersonal.

Setting challenging work for students (Csikszentmi- halyi, 1988; Deci & Ryan, 1992)

“Let them take control”

Deci & Ryan, 1987, 1992; Ginsburg & Bronstein, 1993; Grolnick & Ryan, 1989; Ryan & Stiller, 1991 all found that allowing students to be autonomous rather than being controlled showed greater instrincic motivation.

“An ‘academic’ home life makes a student more intrinsically motivated”

Gottfried et al (1998) found this to be true in a longitudinal study. In summary:

“Home environment had statistically positive and significant, direct and indirect paths to academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through early adolescence, indicating both short- and long-term effects across these ages. Moreover, home environment was significant above and beyond SES(Socio-Economic Status). The findings revealed that children whose homes had a greater emphasis on learning opportunities and activities were more academically intrinsically motivated” (p1448)

Does it all matter?

Gottfried (1990) summarises  that intrinsic motivation is positively related to achievement, IQ, and perception of competence. Academically gifted children were found to have more intrinsic motivation to learn.

It also links to persistence, enjoyment, involvement and curiosity.
Benware & Deci 1984, Ryan & Grolnick 1986 found that intrinsic motivation has a significant impact on high quality learning.

Covington (2000) summarises

“students are more likely to value what they are learning, and to enjoy the process, (a) when they are achieving their grade goals; (b) when the dominant reasons for learning are task oriented reasons, not self aggrandizing or failure-avoiding reasons; and (c) when what they are studying is of personal interest.” (p24)


Extrinsic Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation in Education: Reconsidered Once Again

Edward L. Deci, Richard Koestner and Richard M. Ryan
Review of Educational Research , Vol. 71, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 1-27

“What’s Everybody so Excited about?”: The Effects of Teacher Enthusiasm on Student Intrinsic Motivation and Vitality

 Brian C. Patrick, Jennifer Hisley and Toni Kempler
The Journal of Experimental Education , Vol. 68, No. 3 (Spring, 2000), pp. 217-236

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation in Schools: A Reconciliation

 Martin V. Covington
Current Directions in Psychological Science , Vol. 9, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 22-25

Role of Cognitively Stimulating Home Environment in Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation: A Longitudinal Study

 Adele Eskeles Gottfried, James S. Fleming and Allen W. Gottfried
Child Development , Vol. 69, No. 5 (Oct., 1998), pp. 1448-1460

Reinforcement, Reward, and Intrinsic Motivation: A Meta-Analysis

 Judy Cameron and W. David Pierce
Review of Educational Research , Vol. 64, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 363-423
Academic intrinsic motivation in young elementary school children.
Gottfried, Adele E.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 82(3), Sep 1990, 525-538
Continuity of academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through late adolescence: A longitudinal study.
Gottfried, Adele Eskeles; Fleming, James S.; Gottfried, Allen W.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 93(1), Mar 2001, 3-13.
What motivates children’s behavior and emotion? Joint effects of perceived control and autonomy in the academic domain.
Patrick, B. C., Skinner, E. A., & Connell, J. P. (1993).
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,65, 781–791.

Why RE teachers should not tell students their religion


I’ve discussed this with many colleagues before but for some reason never blogged. I have a clear view on this which refers to non-faith schools. There’s a real divide on this amongst teachers so I’m well aware that people will disagree.

Reasons why we shouldn’t tell students our religion

1.RE is the study of religions

It’s not about the teacher or the students in the room as such. It’s an academic study of religions. Don’t confuse it with SMSC which all subjects have a responsibility to develop. The old GCSEs have blurred this boundary by asking students their opinion or religious views on moral issues. Studying religions is about taking account of different interpretations of beliefs & teachings and critiquing them. Are all teachers able to do this when they’ve clearly stated their own position? (whether you agree or not I have experienced this many times over my career, I can admit I’m biased in my teaching, is it realistic to think everyone isn’t?)

2.Students/parents may accuse you of bias

If they know what religion you are, then when you teach that religion there is more chance they will then question your neutrality in your teaching. In challenging circumstances it will be used against you. Again I’ve seen it happen many times.

3. It’s not needed

Decent RE happens without it. RE isn’t ‘better’ for a teacher sharing their beliefs.

4. You’re one example

Regardless of looking at other denominations/schools, they will associate you as representative of that religion. Is that what is needed in an RE classroom?

5. You can share your view without telling them it’s yours

Most of my lessons I use ‘I’ but I’m referring to whichever religion I’m teaching. For example “If I had to pray five times a day what might be difficult?”. If you feel your view on something adds to the content it doesn’t have to be identified as your view but can still be included.

6. The mystery helps dispel stereotyping

I’m a white, British, female teacher teaching RE. I tell them I could be any of the religions we study. It helps them to understand that members of religions don’t look one way or another or come from one place or another. It helps to dispel stereotypes, especially in my context.

7. We’re role models

Some students struggle to separate us being role models of behaviour & attitude with what we believe. In younger years they may lack the critical thinking skills to be able to understand that what a teacher says they believe in terms of religion is a personal opinion and a choice, not a ‘fact’.

Responses to counter arguments

1.”If I’m asking them to say what they believe I should be prepared to say what I believe”

We need to move away from RE being what students think about things. It’s an academic subject that requires academic critical thinking skills. This involves looking at different arguments. Developing these skills is far more important than sharing our own views. I rarely ask a student directly what they believe. I ask for possible opinions and interpretations but certainly don’t openly ask them in class if they have a religion or believe in God. It’s really not necessary.

2.”It’s dishonest”


My RE colleague Neil McKain has written a response to my thoughts. Read it here and join the discussion on Twitter and SAVE RE.

Teaching students to be sceptical 


I’ve touched on this before when talking about critique. However with recent political events I think students need to be taught how to be sceptical.

This week in my year 11 classes I have got them to consider these terms in relation to a continuum of belief. The main part of the lesson focused on extremism but I paused for a moment to tell them how they must become more sceptical.



Their first reaction to a piece or text or media should be to quickly internally assess it.

  • Where is it from?
  • Why was it created?
  • Who created it?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is it accurate?
  • What bias might it have?

The beauty of becoming truly sceptical is that in order to clarify a source, further research needs to be done. Our students desperately need to be able to research effectively but independently. They shouldnt rely on my interpretation or even my biased viewpoint. They need to find out what else is being said, who is saying it and why. Knowledge is power. The more they know about the issue and surrounding knowledge the better they will be at being critical about it.

But this scepticism is not just for the classroom; its desperately needed online. One student told me he just presses the ‘share’ button regardless. He doesn’t care whether it is true or not. He genuinely couldn’t see what was potentially problematical with doing that. In some cases he is sharing propaganda and potentially libellous material without even thinking. This is really worrying.

These are why we need our students to be sceptical

These are why we need our students to be sceptical

Scepticism belongs to all subjects and all classrooms but it needs to be taught. Teachers need to be pleased to be challenged over an issue with students not defensive. As clichéd as it is, I genuinely think is one of the things we can do for students that will equip them for life.

When did teachers start to think that all children can’t succeed?


I regularly see tweets on Twitter proclaiming that “All can succeed” and learning should not be limited for any student and from a few years ago “Every child matters”. To some extent I include any ‘Growth Mindset’ references in this.

These annoy me. I’ve never thought any differently, and I have to assume that all teachers have at some point in their lives, thought the same. I believe that all students in front of me can and will learn whilst in my classroom. No excuses. No growth mindset needed; they will. And everything I do will support this expectation.

 So, it leads me to ask when did some teachers start to NOT believe these things? Why have they been highlighted as so important that teachers are pronouncing them almost as though they are controversial views? When did teachers stop thinking that all the children that they teach can learn/achieve and/or make progress?

We have to start with an assumption; when someone becomes a teacher they think all children are the same in terms of being able to be taught  or at least believe that all students, regardless of any subgroup they may fall in to, can learn.If not, why would you bother becoming a teacher?

I want to consider what might be happening inside education that means that these tweets are favourited a thousand times instead of ignored as a basic principle that doesn’t need a tweet, a bit like “You need to air to breathe”.


I haven’t been involved in teacher training for a while now. Is there something happening in training that is giving teachers the impression that all students can’t learn or achieve? In particular, how are the follow points presented to new teachers?

This term has become a bit of an angst for teachers. It’s developed a sense of foreboding as something than can never be done properly and usually takes hours and hours of time to prepare. Could the concept of differentiation have made teachers believe that because all students are different and we have to cater individually for them, that some cannot achieve? There is no differentiated intervention that will work for every individual?

Use of data

Could the large amount of data teachers are given, give teachers the impression that some children won’t succeed? If they fall into so many categories whether it be SEN, PP, LAC etc, then maybe they are impossible to teach? Or their learning will be limited in some way?

Alternatively, there has been a pressure on teachers to create data to track students and compare progress of groups. This in itself has given the impression that there are groups that aren’t achieving or progressing, rather than looking at individuals. It then follows that if a teacher happens to have a large group of these students in their class, then they may believe that they may not be able to achieve or make progress compared to other students. Has our grouping of students given some teachers the belief that some students aren’t as ‘good’ as others?

The concept of progress

The concept of progress has been skewed and oversimplified into sublevels. At GCSE the notion of probabilities has  dominated what equates to progress, this means other less measurable forms of progress is either not seen by the teacher or in worse cases disregarded by the teacher. This is also blurred by setting “challenging targets” rather than looking at individual students and what their own challenges may be. Sometimes challenging targets see to be more aimed at the teacher to achieve with a class than what an individual student can achieve. Has all of this meant that some teachers don’t see the value of progress achieved by all students in its many forms? If it doesn’t track on a progress spreadsheet then it doesn’t exist or matter? If it isn’t a ‘C’ or above it isn’t worth anything and thus worthless?

Experience of children

Or perhaps these teachers went into teaching believing all students can learn but have been faced with students who don’t seem to want to learn? They don’t seem to want to listen to everything the teacher has to say or do what the teacher tells them to do so, in the teacher eyes cannot learn or be taught.

Vulnerable groups & targeted intervention

Has the practice of intervening with groups of students created its own issues? I remember when I first started teaching that people always spoke about “boys” and how they underachieved and there were courses and books that told you how to redress the balance. Was it the public declaration of these vulnerable groups a self fulfilling prophecy? Did it put into teachers’ minds that boys indeed, could not achieve?


I will admit I love teaching sets but as I’ve previously said I’ve never believed or said these things about students I haven’t allowed the concept of setting to change my practice and beliefs. However is there a chance that some teachers have been influenced by the use of setting so much that they believe that particular sets. Have more chance of learning or are more able to make progress? This is the core argument against setting and may well hold true with those who have the attitudes to achievement and progress I’m arguing against.

Blurring of behaviour with ability to learn

Finally, I think this is a strong contender. Does a child’s behaviour impact a teacher’s perception of whether they can learn or make progress? If a child does not follow what you tell them, do their homework, follow classroom rules then are their learning capabilities prejudged? I’ve seen this happen. Teachers who struggle to control a class conflate this with their learning capability. Is this why many challenging schools, in terms of behaviour also get poor results? 

What’s fun for you may not be fun for me – Why I don’t plan ‘fun’ lessons


“Miss is this going to be a fun lesson?”

Students have asked me this throughout my career. My theory is that they only ask it when they’ve come from a lesson where they have felt it was fun and usually where they did no ‘work’. I may be wrong. Next time I’m going to ask them what they just did the lesson before. It’s never asked period 1 unless it’s the last week of term.

However my response to them is “My fun and your fun are probably two different things”. Being an RE teacher I want them to a)understand that there are different views of what is fun and b) I don’t deliberately plan ‘fun’ lessons. Fun may be a product of the lesson but not the purpose.

Some of you are probably thinking, ‘what a grump!’. Whilst I am a grump I think as teachers we should have it clear what our aims are. We are not entertainers we are teachers. There are plenty of times when students AND I have a laugh. Sometimes several minutes of hysteria when someone says a classic like “Miss, is Africa in Europe?” and “Miss, I’m impotent!” (We were discussing the omnipotence of God).

So fun isn’t avoided or stopped but it certainly isn’t planned for. 

Sometimes people conflate ‘fun’ with ‘engaging’. I think I do plan lessons that I students can access content and engage with it. This comes from my knowledge and experience of children and how their brains process new material. I like to believe that I know what interests them and how I may ‘hook’ them in. However the value of the ‘hook’ must outweigh the use of time; it shouldn’t take more time to use the hook than the potential learning value of it. 

I also suspect that in many cases when they use the word ‘fun’ they mean ‘no work’. That in itself is interesting. They often mean no writing or not using books. This is why I worry when people use writing as a punishment. Is it reinforcing negtivity around written work? I digress…

So overall if you come to my lessons, you will sometimes hear laughter, some times students say ‘that was a fun’ lesson but essentially my job is to ensure that they’re learning. They can plan their fun in their own time.

The role of keywords in assessing knowledge & understanding


As part of my thinking on assessment I’ve been looking at how to assess knowledge & understanding. I’ve been considering stages of knowledge and whether it is possible to use this to ensure students’ thinking is based on solid foundations and then stretched further by more complex concepts.

One area I’ve been struggling to structure is the use of keywords. I added ‘keywords’ into all the stages and thought about how the vocabulary that is used in more complex concepts will differ.

I’m now considering how the use of keywords in themselves can be an indicator of knowledge & understanding.

I will try to explain using an example from my own subject area.

The new GCSE subject content gives the following for knowledge & understanding relating to the crucifixion of Jesus:

  • incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension
  • salvation, including law, sin, grace and Spirit, the role of Christ in salvation, and the nature of atonement

These are key concepts that students need to understand to truly understand what this event in Christianity means for Christians. 

I wil take the key concept of ‘atonement’. 

If we go from the simplest way to understand this concept, using foundation knowledge & vocabulary then we can see how the complexity of this concept may be broken down, as follows:

  1. Saying sorry for something you’ve done wrong (apology)
  2. Saying sorry and someone forgiving you (forgiveness)
  3. Sinning and asking God to forgive you (repentance)
  4. Sinning and asking God to forgive you, knowing that Jesus dying enables this to be accepted (salvation)
  5. Reestablishing (‘covering’) the pre-sin relationship between man and God ‘At-one-ment’ (Atonement)

Without an understanding of the prior concepts and keywords it would be difficult to understand the final concept of atonement. 

So how can this be used in teaching?

My new plan is to come up with the key vocabulary (alongside threshold concepts – another blog) for each topic or unit of work. I can then use these to check if the students have understood before I move on. This could happen in a lesson or over several lessons depending on the students foundation knowledge & understanding.

This checking can be done at the beginning, at intervals and/or at the end. Ideally as frequently as possible but realistically at least at the beginning and end.

This could be done in several ways:

Questioning – if I ask a student “what will God forgive?” They have to understand the concept of forgives to give a correct answer. Regular, targeted questions should give a good idea of what they do/don’t understand.

Written response – ask students a question, write a statement that means they have to show which concepts they know and understand. For example, “Salvation is possible for everyone” requires them to understand what it is to decide whether it can apply to everyone.

Multiple choice/diagnostic qu – I’m trialling this. A quick way to see what they do/don’t know and understand.

‘Final assessment‘ – however this is completed students will be told they must use the keywords learnt. They can have a list of them. It’s not a test to see if they remember the word, it is checking to see if they fully understand it enough by using it correctly in their work. Setting self differentiating tasks on this means all can achieve and show what they’ve learnt.

These keywords are essential in my new assessment systems as they are a key part of seeing if a student has understood the content.

This has already been highlighted in a student essay on marriage that looked great in terms of structure but had no key terms for the topic in it; it was essentially a sociology essay.

To avoid this from now on all assessed written pieces will have a set of student generated keywords as a part of the essay planning process.

Authenticity in teaching


It seems that many teachers only trust teachers. Whether it be online or within your own school, I’ve observed an unwritten (or written in some cases) rule that if you don’t currently teach, you and what you have to say about teaching, somehow ‘doesn’t count’ or at least lacks authenticity. 

 Within this category are included:



 Ofsted inspectors 


ITE lecturers 

 Of course in the last two cases there is an argument that they do ‘teach’ but it’s either adults or don’t teach very much. 

 Jokingly (?)my RE colleague suggested we refine it further; a teacher is someone that has marked a student book in the last three months. 

 So what’s the issue? Why don’t people think that current non-full time colleagues can contribute? Is it the full timetable part that matters? Or working full time in a school? Or the duties a teacher faces on a daily basis such as marking and report writing? Or dealing with large numbers of children on a daily basis?

 I think the main issue that these teachers suggest is that if you’re not currently experiencing it you cannot fully understand it, no matter how hard you try. The moment you leave the classroom you’ve lost the ability to fully sympathise and therefore most of what you have to say about teaching lacks authenticity. 

Sadly I think some people have clocked onto this phenomenon. On twitter a ‘non-teacher’ may be ambiguous in their bio. A consultant may say ‘I’m a science specialist’. Whilst this may be true they’re not a fully practicing science teacher. An Ofsted inspector may say they ‘spend hours in the classroom’. Playing the authenticity ‘game’ may mean the difference between a day’s work for some.

 So, are these teachers right? Does it matter? Is this distrust unique to teaching?
Is there a set of criteria as to what makes you an authentic teacher? 

“Miss, is this an assessment?” – Time for a culture shift


I was asked this question this week when some students were doing some extended writing. I was also asked ‘Miss, is this a test?’ as I trialled using multiple choice with my classes. I was a bit mean. I replied ‘what is a test?’. This generally confused them and they got on.

I know what they were asking. They really meant ‘Miss, does that matter?’. This, along with some discussions & tweets in the week have started me thinking that it is time for a significant culture shift in our schools. In particular, the way in which students, teachers and leaders see assessment.

A culture which we are responsible for creating. Whether it be due to league tables, Ofsted, data entry, parental pressure we have created a culture where certain pieces of work that our students complete are seen as more important than others;they are higher stakes, bigger consequence pieces of work. The piece that will be levelled, the work that links to their report grade, the answer that defines ‘where’ they are.

If we were to evaluate how well we’ve done in creating this culture, I think we’ve done really well. It’s just a shame that it has the wrong emphasis (maybe it was what was needed at the time?) and this needs to change.

So now that schools have or are considering dropping levels we have a real chance to shift this emphasis.  We need to think carefully about what we want assessment to be used for, how we will do it and what the consequences are, intended or unintended.

An example where we have created a process that we need to reconsider is asking students about their work. Originally teachers were told ‘all students need to know what level they’re working at’. So we either drilled them or stuck a sticker on their books that they could quickly refer to, to give that level. Then people realised that wasn’t enough and added ‘they also need to be able to say what they need to do to improve’. So teachers then started using processes to try to ensure their students had the ‘correct’ answer to whoever was asking.

Another example where our culture has skewed things is via termly/half termly ‘assessments’. We have placed high value on single pieces of work where students are given the levelled criteria, looked at their own level and then done what they needed to do to achieve their target level. The focus was on achieving the level rather than what they needed to do differently from last time to make a difference. The effect was that students valued these pieces more and mostly put more effort into them as they knew that this work ‘meant something’.

So, now we can choose not to have levels, we can change this focus from a single outcome or a ‘correct response’ and start to create new processes that will provide a more whole picture of learning.

The biggest hurdle is we have years of embedded mindset (a current buzz word)  to change; the students being some of the toughest mindsets to change. And whilst schools can mainly do what they want in between, we are still stuck with key stage testing and GCSEs/A Levels that will need clever managing to ensure the mindset isn’t derailed.

So what do we need to do to change this mindset?

Consider the language and emphasis we use when referring to pieces of work.

Spread the ‘value’ across all work not particular assessment pieces. Everything matters.

Create assessment systems that are fully & smoothly interlinked with what we want our students to learn

Change what we ask students if we want to find out how they’re progressing

Not give any ‘value’ judgements to students or parents – No ‘5a’/master/beginner/emerging/85%/a* etc (this will be another blog)

Research in schools – being Devil’s advocate – #rEDlead


Professor Coe said we should be Devil’s advocate and ask questions in research. I feel this is my forte so this post will raise questions I have about research in schools following an excellent day at #rEDlead.

Who is the research for? I feel there was a dichotomy emerging between doing it to make a difference with our students in our own classes and then for ‘doing research’ that can then be used by others. Is there still a tension between real life classroom practice and academic research? I didn’t feel that many of the presentations looked at the potential impact on children and or the school themselves. Or is this a case of research needs to be done to see if research in schools has impact? Essentially, why should a teacher bother with academic, time-consuming research?

What makes research research? If I do it by myself and never share it, it is classed as research? Are there different types? Do we need a new taxonomy for educational research so we are all clear what we’re doing and what we’re reading?

Do we need set protocols and processes? This goes back to the idea of what constitutes research. If I forget my bibliography does that matter? How much should I read? Do we need to balance qualitative with quantitative?

Should research be differentiated? Could some colleagues be offered small scale mini projects; less reading, simple methodology, A4 write up? Whilst others who want to complete Masters level work have the opportunity? (see suggested taxonomy for Ed Research – what would go in the *?)

A possible structure for research?

A possible structure for research?



Should there be set formats for presentation? Does it matter if it is 3.5k words long or an A4 summary? Could there be a small/medium/large/extra-large option. Small being an A4 summary sheet and Extra large being the size & standard needed for MEd. Could the whole research be recorded by video without any written aspects?

What if we’re just wasting time? I try something in my class and when it goes wrong I analyse the possible causes, I adjust it or bit it. I don’t need to spend hours reading around it and then writing this up? Whilst it may be important to share, does the time spent making it audience ready outweigh the benefits of the process and findings?

How will school CPD change? INSET days? should it ALL be allocated to research? Should CPD budgets be being spent on texts?  I’ve been told that reading isn’t CPD, this is a problem!

Does everyone in the school have to do some research? We’ve all heard horror stories of everyone being made to complete research. Should it be optional? Should someone be ‘allowed’ to do research if there are serious weaknesses in their teaching that need addressing first, that research itself would take time away from addressing?  Should all types of staff including non-teaching be given the opportunity? What about LSAs? HLTAs?etc is there an opportunity for a qualification I.e the extended project level 3

How will we have access to published research? It’s been said many times. if we’re committed to this, should universities give schools log ins to their Athens service?

And how will teacher’s research be shared and/or published? Will professional full-time researchers be happy for the amateurs to join in? Should this link to the new College for Teaching? Should they host teacher research? But again, will they require a ‘Standard’?

Where is this time coming from? No-one really discussed this hot potato. I’ve heard people saying to introduce something new you must take something away. But this isn’t small. It’s big.

Should there be ‘core’ reading required? Again could it be the small/medium/large/extra-large idea where for example small projects have 2 core texts whilst extra-large have extensive reading?

What about the resistors? I can’t remember the term that was being used but what about those that don’t want to do research? How to manage them? Should we make them do it? What are the consequences?

Should research be linked to performance management? Again I didn’t hear this discussed much. Will some schools start linking these? How might that work? Is it reasonable to link them?

Should a link with a university be due to it being close and/or should be have a research directory of specialisms in education that teachers can then contact specialists linked to their area of research?Where could the central directory be held? How do I know who is available to work with? What if a HEI colleague is overwhelmed by requests? We have over 24,000 schools and approx 150 HEIs. Could it become unmanageable? Is it a model that can cope with exponential growth? Are there financial implications for the school and/or the HEIs?

How can teacher researchers make contact with those who are searching the same area? Should there be a research forum where you can give an outline of your work so others can contact you? Sharing ideas and even working in long distance pairs/groups could end up with more evidence.

Is this current movement just trying to get education on par with other professions? If we are trying to close a gap in educational research should overworked teachers be used in this way in the current situation?

Research Leads

Should research leads have a minimum set of skills and knowledge?
Should they have to have PhDs themselves?
What should they job role specification include?
Should they be on SLT?


I really enjoyed the day especially discussing ideas with other colleagues. Lots to think about. Thanks to Helene & Tom for organising and to those who presented and shared. I can’t make the next one as March is a busy month but it will be interesting more questions have answers by then.

The flawed system of promotion in education


I’ve never understood why, when people that are good teachers are promoted, they spend less time in the classroom.

Why is it when you have a good teacher, people seem to assume that they want to be promoted to a ‘higher’ position? What if you just want to teach? Get better at teaching? Have direct classroom impact with students? What sort of career is that?

Don’t assume that all teachers want to move ‘up’ and ‘out’ of the classroom.

I’m mourning the loss of the AST role. It was perfect for people like me. Good in the classroom. Wanting to stay in the classroom. Wanting to share, coach and support those with their teaching. Trying out new ideas. Working strategically with SLT. Working with students for most of the day. For me, the students are the best part of the day. They’re funny, resilient, interesting. They challenge me but in a non-challenging way. They want me to care. They want to learn. I want to teach them, not sit in meetings.

So why is it, in education the further you climb the ladder the more your time can be spent moving away from this?

Yes I know that senior leadership is about significant impact on the students and many leaders spend a lot of time with students but why are senior leaders given more duties that focus less and less on our core business of teaching and learning? (Organising buses, sorting cover, being ‘on-call’, manning isolation etc) I understand that being more visible develops relationships with students but you’re paying people a lot of money to phone a bus company or a supply agency when their skills are not in making phone calls.

So,if you’re not really fully using the skills of an excellent classroom practioner in leadership the following  questions could be asked…

….Do you need to be a good teacher in education to be a good leader in education?

….Do good teachers make good leaders?

…Why do we promote good teachers to leadership when the skills from teaching are important but not enough to make a good leader? Are we confusing what is necessary with what is sufficient?

My next issue with leadership in schools is about training and support. Qualified teachers go through a year of training to teach. How long do you train to be a middle leader? A senior leader? Yes there are courses but you tend to ‘do’ these then get the job. Where’s the on the job CPD? How many schools have bespoke middle and senior leadership CPD? Mentoring? Coaching?

In teacher training you’re observed numerous times with feedback on how to improve. You then have an NQT year to embed the skills. Does this happen to middle and senior leaders?

And my final issue with the leadership system in education; Why is it that when you move into senior managemnt you’re often given  random subjects to teach when you’re being paid to focus on whole school strategic goals not planning lessons and learning content for something you’ve never taught before? Yes I know the whole ‘you should be able to teach anything’ mantra but why? Why would you do that to someone that you’ve actually employed because they were a good teacher of X and has the skills to do job Y and then make them teach Z. It just doesn’t make for the best kind of leadership, nor the best learning experience for the students.

So ASTs won’t be coming back  but should there be a role for teachers in schools to be paid and have the time to do the classroom based stuff that can also make a difference, but for those that also don’t want to be organising cover at the same time? Or am I just wishful thinking?