Monthly Archive for June, 2015

Curriculum for Excellence: transformational change or business as usual?

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is a good example of a new breed of national curriculum; a curricular model that seeks to combine top-down government prescription with bottom-up school-based curriculum development by teaching professionals.
However, in developing a renewed view of teachers as agents of change and relaxing curriculum prescription, CfE has attracted criticism for its vagueness in terms of content and for a mix-and-match approach and seemingly atheoretical design.

This paper engages in a critique of CfE, and proposes a process by which practitioners may make sense of and enact the new curriculum.
‘Curriculum for Excellence is designed to transform education in Scotland, leading to better outcomes for all children and young people.’ (Scottish Government, 2009: 4)
‘Innovation after innovation has been introduced into school after school, but the overwhelming number of them disappear without a fingerprint.’ (Cuban, 1988: 86)

Priestley%2c M CfE 2

Contributed by F. Culbert

Well being indicators



GuidetoSMARTOutcomesBooklet (1)

Contributed by D. Fleming.

teacher journey


The path of a teacher’s journey at the beginning of their career goes through the early phase of Initial Teacher Education and onto a probationary period. The next phase of career-long professional learning can last a career as a teacher continues to advance their knowledge and pedagogical expertise. There is also the leadership and management phase for those in, or aspiring to, formal leadership roles. No matter which phase you are in we have created the following interactive area to assist you as you navigate through a career in teaching.

Highly trained, respected and free: why Finland’s teachers are different

finlandExtensive training is the basis for giving teachers the autonomy to work the way they want. The result is a highly prized profession and an education system always near the top in international rankings.

Read the article at

Contributed by A. Foster.

The Four Common Types of Stress


Dr Karl Albrecht published his model of the four common types of stress in his 1979 book, “Stress and the Manager.” These are:

  1. Time stress.
  2. Anticipatory stress.
  3. Situational stress.
  4. Encounter stress.

While everyone experiences different physical and emotional symptoms of stress, it’s important to understand how you respond to each one. When you can recognize the type of stress you’re experiencing, you can take steps to manage it more effectively.

Meta-cognition and self-regulation


What is it?

Meta-cognition (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’) and self-regulation approaches aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

How effective is it?

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress. The evidence indicates that teaching these strategies can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils. These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion. The potential impact of these approaches is very high, but can be difficult to achieve as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed. There is no simple strategy or trick for this. It is possible to support pupils’ work too much, so that they do not learn to monitor and manage their own learning but come to rely on the prompts and support from the teacher. “Scaffolding” provides a useful metaphor: a teacher would provide support (scaffolding) when first introducing a pupil to a concept, then remove the scaffolding to ensure that the pupil continues to manage their learning autonomously.

How secure is the evidence?

The evidence is moderately secure. The quality of evaluations has improved in recent years with more rigorous designs compared with earlier studies, which often relied on correlational designs. Impact estimates have been fairly consistent over the last decade. Studies come from a number of countries, including the UK. A recent EEF-funded study, Improving Writing Quality, used a structured programme of writing development based on a self-regulation strategy. The evaluation found gains, on average, of an additional 9 months’ progress, suggesting that the high average impact of self-regulation strategies can be achieved in English schools.

What are the costs?

Overall, costs are estimated as low. Many studies report the benefits of professional development or an inquiry approach for teachers, where they actively evaluate strategies as they learn to use them. A course of sustained professional development or collaborative professional inquiry is estimated at £2-3,000 per year (including some release from classroom teaching) or about £100 per pupil. The cost of the Improving Writing Quality project was estimated at £52 per pupil (very low).

What should I consider?

Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation. Have you taught pupils explicit strategies on how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning? Have you given them opportunities to use them with support and then independently? Teaching how to plan: Have you asked pupils to identify the different ways that they could plan (general strategies) and then how best to approach a particular task (specific technique)? Teaching how to monitor: Have you asked pupils to consider where the task might go wrong? Have you asked the pupils to identify the key steps for keeping the task on track? Teaching how to evaluate: Have you asked pupils to consider how they would improve their approach to the task if they completed it again?

Teaching and Learning Toolkit


The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

The Toolkit currently covers over 30 topics, each summarised in terms of their average impact on attainment, the strength of the evidence supporting them and their cost. It has been recommended by the Department for Education, Ofsted and the headteachers’ associations as a valuable resource in prioritising pupil premium spending. More than half of secondary school leaders now say they use the Toolkit.

Why literacy isn’t getting the word out school-wide

Outside English departments it still isn’t a priority, report finds

The aspiration that teachers of all subjects should help drive up literacy is a long way from being realised, according to a report by Education Scotland.

Although Curriculum for Excellence makes it clear that this objective should be a priority shared beyond English departments, schools are missing many opportunities to raise literacy standards in other subject areas, the report says.

“Schools are still not yet fully recognising the impact that literacy has on learning and achievement across all curricular areas,” the authors of the 3-18 Literacy and English Review ( write. This is despite seven years having passed since a seminal 2008 report by HM Inspectorate of Education emphasised how a focus on developing literacy skills could “unlock learning across the curriculum”.


Missed opportunities

The Education Scotland report acknowledges that young people now have more opportunities to improve their literacy in different areas of the curriculum and staff are aware they have a duty to promote this. But it adds: “Across all sectors, there are still too many missed opportunities to develop and extend children’s and young people’s literacy skills and deepen learning.”

The most impressive examples of progress are too often confined to English lessons, the report insists. Pupils need more opportunities to improve their writing in other parts of the curriculum, it says, adding that outside English classes they often feel unclear about the progress they are making in literacy.

“There is a need for staff across all subject areas to highlight literacy skills more clearly to young people,” the report says. It cites examples of schools that lead the way, such as Edinburgh’s Liberton High School, where librarian Christine Babbs has been central in promoting a reading culture (see panel, left).

Edinburgh literacy development officer Emma Easton said it was crucial to avoid the pitfall of “focusing purely on the mechanics of reading rather than enjoyment”.

The city had made efforts to apply literacy expertise as far and wide as possible, Ms Easton said. In one school, teachers of English as an additional language worked with science students – not because many pupils spoke another language but because the teachers’ skills might be useful for science writing.


Headline work

The report also lists extracurricular activities that can boost literacy, including school newspapers, debating clubs, Burns competitions, film clubs, charity work and enterprise projects. Only a few schools, however, appear to be helping pupils consider how these activities improve their literacy. Because they tend to be voluntary, the fear is that not all students benefit.

“The report has confirmed that there is much good practice in literacy and English in Scotland’s schools,” the authors conclude. “However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all children and young people leave school with the highest possible levels of attainment in literacy and English.”

The findings were backed by learning minister Alasdair Allan, while Education Scotland chief executive Bill Maxwell said that better literacy would not only improve attainment but “reduce inequity and improve life chances”.

One English teacher told TESS: “In general there’s still an expectation that the English department will deal with literacy, and I guess there’s a certain logic to this. I do think progress is being made, but there’s still work to do.

“For example, where subjects teach similar skills, such as essay writing, I think there should ideally be consistency in how to approach this. That’s not always the case, and pupils are having to learn to write essays differently in English than in history.”

The nation’s problems with literacy have been highlighted by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) league tables, which in 2009 found that the link between poverty and lower levels of reading for enjoyment was stronger in Scotland than in almost any other country.

Last month, TESS reported a claim made by David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors, that literacy league tables for Scottish schools would be more useful than exam league tables.

Words to the wise

Liberton High School in Edinburgh is keen to promote a love of books and a focus on literacy among its students. Headteacher Stephen Kelly says that highlights on the calendar include a Harry Potter night and a “highly anticipated” annual book week driven by school librarian Christine Babbs.

He argues that such events have helped pupils to realise that “reading and being creative is for everyone”. And where Mr Kelly and his fellow maths teachers would once have been intimidated by literacy, it now holds few fears for staff, he says.

Teachers agree that “higher-order literacy skills” are essential to narrow attainment gaps in all subjects, Mr Kelly adds.

 TES website



Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity

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