I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 13 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about the pain of ignoring the evidence and guessing instead.
When it came to golf, I completed all of Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice and more. I always blamed those hours for my sloping shoulders; my left shoulder is 4 inches higher than its right-sided counterpart. What else could explain my minor physical deformity? I would stand in front of audiences and convince them that my odd shoulders were certain proof that I knew what it meant to work hard to be good at something: tangible evidence of my very own growth mindset.
I love it when I encounter a genuine expert. Yesterday I had my first session with Dr Paul Stick, a chiropractor. He diagnosed in seconds that I had a (slight) double curvature of the spine and my left shoulder was higher than my right because the first curve was causing its displacement. Twenty minutes later and lots of cracking of vertebrae and my shoulders were all but level. He reckoned two more sessions and I’d be sorted. Dr Stick is an expert.
We have to stop guessing. I had some reasonably good evidence that my shoulder imbalance was caused by my golfing escapades from thirty years ago. The reality was that I was guessing. I happily accepted that interpretation of what I saw and stopped asking questions about my condition. So I ignored other evidence – a crippling wry neck three years ago, really sore shoulder rotator cuffs, an occasional bad lower back and a sore right hip – because I thought I knew that 10,000 hours of hitting golf shots were the cause and, consequently, the condition was incurable. It took an expert to put me straight, literally and metaphorically. My educated guess – my golf caused my misshapenness – was wholly feasible but wrong.
Interrogate the evidence. I have always interpreted the current dip in our KS4 results as a typical manifestation of the Sigmoid Curve phenomenon. I wonder how much that interpretation has led me to look less hard at the data and what it might be telling me about the quality of teaching and learning at our school? I wonder how many of our so-called interpretations about our performance in school are not much more than guess-work?
ResearchED is back! Learning how to become a school Research-lead is one of the many issues which will be debated on Saturday 9 July 2016 when ResearchEd returns to York, hosted by Huntington School. We are delighted that Baroness Estelle Morris will be giving the keynote speech on the day. We will have some cracking speakers from the edusphere alongside Research-leads, teachers and school leaders who are all busy trying to work out what works in schools. @HuntingEnglish, aka Alex Quigley, is busy putting the programme together. Tickets will go on sale soon. Come along and alleviate the pain of just guessing…