I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about making evidence work in schools and the World Cup!
Out of nowhere I am suddenly excited about the World Cup! And my excitement has been fuelled by the History Channel’s non-stop focus on football. One programme, Return to Turin sees Gary Lineker, Paul Parker and Terry Butcher reminisce about the Italia ’90 tournament. For people of a certain age, it is mandatory viewing. At the end of the programme I wept for time past, for my own footballing days and for the fun I had watching those matches with my mates the first time, 28 years ago.
One tale told by Lineker was illuminating. He explained how, the evening before the quarter-final against Cameroon, the team had practised for an hour in the stadium itself. At the end of the session he shaped to begin his normal penalty-taking preparation: forty identical penalties into the exact same corner, one after the other. Before he kicked a ball, however, the manager, Bobby Robson, ran up and told him there was rumour of a Cameroonian spy in the stands and that he might want to think about that when he runs through his practice routine. Lineker then proceeded to belt forty footballs into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Sure enough, when Lineker stepped up to take his first penalty in the actual match, the Cameroonian keeper was already poised to lunge towards the same corner his spy-in-the-stands had watched Lineker practise into the night before. Lineker, of course, slotted the ball into the opposite corner.
Lineker tells the story beautifully. At the final whistle, Bobby Robson runs on the pitch straight to Lineker, laughing, saying, “I told you so, I told you so!”
As a football fan it is a great anecdote; what I like about it as an educator, is Lineker’s relentless, repetitive practice of a single element of his whole game. Last year, one of my colleagues, Francesca, worked on improving her Year 8 class’s conjugation of a small number of key verbs through repetitive drills. She followed an evidence-informed approach and could demonstrate, with some conviction, that the drilling had helped improve her students’ spontaneous writing. The following video shows Francesca in action:
Francesca’s work is based upon evidence from three research papers: The bottleneck of second language acquisition, by Roumyana Slabakov; Constructing an acquisition based procedure for second language assessment, by Manfred Pienemann and The grammar correction debate by Dana R Ferris. I will be talking at much greater length about how we translate evidence into practice which improves students’ outcomes on Friday 15 June 2018 in Sheffield at our annual conference, Making Evidence Work in Schools, in conjunction with Learn Sheffield. If you would like to attend the conference, click the programme below for further details (the line-up looks great, BTW) and book a place via this email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And with no afternoon matches that day, there’s a good chance you won’t miss a single kick of World Cup coverage!