The triangulation of speaking to colleagues, being in lessons and looking at students’ work is crucial to appreciating the quality of the curriculum.

When looking in books recently, I have seen two things which have made me think. Firstly, the obsession with getting students to write down definitions before they understand them. Ben Rogers explains brilliantly in this blog post why it is better to ask students to write down definitions once they have a good grasp of what the definition means.

Secondly, the mountain of worksheets being stuck into books is remarkable. I see books rammed full of neatly folded worksheets, carefully glued into exercise books.

I heard Mick Waters speak recently. He cited a student pursuit which calculated that students were, on average, sticking handouts into books for 22 minutes a day. That is 110 minutes a week, for 39 weeks in an academic year. That is roughly 75 hours, or 15 five-hour days, or three full school weeks spent sticking stuff into books.

Supported brilliantly by Mike Bruce, our AHT i/c examinations, I led Huntington through CAGs and TAGs. And for my classes I had a real sense of wanting to ensure my students had all the information they needed after being away from school for so long.

It seems to me, post-pandemic, that, if they are anything like I was last year, teachers have been understandably anxious to ensure that students have the information they need to be able to answer examination questions. By giving the students the essential content on handouts, at least, in this uncertain, time-scarce pandemic situation, teachers will feel they have fulfilled a significant element of the teaching and learning contract with students. The thing is, a good text book will serve the same purpose, without losing time handing out the Pritt sticks…

The trouble is, students possess, in physical form, a lot of knowledge/information in their bulging books. It will be during this examination season that we will find out whether they have that knowledge in their brains, understand it and can apply it to solve problems. For the sake of students and teachers across the country, pray they do.

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