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Learning styles are a myth and I am not an auditory learner

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I switched on Radio 6 this morning, and the track they were playing had a drum sound which caught my ear. It reminded me of a rototom - a tuned drum which was quite popular in the 80s. I had a set of three in my drum kit.



I doubt many listeners would have made that connection. I suspect many listeners would not even have particularly distinguished that drum sound. I think many people just hear songs in a much less differentiated way, unless they make a real effort. I, like most musicians, tend to hear the guitar, the drums, the bass, the keyboard and the vocals separately.

In other words, I am extracting more information from the audio than some might.

It would be tempting to imagine, therefore, that I would learn better through hearing than through other senses. But that is nonsense. Imagine trying to learn about the physical geography of a country through hearing about it without a map!

But this is exactly the argument made by people who insist they are "visual learners" d…

Sacrifice and Memory

I'm reading Jordan B Peterson's "12 Rules for Life" - got to keep my finger on the pulse!

He offers an analysis of how ritual sacrifice arose in societies, which I find fascinating and utterly convincing. His contention is that it arose after our ancestors developed the capacity to think about the future, and therefore began to realise that delaying gratification could deliver longer term benefits. In other words, that sacrificing something of value in the present could lead to good things in the future. Having discovered this, it is a small step to imagine that sacrificing something of value, like a goat, might also lead to good things happening in the future.

This link between delaying gratification, personal sacrifice and ritual sacrifice had never occurred to me before. It now seems obvious. Perhaps it was already obvious to most people.

I am absolutely certain that I will never forget this. I may review it if I am presented with a different analysis which challe…

Some Thoughts about Skills-Based Curricula

I hear a lot of talk about skills-based curricula in Scotland these days, with the general vibe being that skills-based curricula are a Good Thing™. I'm not entirely clear what people mean by a skills-based curriculum, because it is one of those phrases which has slipped into the common parlance of educators without any clear definition (see also "learner conversations"). Try searching on the Education Scotland website for "skill based curriculum" and you'll draw a blank. I guess it means a curriculum defined in terms of the competencies being developed by our learners: a curriculum defined in terms of the things we want our learners to be able to do, rather than what they know.

I can see the appeal of this, but I am wary. Here are a couple of things which would worry me if they were true:

1.  Is this curriculum seeking to develop generic, transferable skills?

If so, we really need to distinguish between actual skills which are applicable in a range of conte…

Knowing and Understanding in Mathematics

In order to investigate the current debate about knowing and understanding sparked by David Didau's post, I want to examine one small part of mathematics, which I happen to be teaching to a Higher maths class at the moment: finding the point which divides a line segment in a given ratio.

One way to approach this is to teach a formula:

The position vector of P, where P divides AB in the ratio m:n, is given by p=(na+mb)/(m+n)

If you know
how to convert a position vector to a coordinatethe convention that capital letters represents points and bold lower case letters represent corresponding position vectorshow to multiply or divide a vector by a scalarhow to add vectors together then can probably now solve a problem such as:

Given that the point P divides S(3,4,-1) and T(5,8,11) in the ratio 3:1, find P.

At this point, a student knows how to find a point which divides a line segment in a given ratio. They may have no idea why this rule works. They may have no idea what a position vector …

My Leadership Story

I have volunteered to "share my leadership journey" for ten minutes before leading a discussion with other middle leaders at a SCEL event in Edinburgh.  This blog post is a rehearsal of those ten minutes, and I would gratefully appreciate any constructive feedback.
I have a leadership story rather than a leadership journey to share. This is the story I tell myself about how I got to where I am now as a leader, and about where I might go next. It is very subjective and selective. Nonetheless I think it is worth sharing, because this is the truth I inhabit. You also have stories you tell yourself, and you inhabit your stories every day of your professional life. It is sometimes easy to recognise these stories in others - the colleague who sees themselves as the victim of unreasonable burdens regardless of changing circumstances or another who sees themselves as blessed and lucky no matter what misfortunes befall them. It is much harder to identify the stories we tell ourselves,…

Planning for Learning or Planning for Behaviour?

Several months ago I found myself sitting beside a quite senior staff member from one of our colleges of initial teacher education, who complained to me that her student teachers all seemed to be obsessed with behaviour management.

I was flabbergasted, but failed miserably to put together a reasonable argument for why the students were quite right.

That conversation came back to me today as I taught a maths cover class, who were learning about the graphs of linear equations.  The class had some lively characters in it, and they were clearly struggling with the central concept: that a line on a coordinate diagram represents all the points where a particular linear equation involving x and y is true.

As they explored this concept through a series of activities, many of them experienced confusion and frustration. These are normal, healthy emotions for learners. We were able to stick with these challenging experiences partly because the pupils were operating in an environment in which mis…

And what if we don't achieve our dreams?

"If A then B" is logically equivalent to "If (Not B) then (Not A)". For example "if a shape has three sides, then it is a triangle" is logically equivalent to "if a shape is not a triangle, then it does not have three sides". The second statement in quotes is called the contrapositive of the first statement in quotes. Logically speaking, they are identical statements. If one is true, the other must be, and vice versa. In this case, they are both true statements.
A commonly touted inspirational message we deliver to young people can be distilled down to "if you do all the things right that are within your power, then your dreams will come true". Consider its contrapositive.