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…
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…
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…