My school has asked us to read Making Every Lesson Count by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby, completing chapter 1 by the start of term. So far, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
I find it hard to recall and distil information without doing something with it, so I have decided to blog as I read.
The first chapter addresses challenge and the fact that “all too often challenge is presented in the context of ‘challenging the most able'” rather than with the mindset that all students should be engaged in “healthy struggle”. This has certainly been my experience; happily, this culture is shifting.
The ludicrous expectations placed on classroom teachers to differentiate for every child are addressed: “we believe that much that is promoted as good differentiation practice is both unmanageable and counterproductive: it is not humanly possible to personalise planning for each and every child, nor, as often suggested, is it possible to create three levels of worksheet for every lesson.”
Hallelujah! We’ve all known this for some time, but it’s jolly nice to read it in a volume that my Senior Leadership Team has advised me to read! The chapter focuses on the value of “sharing excellence” with students as a method of support, modelling and demonstrating to them what excellence looks like. It also states the truth that one can differentiate much more simply by outcome.
The importance of subject knowledge in exposing students to content pitched above or beyond national expectations is emphasised. Pleasingly, the authors strike a balance between championing the importance of rich, challenging curriculum content and the importance of excellent teaching, stating the inescapable truth that “hard content is harder to teach”. The authors talk about “the long haul” and advise that not every lesson should be challenging – for our own sake and for the students.
The chapter is refreshingly practical but it does draw on other research, most notably Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset and work done by The Sutton Trust on motivating students through content.
Chapter 1 has been a thought-provoking and pleasurable read; I look forward to the rest of the book!