Still Not Convinced About Differentiation

The main reason I blog is because I am acutely aware of shaky ideas in education and the damage they can do to the profession. I feel there is a need to question ideas to find the truth. Many ubiquitous ideas in education go unquestioned – simply accepted as the norm. This is a dangerous position that leads to the proliferation of bad ideas such as Whole Language and the learning styles myth.

I’ve questioned differentiation in the past. It is an ever-present reality in education enshrined in AITSL’s education standards. It is at the forefront of initial teacher education and ongoing professional development. I am not so much in opposition to differentiation in its entirety; I am acutely aware that students have different abilities influenced both by nature and nurture and so things will need to be adjusted to ensure good progress for all. The problem I have with differentiation is how it is currently used within the classroom.

I recently attended a presentation on Language Processing Disorder and how these impact practice in the classroom. After a lengthy presentation, the presenter suggested teachers ought to differentiate to accommodate the needs of these students: instead of writing all the time, students could present their learning in a video rather than hand in written work, for example. They should be given a choice.

This approach seems intuitive, but it is this approach to differentiation I question the most. If students with LPD are given the chance to present their work using a video presentation as opposed to a written piece of work then how are they ever going to strengthen their writing skills. By doing this, a teacher eliminates the chance to practise, making it less likely for these students to ever reach competence with written work. If you eliminate the need for them to write, how are they ever meant to improve their writing? When I raised this concern with the presenter, she simply stated that it was not fair to make students constantly do what they are not good at, that they should be given the chance to shine at things they are good at. I simply disagree, I posit that those students who struggle with writing should be writing the most, not making videos as an alternative. Because, whether we like it or not, the ability to write far outweighs the ability to make a good video. That’s just reality.

The presenter clarified her arguments after some discussion by communicating that students should not always be given an alternative, but work should be differentiated to meet their needs. She gave an example of one class where the most able students were writing formal letters to the government arguing for action and the less able pupils were making postcards as an alternative because it was more accessible to them and engaged them in the task. The students were working towards the same outcome, but completing the task at an accessible level. Again I totally disagree with this approach. Writing is not a generic skill. The language and structure required to write a formal letter is fundamentally different to that of a postcard, which is informal and often exchanged between close relatives and friends, not sent to formal bodies. I do not believe students with LPD should be denied the chance to learn how to write a formal letter. In fact, I would argue that such a genre is of high importance and see no reason why the language and skills needed to write a formal letter cannot be taught to these students.

It is this form of differentiation, where the selection of tasks differs across students to ‘meet their needs’, I do not completely understand and question. We should not be differing the content, but the amount of instruction given to each child. Students can learn how to write a formal letter if its features are broken down and taught well, some students just require more instruction to do so. They should not be denied the chance to learn how. Doing so will only exacerbate the Mathew Effect – those who have, gain more; those who have not, gain less.

Differentiation of content: so ubiquitous, I’m still not convinced.

Does Whole Language Enable Good Formative Assessment?

Two approaches to teaching and learning dominate in our schools. Daisy Christodoulou (2016) labels these the generic-skill approach and the deliberate-practice approach. In the generic-skill approach, the skills we wish our students to acquire are taught directly. If we want students to be able to analyse, then we should get them to engage in analysis. If we want them to solve complex mathematical problems, then we should get them to engage in complex mathematical problem solving. Skills are thought to be generic. The deliberate-practice approach argues that the best way to impart such skills is to teach them indirectly by breaking them down into their component parts. If we want students to be able to analyse, then we should teach them a lot of content related to the topic we want them to analyse. If we want them to solve complex mathematical problems, then we should first teach them prerequisite skills for solving such problems like times tables and number bonds. Skills are thought to be highly domain-specific.

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The research strongly indicates that the deliberate-practice approach is a far more efficient approach. Research has shown that skill is not generic, but relies heavily on domain-specific knowledge. This was confirmed in studies carried out by Herbet Simon through his infamous chess experiments (Simon & Chase, 1973). Further, getting students to engage directly in tasks of high demand like analysis and problem solving places a significant burden on working memory, making it difficult for students to actually focus on the target skill (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark, 2006). It is clear that the best way to teach is by breaking a target skill into component parts and systematically strengthening these parts over time.

Given the research, we know that good early reading teachers break the task down into its component parts and teach them explicitly. There are five components that need to be taught explicitly: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. Whole language does not break the task of reading into its component parts. Instead, reading is treated like a generic skill and taught through the generic-skill approach: the best way to improve a skill is to perform the skill; the best way to improve reading is by getting them to read.  A phonics approach, on the other hand, breaks reading down. It teaches reading indirectly through deliberate practice of its component parts, paying close attention to the skills most deficient in the early years: phonics and phonemic awareness. Whole language is therefore incompatible with good teaching, phonics is.

Formative assessment is widely accepted as a crucial aspect of good teaching. The purpose of formative assessment is to make valid inferences to inform future teaching. As we have seen, good teaching breaks skills into their component parts as outlined by the deliberate-practice model. When it comes to formative assessment, best practice adopts the same model: assessment should target the component skills so we can make valid inferences about what a student can and cannot do and then plan accordingly.

Here, it is important to distinguish between tests used for formative and summative purposes. A test used for summative assessment is very different from one used for formative assessment. A summative assessment is used to develop a shared meaning about how competent a particular student is in a rather wide domain. It is assessing the target skill. As mentioned, the purpose of formative assessment is to assess the student’s knowledge of the component skills. It needs to be specific enough to be reliable so that valid inferences can be made. Assessing the target skill in order to make valid formative inference is not a reliable form of formative assessment because it is not specific enough.

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Given what we know of the importance of formative assessment, good early reading teachers are also good formative assessors. As outlined above, good formative assessment is specific enough to be reliable so that valid inferences can be made. It is not aiming to assess reading but is looking to assess any knowledge gaps a student may have in its component parts. Whole language cannot formatively assess reading reliably because it does not break reading down into its component parts. Instead, whole language approaches assessment of reading by having kids read to them, a valid form of summative assessment, but not a valid form of formative assessment.

The Running Record is a widely used tool used for formative assessment by whole language educators. It assesses a student’s ability to decode by having them read a passage of text. This is not appropriate as a formative task because the task does not appropriately target word decoding’s component skills. By using a Running Record, the whole language teacher lowers the assessment’s reliability and therefore valid inferences of reading knowledge or skill cannot be made. If a student fails to decode the word clever whilst reading, it is hardly possible to make a valid inference as to why the student has stumbled on this word because the component phonic knowledge needed to decode the word clever (c-l-e-v-er) has not been isolated in the assessment. The teacher can infer that the student does not know how to decode clever but cannot infer why the student cannot decode this word. In theory, the teacher could make inferences about a student’s ability to decode and which components need strengthening but due to the unreliability of the assessment, such an inference would not be valid, causing weak formative assessment.

The Running Record is an example of whole language’s flawed approach to assessment, closely related to its equally flawed teaching models. A teacher assessing student skill using a phonics approach can assess much more effectively because it does break reading down into its component parts. For example, teachers using a phonics-based approach will often test student knowledge of letter-sound correspondences by having them recall the phoneme to a displayed grapheme. Because it is appropriately specific, this sort of formative assessment has a high level of reliability and therefore our inferences can be of high quality. If a child cannot recall the phoneme /l/ when shown its matching grapheme then it is clear the student does not have this essential component knowledge and so it needs to be taught explicitly. This formative assessment will strengthen the students knowledge and help them decode clever in the future. This is reliable and valid formative assessment that informs future teaching.

Whole language is a flawed approach as it does not break learning down into its component parts. Its flaws are carried over to assessment, where whole language assessments like the Running Record which assess students completing the target skill lack reliability and therefore lack validity. It is often said that in order to be effective, early reading needs to be taught well. We can also say that early reading needs to be assessed well in order to be taught well. Phonics-based approaches enable this, whole language approaches do not.


Key References

Christodoulou, D. (2016) Making Good Progress

Simon & Chase (1973) Skill in Chess

Kirschner, Sweller & Swan (2006) Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work

Primary Teaching too Highly Specialised for the ‘Generalist’ Teacher 

A recent post by Pamela Snow got me thinking about teacher knowledge. In her post, Pamela lists many concepts related to quality early reading instruction, asking whether or not the teachers reading it could identify if they and their colleagues have an explicit and detailed knowledge of the concepts. The items include many concepts unlikely encountered in one’s own primary education and therefore can be considered specialist knowledge. Examples include the schwa vowel, stressed and unstressed syllables, diphthong and digraphs and trigraphs.

Even though we do not have data related to Pamela’s post specifically, the simple truth is primary teachers are very unlikely to have this specialist knowledge. In one study, only 18% of in-service teachers knew that the word ‘box’ has four speech sounds and only 52% could identify the correct definition of a syllable (Mahar & Richdale, 2008). The study is 10 years old, but given very little has changed in early reading instruction in Australia, it’s safe to assume the statistics are still valid.

The concerning problem of teacher knowledge can be demonstrated through the Peter effect. In the Bible, a beggar asks Peter for some money. Peter replies that he can not help him, for he did not have any money to give. In the context of education, the Peter effect is ‘one cannot teach what one does not know. ‘

Such deficits in teacher knowledge really concern me. I myself am a primary teacher and am not isolated from the problem. For example, when testing myself using Pamela Snow’s list of concepts, I could not identify what a schwa vowel was and could hardly argue that I have a deep understanding of stressed and unstressed syllables. Such gaps in knowledge are hard to come to terms with due to their likely impact on my own teaching in the classroom. I am left asking, why? Why don’t I know these things?

The problem likely has a lot to do with my education. Teacher knowledge was not prioritised in my initial teacher education, taking a backseat to a heavy emphasis on teacher pedagogy. Emphasising pedagogy is, of course, necessary, but not at the expense of knowledge. My ongoing professional development makes the same mistake. Almost all professional development focuses on teacher pedagogy at the expense of teacher knowledge. Perhaps teachers and teacher educators mistakenly presume that because primary students are young, future and current teachers already know everything they need to know.

Prioritising pedagogy over knowledge is likely a consequence of a deeply entrenched ideological principle. Education holds constructivist principles in high esteem. Teaching knowledge opposes the constructivist ideology held dear in education – knowing must start from within; it cannot be pushed on a person. I cannot remember ever having my knowledge acquisition held to account, never once being asked to retain and recall basic facts. Instead, a lot of time was spent reflecting on ideas and my own personal understandings of what I needed to know and do.

Constructivist ideology is usually criticised in the context of teaching knowledge to children, but it is also clear that it is having negative effects on the teaching of adult teachers. In the context of teaching, pre-service teachers are still relative novices. The best way to teach them would be through very direct, explicit teaching of the most important knowledge needed to teach well, schwa vowels and all.

Such attitudes have lead to primary teaching being labeled generalist because it has been recognised that a primary teacher’s knowledge cannot be deemed specialist.  It is thought that because the students are young, we can easily teach them a range of subjects, and because we teach a range of subjects, our knowledge and skills are generalist by necessity. Yet as we have seen, teaching in the primary school requires specialist knowledge. I think labeling primary teaching as generalist has harmful effects. A primary teacher has no hope of acquiring specialist knowledge if they are labeled a generalist teacher.

If primary teachers and teacher educators continue to embrace this label, then specialists are going to eat their lunch. Already there are calls for more specialists in primary schools. This is in response to the need for specialist knowledge. This is not limited to early reading instruction, calls for specialists to teach maths and science have also been made. Just like early reading instruction, instruction in these subjects also requires specialist knowledge – knowledge that has been neglected in training the ‘generalist’ primary teacher.

So what is the way forward? Prioritising knowledge in initial teacher education and ongoing professional development would be a good start. Needless to say those in favour of the current model will argue the generalist model allows for deeper, more meaningful relationships between teachers and pupils. This is a somewhat romantic view and one that I don’t think has much merit. Already students are being taught quite widely by specialists in music and PE and all seems well. Interesting that the subjects of least importance are taught by specialists. Perhaps it’s time for the 3 Rs to be taught by specialists too. Exactly what that looks like? That is up for debate.


Emily Binks-Cantrell, Erin K. Washburn, R. Malatesha Joshi, and Martha Hougen, ‘Peter Effect in the Preparation of Reading Teachers,’ Scientific Studies of Reading 16:6 (2012), 526–536

Nicole E. Mahar and Amanda L. Richdale, ‘Primary Teachers’ Linguistic Knowledge and Perceptions of Early Literacy Instruction,’ Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties 13:1 (2008), 17–37.


No Room in Ed for the Psycholinguistic Guessing Game

The 3 cueing system is a model used widely in Australian schools to teach reading. It was made famous by Dame Marie Clay and her Reading Recovery program. This approach was the one favoured by my initial teacher education and is still the one favoured by most of the profession.
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I was once one in favour too. Why wouldn’t I be? My whole education at the beginning of my career was in favour of the 3 cueing system, I did not know any better. That was until I left to teach in the UK, where The Simple View of Reading is favoured. My journey to changing my mind was a long one and had a lot to do with the overwhelming evidence for approaches that largely contradict the 3 cueing model and its overarching philosophy – namely, synthetic phonics.

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Last Term, I attended a conference for kindergarten teachers run by a very influential organisation in education. Over 300 kindergarten teachers were in attendance to take part in a variety of workshops on the day, one of which was titled Sparking Joy in Reading.

“Sparking joy” probably should have been my first warning. Whole Language is built on the idea of engagement in the reading process – raising children who fall in love with books. But in my rush of enthusiasm, I never stopped to read between the lines.

The presenter went into an introductory mode, stamping her authority on the situation by narrating her long and successful career before opening with the line “reading’s not just about phonics”. Second warning. No one actually believes reading is just about phonics, that’s largely just rhetoric from whole language detractors of evidence-based phonics approaches.

At this point the well-known Venn diagram of intersecting cues meeting to make ‘meaning’ flashed on the overhead PowerPoint. The next couple of minutes were quite bizarre. Any reasonable presenter may present some supporting evidence for their advocacy of the model they promote, but what she actually leveraged as evidence was very strange indeed. She presented a tree on screen with a bunch of squiggles there to accompany it. We were meant to decipher what the text meant, supposedly just how kids do as they learn to read. Here is an example I created that resembles the slide:

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Through a series of guesses, you can reasonably predict the sentence to be ‘The bird flies to the nest.’ This then was meant to prove that reading isn’t just about phonics. Rather, students call on a range of cues to make meaning.

The activity above is known as the psycholinguistic guessing game. According to Goodman, readers sample from text to formulate hypotheses which readers confirm or disconfirm with subsequent text. Goodman believed reading was a series of guesses and that it is poor readers who pay attention to letter-sound correspondences:

“Accuracy, correctly naming or identifying each word or word part in a sequence, is not necessary for effective reading since the reader can get the meaning without accurate word identification. Furthermore, readers who strive for accuracy are likely to be inefficient”. (Goodman, 1974)

This theory has been overwhelmingly crushed by the science of reading for some 30 years. His theory totally ignores the importance of letter-sound correspondences and that it is, in fact, poor readers who rely on context to read words, not the other way around. This simple fact was confirmed by Charles Perfetti who built on Guy Van Orden and his Van Orden Effect. Seidenberg summarises Perfetti’s finding better than I ever could:

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Highly influential conferences where presenters STILL promote the psycholinguistic guessing game and its related theories despite the overwhelming evidence against them is a complete scandal and should not be allowed to happen. Yet here I was, sitting in a room full of teachers nodding their heads at the convincing and impassioned presentation of the psycholinguistic guessing game. In that moment, I desperately wanted to speak out and challenge such a clear breach of the evidence, but I did not. Why? Because the culture of education is not one of evidence, but ideology – an ideology so perverse that I felt too uncomfortable to confront it.

I did not stand up and voice my opinion on the day, so why now? The reason is two-fold. One, like every other teacher, I care deeply about the children we teach. Even more so considering one in five will fail to read, a statistic inflated due to poor approaches like the 3 cueing system. Secondly, I care deeply about the profession. As I have gotten to know the world of education, the lack of professionalism – the lack of evidence-based practice – has increasingly come to concern me. This, in my opinion, needs to change if we are going to keep any of the dwindling respect in the profession alive. Evidence must triumph over ideology.

It is important for those in favour of evidence to speak up and seriously question practices that are opposed it, both for the students and the profession. 

Goodman (1974) Effective Teachers of Reading Know Language and Children

Seidenberg (2017) Language at the Speed of Sight


Why so Knowledge-Phobic?

Teaching kindergarten is a real joy. The kids come to school beaming with excitement and a thirst for knowledge. Even before kindergarten, kids are attracted to acquiring knowledge. Ask any 5-year-old about animals and they will lecture you beyond what you bargained for. This year I sloppily commented on how *amazing* my student’s stuffed monkey was when he brought it in for sharing time only to receive a complete deadpan and a very frank explanation that his orang-utan was not a monkey at all, but an ape. “Monkeys have tales, Mr. Kenny.” Woops. Won’t make that mistake again.

It is a real shame that new kindergarteners’ thirst for knowledge is never matched by the teaching they receive. Take history for example. History is a knowledge-rich academic subject. Students are fascinated by the idea of mummies from a mysterious ancient Egyptian world and cave paintings left behind for 40 000 years by our own indigenous peoples. Yet instead of studying a wide variety of interesting and forever relevant content, they are served with learning about that which they already know and will surely come to terms with outside of school: their personal history.

So why personal history? I suspect the focus on personal history has a concerning purpose: it is only there to support the teaching and acquisition of skills. As outlined by the Australian Curriculum, the students are expected to analyse, research, question, reflect, communicate and evaluate in this domain, just like seasoned historians do.

So instead of studying forever relevant and wholly interesting topics like mummies and aboriginal tribes, they are to study themselves in order to act like historians. Not only is this a problem of being short-changed on content, it is also problematic because kindergarteners do not have the knowledge or expertise of a seasoned professional. It takes years of study for a historian to meaningfully analyse and evaluate the events of the past; it is the sheer amount of knowledge on a topic that enables them to do so. Kindergarteners do not have this knowledge. They are relative novices, and therefore should not be expected to implement the skills so hard-won by historians. If we wish for them to be able to utilise these skills in the future, then it is reasonable to posit that they should acquire knowledge on a wide range of topics first.

A focus on skills says a lot about the culture of Australian education. Many-a-teacher will happily explain that ‘it is not about stuffing them with facts’ but rather ‘it is about encouraging a love of learning’. Teachers persist in triumphing this ideal, which can largely be attributed to the romantic view of the child as E.D Hirsch explains:

“Romanticism believed that human nature is innately good, and should therefore be encouraged to take its natural course, unspoiled by the artificial imposition prejudice and convention. Second, Romanticism concluded that a child is neither a scaled-down, ignorant version of the adult nor a form piece of clay in need of molding, rather, the child is a special being in its own right with unique, trustworthy impulses that should be allowed to develop and run their course.”

Hirsch argues that it is this romantic view of the child that has lead to knowledge-phobic attitudes, which culminate in knowledge-phobic curricula. A kindergartener’s thirst for knowledge is never matched because of such attitudes, which, in my view, is a real shame; and in others’, a complete scandal.

Many will argue that it is not possible to agree on which knowledge and topics to teach our children, but I would rather have that debate than deny them knowledge because of it. Hopefully, as educators get to grips with the key role of knowledge, change will ensue.


Questioning Differentiation

Let me share one of my favourite quotes:

“Water is so ubiquitous to a fish that it ceases to exist.” 

That is, water is so ever present to a fish that it forgets to question its very existence. I find this perspective incredibly useful in education. There are many things I deem to be water. What sorts of things do we doon a regular basis in education yet never stop to question their efficacy?

Differentiation is widely accepted across all education systems in Australia. In education, it is what water is to a fish.  It was a key part of my initial teacher education and is at the forefront of PD sessions I attend. It has been ever present; I never once stopped to question its existence. So here I question the efficacy of differentiation.

A typical scenario in which differentiation is used would be in a primary mathematics classroom. Students are often grouped within the class by ability. The Kangaroos – high achieving students – may be working on solving a fairly complex word problem while the Wombats – low achievers – play a fraction-match game in the background. The Wombats are a little behind on their mathematics and find it hard to engage, so the teacher lowers the rigour and structure of the lesson. The Kangaroos on the other hand, are engaged, knowledgeable and therefore ‘ready’ for rigour.

Naturally, I have chosen an example that is at the extreme end to argue a point, but I would argue further that despite its extreme nature, it is not uncommon in Australian classrooms.

So what exactly is the problem with this type of differentiation? The problem is in the logic of the approach. How do we expect the Wombats to ever catch up to the Kangaroos if we are continually lowering the academic rigour and structure in our lessons? NCETM’s Director for Primary Debbie Morgan puts it this way:

“We slow them down in order to catch them up… the reality is they will never catch up, the data shows that very few actually do.”

Once we question the practice of differentiation, it really is hard to see the logic in the approach. We differentiate so that students can make better progress, yet they very rarely do. In reality, the Wombats end up with less rigour and less structure in their lessons. It becomes self-fulfilling: lower the standard, get lower results.

Debbie Morgan argues for a different approach. One where teachers teach the whole class for mastery and students who do not succeed gain access to rigorous, small group instruction. This reflects a response to intervention model. The crucial difference is that the content is not differentiated, the amount of instruction is.

“We slow them down in order to catch them up”. Maybe it’s time to question the water around us.


Michaela Way should not be ignored.

Many Australian educators may not know of a school called Michaela creating a storm on twitter at the moment. This school, located in Brent; a disadvantaged area of London, uses strongly ‘traditional’ approaches to teaching and learning. They have a no-excuses discipline policy and use explicit instruction to teach all areas of a very rigorous knowledge-based curriculum. This is in contrast to the approach taken here in Australia. Australian schools do not have no-excuses discpline policies, explicit teaching is not fully employed across all subject areas all of the time, and the Australian Curriculum is light on knowledge.

Recently, Michaela smahed its Ofsted report. Why is this important? We won’t know for sure until Michaela’s oldest students take GCSE’s (HSC equivalent), but it is a very strong indicator of whether or not their methods work. Here is the executive summary:

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Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 3.11.01 pm.pngClearly, this school creates amazing growth and opportunity for their students. No doubt many detractors of their approach here in Australia will not look twice at this evidence but simply disregard it on ideological grounds. They will say it is inhumane and that it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. They will say it puts undue stress on the students and disregard the reports finding on student welfare:

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This is of great concern because Australian education results are falling in real terms on international tests under alternate methods. The approach taken by Michaela should be taken seriously.

Changing My Mind

Looking back on my initial teacher education, there is no doubt it was of the progressive kind. The driving force behind the course was that a fresh approach to education was needed. This was not made explicit, of course, but the course materials dripped of progressive ideology. Here are some examples:

  • Kevin Robinson’s viral video How Schools Kill Creativity featured on the professional practice unit reading list
  • My science unit promoted learning through discovery using the 5E method, which has found popularity in the Primary Connections series
  • My English unit for early reading stressed the need for teaching through genuine literary experiences, which is in opposition to research on synthetic phonics.
  • Learning styles were a key feature in the text assigned to me for Creative Arts.
  • Game theory was the approach promoted in maths for teaching K-2

The truth is, I bought deeply into this ideology. Almost all educators say they go into the profession to make a difference. I was the same. I genuinely thought the system needed to change. This was largely built on my own anecdotes collected during my schooling. Unknowingly, I had constructed my own utopian ideology before checking the evidence.

Even up to a year ago, I still thought in this way: the school system is broken. What we are doing is not working. We need projects and fun to engage students. We need open spaces and self-directed learning. The teacher must help guide the students, but not tell them what to think and what to learn.

My journey to changing my mind started in England. I was lucky enough to acquire a position in a school just outside London straight out of university. The approach England uses for teaching early reading is called synthetic phonics. Synthetic phonics, and the use of phonics in general, was not a feature in my ITE and, needless to say, I was not a fan. Another approach gaining steam was explicit instruction. Again, not a feature in my ITE. I worked hard to resist both during my year teaching in the UK, never once thinking to check the evidence, just holding firm to the ideological beliefs I had constructed for myself.

Just as I was leaving the UK, I started to question my beliefs. I could see the effect the methods were having on student learning. And, just for a second, I asked myself: Could I be wrong?

This lead me to find answers. There were many stepping stones in between, but the quake moment came after discovering a paper written by Jennifer Buckingham, Kevin Wheldall and Robyn Wheldall titled Why Jaydon Can’t Read: The triumph of ideology over evidence in teaching reading. It was extremely tough reading, gut-wrenching. Finally, I realised my beliefs did not stand up to the rigour of scientific evidence. It tipped me over the edge. I decided to change my mind.

Since then, I have given up any ideological stance on education. I now, first and foremost, use evidence as my compass. Trad, progressivist, it honestly does not matter to me. All that matters is whether or not the approach one promotes actually works and stands up to the rigours of the scientific method.

And if you are an educator doubting your own long-held beliefs on education, I urge you to dig a little deeper. Let evidence guide you. You deserve the truth, and so do the children you serve.