“That podcast you do,” says Dave, my PE-teacher friend who I have known for 30 years – since we both started school in 1988, in fact. “I like it. Do it more.”
Dave is the last person I would have expected to listen to an education podcast, let alone one that interviews academics about their research on education-related topics. Yet, he is an avid subscriber to Tes Podagogy and listens every week on his way to work.
Since Tes launched the podcast in September 2017, we have found many an unexpected listener to the series (and many who we expected might listen have tuned in, too). People listen in their cars, on their rail commute, sat with a glass of wine, even in the bath. The success of the series has been a huge but pleasant surprise.
We have had some extraordinary people come in to chat, on a really diverse set of topics. What remains constant is that we try to ensure we end up with a practical, applicable and useful collection of tips for teachers by the time the podcast ends.
Each episode has its merits, but to mark the end of series 4, we thought we would run down the top 10 most listened-to episodes. Watch out for series 5, starting 9 January, but in the meantime, here is the list in no particular order (you can find all episodes on the Tes Podagogy Hub).
1. Cognitive-load theory and classroom research
Guest: Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of educational assessment at the University College London Institute of Education
Date published: 13 September 2017
What he says: Wiliam talks us through how research can play a role in your classroom – and why it should; how “what is interesting is not what works in education, but under what circumstances does it work”; and why we should all be brought up to speed on cognitive-load theory.
2. What teachers need to know about the teenage brain
Guest: Sarah Jayne Blakemore, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, and author of books including the multi-award-winning Inventing Ourselves: the secret life of the teenage brain
Date published: 28 November 2018
What she says: “One of the messages of my research, the papers we write and the books I have written, is that we should be more understanding of teenagers, of this really critical period of development,” says Blakemore. She explains how this developmental period affects decision-making, behaviour and more.
3. What should assessment look like in schools?
Guest: Daisy Christodoulou, former head of assessment at Ark Schools and author of books including Seven Myths about Education
Date published: 6 September 2017
What she says: Christodoulou explains why effective assessment is so important; what she feels are the key problems with assessment in schools; and why she has taken a leap of faith on the method of comparative judgement.
4. What every teacher needs to know about memory
Guest: Professors Robert and Elizabeth Bjork, Bjork Learning and Forgetting Lab at the University of California
Date published: 22 January 2018
What they say: “Beyond an early point in your life, all new learning is a matter of linking it up and relating it to what you already know,” says Robert Bjork. “If you are a teacher, all the kids are going to come in with very different backgrounds of what they already know and don’t know – that can be an important guide as to how to individualise learning…One thing that characterises a lot of gifted teachers is that they can understand what things the students are interested in and what the students’ background is – they can take new material and relate it to that.”
Elizabeth adds: “What is it that the kids are caring about now in culture; how can I relate this better to the other things they are doing outside the classroom? This is a challenge – how do we find a way to reach all of our students?”
5. Why teachers need to create routines for learning
Guest: Doug Lemov, teacher trainer and author of Teach Like a Champion and Reading Reconsidered
Date published: 29 November 2017
What he says: ““Sometimes our most rigorous intentions in the classroom are undone by a lack of attention to mundane details of how things should go right,” says Lemov. He details some of the routines that he advocates in the podcast, including "cold calling" and "tracking". These stem from his observations of expert teachers.
6. Why growth mindset is not a silver bullet
Guest: Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton professor of psychology at Stanford University
Date published: 18 October 2017
What she says: In a robust defence of her work after much criticism, Dweck sets out what growth mindset actually is and states: “We don’t think it works every time; we want to know where it does not work so we can find out why. We are not putting out something we are saying is the gospel, we are saying this is our current understanding, we are putting it out there and we are getting feedback, and if someone finds something different, we are saying great, let’s learn from it.”
7. What every teacher needs to know about dyslexia
Guest: Professor Maggie Snowling, president of St John’s College, Oxford, and one of the world’s leading dyslexia researchers
Date published: 22 November 2017
What she says: “People used to think dyslexia was a clear-cut syndrome with signs and syndromes like a medical disease, but it is actually much more like blood pressure – it can range from very low to very high,” says Snowling, who goes on to detail the best ways schools can identify and then support children with dyslexia. She also addresses common misconceptions.
8. Three golden rules for supporting autistic students
Guest: Dr Luke Beardon, senior lecturer working within the Autism Centre at Sheffield Hallam University
Date published: 7 November 2018
What he says: “Being a teacher and having that level of expectation to engage with the autistic community without really good, solid levels of support is massively unfair on the teacher, the child and the family,” explains Beardon. “But there is no doubt we are failing these kids.” He offers his tips for turning this around.
9. How much of your lesson should be teacher talk?
Guest: Neil Mercer, emeritus professor of education at the University of Cambridge and director of Oracy Cambridge
Date published: 25 April 2018
What he says: “I always say to primary teachers, 'You are the only second chance for some children to have a rich language experience. If these children are not getting it in school, they are not getting it,” explains Mercer. He talks at length about the research on teacher and student talk, and about strategies that teachers need to implement to improve both their own spoken language skills and those of their students.
10. What every teacher needs to know about trauma
Guest: Essi Viding, professor of Developmental Psychopathology at UCL and Eamon McCrory, professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology at UCL
Date published: 31 October 2018
What they say: “It is important not to overinterpret this, to see it as brain damage," says McCrory on the effects of childhood trauma. "What we are seeing is that these changes are adaptive…and there is no reason these systems cannot recalibrate. A new set of environmental experiences can lead to new calibrations. Plasticity continues into early adulthood.”
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