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Jotter - Little pigs will fly

For those who are a confused about the difference between "lower order" and "higher order" skills, our own leadership guru Graham Thomson provided a gratifying illustration at his conference in Edinburgh the other week.

Take the tale of the three little pigs. Asking pupils for some factual recall, such as "how many pigs are there?", would be a lower-order skill - which, he tells us, is what 95.9 per cent of questions asked in P7-S6 classes consist of.

More challenging, and of a higher order, would be a question such as "can you think of a different ending?" Or, the piece de resistance, "can you justify the wolf's actions?"

Go on, impress me

John Carnochan, one of Strathclyde's finest and surely one of the country's best public speakers (when chief medical officer Harry Burns is off duty), likes quoting brains - but is not overly captivated by them.

At the aforementioned leadership conference, he cited brainbox global systems expert Thomas Homer-Dixon: "Anyone called Homer, you've got to listen to them, wouldn't you?" As for Chicago University don James Heckman: "He has a brain the size of Luxembourg but you wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with him: you know, he's not a hoot".

Feel at home

Father Frank Dougan, vice-rector of the Scots College in Rome, gave Catholic heads a taste of Scottish succinctness outside a Scottish-themed bar in the city: "Skip the Trevi; have a bevy."

Building blocks

Frances Fulton, retiring after (a record-breaking) 27 years in charge of invigilation at Glasgow's Holyrood Secondary, recalls the time she silenced a nursery class in the interests of Higher geography - but nearly ruined the school's future intake. It was while the builders were in and exams were run in the huts. Frances says: "The head of the neighbouring nursery, happy that the on-site builders had been watching their language in front of pupils, decided to reward them with the whole nursery singing Bob the Builder to them, where the Higher geography exam was underway. I shot out and silenced the nursery, and `Bob the Builder' downed tools with very sulky looks."

Holyrood's then headteacher, Finbarr Moynihan, told her: "Well, Frances, you may have saved Higher geography, but I think we might have a hole in our first year intake in eight years' time!"

A time and a place

Lib Dem MSP Hugh O'Donnell seized the opportunity recently to ask First Minister Alex Salmond about the abuse of teachers in the classroom. He told the famously combative Salmond, as Labour members heckled: "I'm sure the First Minister will agree that even shouting can be a form of abuse in the workplace."

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