About Crispin Weston

Founder and Chairman of SALTIS. Works on interoperability standards for education technology, particularly for K-12. Chairman of IST/43, BSI's committee for IT in learning, education and training.

Keep teaching to the test

Pupils fill an exam hall to take a GCSE exam at Maidstone Grammar school in Maidstone, Kent, U.K.Most of our common assumptions about assessment are wrong, perpetuating the poorly performing system in which we are trapped

This essay is an extended version of the talk I gave at the Bryanston Education Summit, on 6 June 2018. I must admit that at nearly 15,000 words, it is no quick read. But I hope you will be prepared to take the time to look at it, first, because I think you will find many of the arguments that it contains to be original and perhaps surprising; and second, because I believe that in presenting a carefully argued case against many of our current orthodoxies about assessment, it suggests how we need to move in a radical new direction in our search for solutions to our current problems with assessment.

Continue reading

Untangling the curriculum (1): Amanda Spielman


The renewed interest in the curriculum is welcome – but our public discourse is still confused

Everyone is talking about the curriculum again. Tim Oates has been arguing the importance of the curriculum for some time and, having chaired the Expert Panel on the Curriculum in 2011, helped provided the justification for the review of the National Curriculum in 2014. But now it is being said that the 2014 Curriculum Review did not finish the job. Although I agree, I think the current discourse is still horribly confused. My main argument is contained in my Why Curriculum Matters. In this three-part follow-up series, I shall look at the positions taken by Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, and John Blake, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, before sketching out what would be my policy recommendations for a new government focus on curriculum.

Continue reading

In defence of feedback


What do we mean by “feedback”? Is it useful? Is it (like revenge) better served cold? And what has this to do with Bjork’s new theory of disuse?

This is the first of a series of (what were supposed to be short) follow-up posts, responding to significant comments made by readers of my longer article Curriculum Matters. In this, the first, I discuss what we mean by feedback, is it more effective when it is immediate or when it is delayed, how does this question relate to Robert Bjork’s new theory of disuse, and how should teachers make sense of the complex (and often uncertain) theory on how the brain works? 11,000 words.

Continue reading

Why curriculum matters: a response to Tim Oates, Dylan William and Daisy Christodoulou

curriculum_300Why the views of our leading educationalists on the curriculum don’t add up

This is an expanded version of the talk that I gave at ResearchEd on 9 September 2017. In it I argue that Tim Oates, Dylan Wiliam and Daisy Christodoulou, all educationalists whom I admire, have nevertheless got much wrong in their account of the curriculum. 14,000 words. You can bookmark individual slides by right clicking on the “SLIDE X” caption and selecting “Copy link address”. Slides can be enlarged by clicking on the slide.

Continue reading

Managing the complexity of the classroom

complexitySystematic pedagogy is not defeated by the complexity of the classroom: it is the solution

In my previous post, Pedagogical romanticism, the ninth in my series on educational purpose, I proposed that our current model of education provision, which relies heavily on the intuition of autonomous teachers, was failing to manage the scale of modern education. But the alternative to the intuition of the human teacher is some sort of systematic pedagogy, which is commonly thought to be defeated by the complexity and unpredictability of the classroom. In this part I respond.

Continue reading

Pedagogical romanticism


Why trusting to the intuition (aka “professional judgement”) of individual teachers is wrong but wromantic*

Having explained in part eight that the failure of criterion referencing was due to poor implementation and not a mistaken ambition, in the next sequence of posts I shall explain why we still need to describe our educational objectives clearly and at a granular level. In this post (part 9 of my series on educational purpose) I shall explain why our current delivery model is failing and will continue to fail so long as we reject the explicit description of educational objectives.

Continue reading

The rise and fall of criterion referencing

criterionWhy criterion referencing got itself a bad name and why this does not mean that it should be abandoned

My previous six posts have examined the position on educational purpose taken by Professor Biesta. I have concluded that when he (like many of his child-centred colleagues) says that we should focus more on purpose, he does not mean to clarify but rather to obfuscate that purpose. He means to place responsibility on individual teachers to decide what their various, implicit and often meaningless purposes should be. This leaves no possibility of taking systematic action to achieve such objectives or of giving any clear account to the rest of society on how effectively this has been done. It is a model that sits uncomfortably with Professor Biesta’s professed desire to improve democratic accountability. In this post, I turn to the reasons why Daisy Christodoulou also opposes the explicit description of educational purpose.

Continue reading