All entries for March 2022

March 28, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Ruth Graham

What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated, and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact upon the teacher you aspire to be?

I hope to become a teacher who embodies the apparently oxymoronic qualities of planning and passion and, to create an alliterative trio, is also pupil-centred.

As a child I attended international school in Italy until I was nine, and then returned to primary school in England. On my arrival, I was unsure about the new syllabus, which included a language new to me, French. I worried the two terms of French I had missed had included vital information. This insecurity remained throughout my educational career and despite being a strong linguist, I abandoned French as soon as possible.

A planned and pupil-centred approach would have changed this. If my primary teacher had assessed my prior knowledge, as stipulated in TS 2, and explained what I had missed and how to rectify it, I could have built on a secure knowledge base.

As a teacher, I plan to value a child as an individual: understanding personal, family and educational circumstances; using diagnostic assessment to assess prior knowledge; and assuring them that together we will fill in gaps. This is particularly relevant in international schools with mobile populations. Just how strongly prior knowledge impacts a child’s learning was illustrated by researchers Recht and Leslie, who stated, ‘Prior knowledge creates a scaffolding for information in memory,’ (1988, p.19) and showed relevant prior knowledge was more strongly linked to mental retention of a text than reading ability.

The initial assessment stage of planning is just the beginning. Planning involves continual assessment, formative and summative; response to students’ needs; and delivery of structured, differentiated lessons meeting required learning outcomes.

The best planned lessons, however, will not make a lasting impact if they are not delivered with passion, with the belief the subject is valuable and exciting. Passion transforms knowledge into something which not only informs but inspires. In fact, according to Robert L Fried, ‘When I ask myself what makes the greatest difference in the quality of student learning - it is a teacher’s passion that leaps out,’ (2001, p.16).

Again, passion alone is unproductive. An English teacher at my comprehensive school, who declared shortly before my A Levels, ‘Life isn’t all about exams,’ abandoning set texts to explore personal favourites, plunged the class and fellow teachers into despair. However, combined, these two qualities can lead to an enjoyment and understanding of a subject which inspires lifelong learning, and fosters skills and knowledge supporting cross-curricular achievement.

My O Level English teacher exemplified this marriage of planning and passion, demonstrating outstanding understanding of TS 3 and 4. His knowledge of his subject was exceptional. I wanted to study journalism so he focused on my poor spelling. I remember the security I felt when, on the first lesson, he outlined the syllabus, what we would cover in each lesson and exactly how we would achieve this. I also remember out-of-hours film clubs with animated lectures on favourite directors; trips to the National Theatre; passionate discussions in class; and introductions to authors who have become lifelong sources of comfort, joy and inspiration.

The outpouring of emotion from past students on his death last year demonstrates the lifelong impact of a teacher who focuses on pupils’ individual needs with both passion and planning.

References list

Leslie, L. and Recht, D. (1988). Effect of Prior Knowledge on Good and Poor Readers' Memory of Text. Journal of Educational Psychology. 80 (1), pp. 16-20.

Fried, R. L. (2001). The Passionate Teacher: A Practical Guide. 2nd ed, Boston: Beacon Press.

March 21, 2022

The challenges and opportunities in supporting boys' achievement through engagement with reading

by Victoria Andrews

In July 2021, the Department for Education (DfE) published ‘The reading framework – Teaching the foundations of literacy’, this outlines the relationship between high reading standards and a child’s future academic achievement, wellbeing, and success in life (DfE, 2021). The reading and writing of standard English is central for pupils being able to access, and achieve, in the remainder of their academic curriculum. However, the National Literacy Trust report a significant gender gap regarding reading. Boys spend less time reading for enjoyment: in 2005, 46.1% of boys and 56.8% of girls read for enjoyment; by 2019 these percentages had grown slightly to 46.5% and 60.3% respectively (Clark, 2020). During the pandemic, reading for enjoyment widened from 2.3% at the beginning of 2020 to 11.5% during lockdown (Clark and Picton, 2020, p.2).

Geert Driessen’s 2011 study on ‘Gender Differences in Education’ voices a moral panic however, he questions whether the gender gap has widened in favour of girls or whether all pupils have progressed over the last few decades (Driessen, 2011). Charlotte Lichter demonstrates the historical pattern of the gender gap but has only recently been considered problematic, quoting John Locke’s concerns “for boys’ failure to master Latin and perfect written and oral English” in the eighteenth century (Lichter, 2007, p.7). While boys struggled to study classics, girls’ expressive oral skills were noted, Lichter contends that once girls gained access to education, and particularly language, it enabled them to outperform boys. (Lichter, 2007). Michele Cohen posits that boys’ underperformance was attributed to ‘a sign of his deep thinking and profound potential’ (Cohen, 1998, p.25). Indeed in 1923, the Board of Education detailed that boyishness was a habit of healthy idleness and this contentious idea of hegemonic masculinity is highlighted again in Hodgetts’ journal on ‘Underperformance or ‘Getting it right’?’ (Hodgetts, 2008). Hodgetts aligns with Lichter, writing that masculinity is not a new trend and analyses the constructions of gender in relation with boys’ achievement decline, in particular evaluating masculinity in reproducing the problem of boys’ underperformance, (Hodgetts, 2008). Reflecting on the historiography provided by Lichter, it is evident that the sociological constructions enabling boys’ underachievement in the English classroom, a place that is conceptualised as ‘feminine’, has ensured that the achievement gap remains.

Motivation is central for learning, however the way it is approached by girls and boys is different and thus, affects motivation. Intrinsic motivation explains behaviours driven by internal rewards rather than for gratification, regarding reading this is ‘reading for pleasure’ rather than for reward or recognition. Mark Roberts emphasises that girls have significantly higher intrinsic reading motivation thus, they can read without want of external reward or recognition (Roberts, 2022). Boys may lack intrinsic motivation for reading due to the perspective that reading is a feminine activity. Therefore, this reinforces the debate about the social construct of gender identity rather than simply biological make-up (Roberts, 2022, p.135). The consequence of boys’ low motivation for reading is severe, as the critical discussion points to an explicit relationship between frequency of reading and high achievement in English assessments (Department for Education, 2012).

There is a wider societal challenge of gender expectations which socialises young boys and girls from an early age which cannot be addressed within this essay nor in an immediate short-term plan due to the complexity of the issue. However, teachers can play a key role in positively supporting their students and creating a culture whereby reading is an inclusive activity. This will help to guide boys through the discourse of gender expectations and enable a more fluid idea of ‘masculinity’. In tackling the central cultural problem of identity through choosing more engaging and relevant texts for their students, teachers can become a force for good in helping to improve attainment and reduce boys’ anxiety about what it means to be masculine. There is not a singular reason which means that girls perform better in English assessments, it is rather that they do not face the same ostracization or peer pressure experienced by males and therefore are able to engage and attain to the best of their ability.

Reference List

Clark, C. and Teravainen-Goff, A. (2020) Children and young people’s reading in 2019 Findings from our Annual Literacy Survey National Literacy Trust.

Clark, C. and Picton I. (2020) Children and young people’s reading in 2020 before and during the COVID-19 lockdown. National Literacy Trust.

Department for Education (2012). Research evidence on reading for pleasure Education standards research team. [online] Available at:

Department for Education (2021). The reading framework Teaching the foundations of literacy. [online] Available at:

Driessen, G. (2011). Gender differences in education: Is there really a “boys’ problem”. In Annual Meeting ECER, Berlin.

Hodgetts, K. (2008). Underperformance or “getting it right”? Constructions of gender and achievement in the Australian inquiry into boys’ education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29(5), pp.465–477.

LICHTER, C. (2007). Manners, Intellect, and Potential: A Historiography on the Underachievement of Boys in Literacy. Counterpoints, [online] 315, pp.3–15. Available at: [Accessed 9 Jan. 2022].

Roberts, M. (2022). The boy question: how to teach boys to succeed in school. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Ny: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

March 14, 2022

Interested in diverse assessments? – Isabel Fischer et al.

Interested in diverse assessments? Join our learning circle for an exciting grant-funded project on the future of assessments.

Authors: Isabel Fischer; Leda Mirbaha; Lewis Beer; Dawn Collins; Peter Fossey; Celine Martin; Natasha Nakariakov; Pula Prakash; Farrah Vogel-Javeri

We have recently created an interdisciplinary learning circle which aims to optimise the learning opportunities for Warwick students. We want to ensure that the teaching and learning opportunities are inclusive and cater for our diverse student community. Assessment and feedback are critical stages in the learning process. Using diverse assessments will ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged or advantaged by a specific form of assessment. Although it is worth noting that what may count as diverse assessment in one faculty may not necessary be seen as a diverse assessment approach in another. Therefore, using diverse assessments comes with its own challenges and barriers such as:

  • Diversification without sufficient opportunity for students to practice and get familiar with the new and different forms of assessment, disadvantaging group of students that may not be as familiar with certain style of assessments
  • The resource and time component needed for familiarisation then reduces the uptake and engagement by faculty with more innovative assessment approaches

Therefore, the aim of this learning circle is to capture both staff and student experience of diverse assessments and to involve students, staff, and other stakeholders in shaping the future of assessments. Furthermore, the learning circle aims to develop practical recommendations on overcoming some of the challenges associated with use of diverse assessments which will significantly benefit the community.

To achieve this we need your support!

If we have not yet convinced you to join our learning circle, then read on:

Vision: Our vision is to foster an inclusive environment where assessments are designed and developed in partnership with students, staff, and external stakeholders, to effectively promote learning, valuing students’ uniqueness and considering their future employment(s) and wellbeing, as well as the social and environmental responsibility and sustainability of the wider community.

Mission. Our mission is to:

  • Gather existing data on practices around use of diverse and inclusive assessments, including Warwick staff and student experiences
  • Develop shared understanding of principles and practice of diverse assessment
  • Develop an evaluative framework for measuring the success of diversified assessment strategies at module, year, and course level
  • Capture student and staff views on diverse assessments

To help us achieve our mission we have successfully applied and been awarded a WIHEA funding which will enable us to capture staff and student experiences of some of the diverse and innovative assessment approaches used in different disciplines to address some of the key questions around: 1) perception of diverse assessments from a staff and student perspective, 2) practical tips for successful application of the assessment method and marking, 3) communicating assessed skills and requirements, 4) overcoming challenges. To achieve this, we will conduct interviews with staff and students and will share resources, included but not limited to examples of assessments, marking and feedback rubrics and assessment briefs.

For further information on joining the learning circle please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) ( and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) (

Stay tuned for further updates and blogs on our initiative, such as: Creative Projects and the ‘state of play’ in diverse assessments – Lewis Beer

March 07, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Wenjing Gong

What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact on the teacher you aspire to be?

My teaching philosophy has been profoundly formed and shaped by my touchstone. I was born and grew up in China, I started to learn English in Year 3, but l could not speak English until I entered University where I met the amazing teachers who totally changed my point of view in studying language. I am deeply inspired by their teaching methodology and passionately believe that the successful teaching in the language classroom lies in: positive classroom culture, cognitive engagement and academic achievement.

Creating a positive and engaging classroom atmosphere is one of the most powerful tools teachers can use to encourage children's learning and prevent problematic behaviours from occurring (Conroy 2009). I always greet and connect with each student individually at the beginning of the lesson, even if it takes a few minutes, it shows I see and care about them. Once we established a positive relationship with the class, we created a smooth path for our future teaching. The key to assertive discipline is catching students being good and letting them know you like it. (Lee Canter 1989) I take every opportunity to celebrate the joyful success of learning with students. I am very generous in giving praise in the classroom and providing positive homework feedback, as well as rewarding house points. For me, these are very powerful strategies for improving students’ learning and lead to greater motivation.

I still remember how hard I struggled to memorize all the grammar rules in high school. I was upset to see poor grades on examination papers after practising hundreds of question papers, let alone making a real dialogue. Influenced by my English learning experience, I believe the teachers’ role shouldn’t be just standing at the front of the classroom cramming details of grammar, but providing activities that engage students to apply the target language in communication and problem-solving. Inspired by Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory that people do not have just an intellectual capacity, but have many kinds of intelligence, including musical, interpersonal, spatial-visual, and linguistic intelligences (Howard Gardner 1983), I always present the lessons with pictures, videos, ICT tools, TPR, learning based activities to provide students with diverse and authentic Mandarin learning experience and carefully evaluate if the activities are the most effective use of the lesson time. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” - Ben Franklin. Assigning pair work and group work is another effective way to motivate active learning and encourage peer teaching. Not only helping to build up team spirit and trust connections among students by engaging everyone into meaningful tasks but also developing their communication and problem solving skills.

Besides providing my students with a rich and enjoyable learning journey, I also set high expectations and apply meaningful differentiation to challenge their academic potential. Frequently, I build core, extension and extension plus tasks to ensure that I extend the most able student, meanwhile ensuring the core curriculum is accessible to all learners. Teachers have 3 loves: love of learning, love of learners and the love of bringing the first two loves together - Scott Hayden. I am very grateful to be a teacher. It brings me a lot of happiness and fulfilment to witness each student’s improvement in their learning joinery, which makes my life more inspirational and meaningful.

Reference List

Lee Canter, 1989. Assertive Discipline: More than Names on the Board and Marbles in a Jar. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Sep., 1989), pp. 57-61

Maureen A. Conroy, Kevin S. Sutherland, Angela Snyder, Maha Al-Hendawi, Abigail Vo, Creating a Positive Classroom Atmosphere: Teachers' Use of Effective Praise and Feedback. Beyond Behavior, v18 n2 p18-26 Win 2009

Howard Gardner, 1983. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. NYC: Basic Books

March 01, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Caroline Doyle

What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated, and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact on the teacher you aspire to be?

There are three main experiences in my life that have influenced my developing philosophy as a teacher. These originate from my early education, degree and experience as a support worker for children and young people with special needs.

My first memory of school is being separated from the class based on lower ability. This continued throughout my education. Ultimately, I convinced myself that I was not smart, which became a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ (Ricci, 2017, page 3). I believed that it was not within my capabilities to achieve academically. I avoided trying and I struggled to find a love for learning because I often found it distressing or embarrassing to make mistakes. I had developed a ‘fixed mindset’ (Dweck, 2008), rather than a ‘growth mindset’ (Dweck, 2008). My philosophy is influenced by what I felt I lacked as a student – guidance to promote personal resilience and a love of learning (TS4). In my current teaching position, I facilitate weekly classes, ask daily circle time questions, and create visual aids designed to equip students with the tools to develop a growth mindset towards both their education and personal lives (TS5 and TS8). I believe that a teacher’s practice should align with their own beliefs, so I dedicate ongoing time and energy to the development of a personal growth mindset.

I studied drama at university where I learnt subjects such history, geography, and politics. I had previously felt somewhat alienated from these more academic subjects. I was excited by the blended subject matters, and I could naturally engage. I discovered a love of learning when it became achievable in my mind, because I now found relevance to something I already enjoyed. Now, I ask my students what they would like to discover each term. I then ask myself ‘what experiences, attitudes and resources can we weave into our curricula that make the generation of positive feelings more likely for each child?’ (Barnes, 2007, page 2). This term, I used food as theme across the curriculum. The students have learned measurement through cooking, explored other countries via cuisine and designed cookbook recipes using their writing skills. I will continue to harness the possibilities of cross-curricular teaching, where practical and achievable, with the intention of inspiring my students to foster an intellectual curiosity (TS4).

As a support worker, I was fortunate enough to gain insight into how I could cater to an individual’s needs. I learned that people benefit when their progress is viewed through a holistic lens. I believe emotional, personal, and social development should be celebrated alongside academic achievement. An example being how I nurture my student’s emotional growth with ‘mood monster’ boards. At the start of every class, we discuss how we feel (TS5). This encourages emotional literacy and generates empathy. Going forward, I aspire to become more proficient at nurturing all aspects of a child’s development into the planning of curriculum and classes (TS4). I also want to ensure that I take these aspects into consideration during formative and summative assessments (TS6) and when discussing a child’s progress and wellbeing with their parents (TS8).


Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, Ballantine Books.

Ricci, M.C. (2017). Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Growth Mindset Learning Community. Waco, Texas, Prufrock Press Inc. p. 3.

Barnes, J. (2007). Cross-Curricular learning 3-14. London, Sage Publications. p. 2.

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  • Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Great CPD reflection. by Joel Milburn on this entry
  • Hi Lucy, Thank you for sharing the highs and lows of diverse assessments. I hope you have inspired o… by Anna Tranter on this entry
  • Hello Lucy, I totally agree with everything you have said here. And well done for having the energy … by Natalie Sharpling on this entry
  • Thank you for setting up this Learning Circle. Clearly, this is an area where we can make real progr… by Gwen Van der Velden on this entry
  • It's wonderful to read of your success Alex and the fact that you've been able to eradicate some pre… by Catherine Glavina on this entry

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