Clare Green, Music teacher at WHS, reviews Susan Yarney’s book ‘Can I tell you about ADHD?’

Author Susan Yarney is a Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician, specialising in ADHD, who works for the National Health Service.

When we hear of students with a diagnosis of ’ADHD’ how do we react?

‘Can I tell you about ADHD?’ is a very helpful read as we endeavour to understand and accept all WHS students, in whatever way they present themselves.

Having never heard of ADHD from my own school days and teaching training, I was immediately struck by the date of a poem printed at the start of the book (1845) written by Heinrich Hoffman.[1]

Looking into this poem more I was shocked to read on a storynory page – “Fidgety Philip is another horrid creature from the poem Shock-Headed Peter by Heinrich Hoffmann”..[2] With such an attitude how can a professional nurture young people of all dispositions? I know my colleagues would never think of a student in that way – but how can we understand ADHD better?

An article in the British Medical Journal[3] asks, ‘Could Fidgety Philipp be proof that ADHD is not a modern phenomenon?’ “According to a new study, Zappel-Philipp,  a character in the 1846 children’s book Struwwelpeter, is probably the first written mention of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by a psychiatrist.”[4]

Fidgety Philipp upsets his chair in an illustration from the 1846 children’s book Struwwelpeter

Susan Yarney has written ‘Can I tell you about ADHD?’ for pupils themselves to read so they can understand themselves and the world better and find their voice in a world that may just be keen to label them as difficult – but it’s such a succinct and helpful guide for teachers and parents as well.

Being only 55 pages, it’s a very easy read and invaluable for gaining a better understanding. The book certainly encourages all to accept and know our students, and understand what activities they thrive on most, before we think about the label and indeed give further unspoken labels.

The book ends with 10 pages of very helpful ways friends, parents and teachers can help.

I hope you enjoy the book and gain a better insight into some of the students you teach.

Finally… see what you make of Heinrich Hoffman’s poem!

“Let me see if Philip can
Be a little gentleman;
Let me see if he is able
To sit still for once at table:”
Thus Papa bade Phil behave;
And Mamma looked very grave.
But fidgety Phil,
He won’t sit still;
He wriggles,
And giggles,
And then, I declare,
Swings backwards and forwards,
And tilts up his chair,
Just like any rocking-horse-
“Philip! I am getting cross!”
See the naughty, restless child
Growing still more rude and wild,
Till his chair falls over quite.
Philip screams with all his might,
Catches at the cloth, but then
That makes matters worse again.
Down upon the ground they fall,
Glasses, plates, knives, forks, and all.
How Mamma did fret and frown,
When she saw them tumbling down!
And Papa made such a face!
Philip is in sad disgrace.
Where is Philip, where is he?
Fairly covered up you see!
Cloth and all are lying on him;
He has pulled down all upon him.
What a terrible to-do!
Dishes, glasses, snapped in two!
Here a knife, and there a fork!
Philip, this is cruel work.
Table all so bare, and ah!
Poor Papa, and poor Mamma
Look quire cross, and wonder how
They shall have their dinner now.”

By Heinrich Hoffmann



[3] 2004 Sep 18; 329(7467): 643. By Roger Dobson

[4] The book, written for his son by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann contains a series of short stories about a boy called Zappel-Philipp, which translates as Fidgety Philipp. In a study in European Psychiatry Dr Johannes Thome, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wales School of Medicine, Swansea, and co-author Kerri Jacobs say the character has all the symptoms of ADHD.

John Gunn, RS Teacher at WHS, reviews Fintan O’Regan’s article about ADHD learners. O’Regan is a leading author and behaviour and learning specialist in the UK

O’Regan’s article ‘DEAR MR O’REGAN…PLEASE FIND MY LAUNDRY ENCLOSED’ focuses on children with ASD and ADHD during Coronavirus lockdown when schools were closed. He notes that, “for many families, weekends and holidays supporting children with conditions such as ASD or ADHD can be very stressful so this unexpected and unplanned extended period of time [Covid lockdown] may appear extremely daunting.”

He recollects a previous experience of a mother helping her son with ADHD complete some science homework, which took four hours to complete rather than the expected 20 minutes. She attached a note to her child’s teacher saying she was “enclosing her laundry” – presumably in recompense for the time she took helping with the Science homework! O’Regan states that, “…no amount of positive reinforcement or consequences for non-completion appeared to have any effect [for the boy].” Knowing that the child in question was “fine in class”, but “had major difficulties with organisation”, it is surprising that it took time for O’Regan to make the connection between the positives of structured learning and the negatives of unstructured learning for certain pupils.

The tips he suggests for parents read clearly, though whether they are practical is another matter. With regards to T&L for ADHD students at WHS, the article helps as a useful reminder of setting manageable tasks, allowing for breaks in between tasks, but most importantly the need for clear instructions and time allowance which all too often we may not specify clearly. There are obvious cases where pupils can manage their time well, especially with clear guidance from parents. What is possibly lacking is where such guidance is not forthcoming from staff setting work with such broad parameters.

At KS3, I’ve stopped saying ‘use your device to research’. Instead, I spend time looking at one or two websites or online documents which are not only suitable for the age group, but are easily accessible as well as useful. With clear guidance as to where to look (and indeed how to look on a particular website), how long to spend (set yourself a timer), and the limit of how much to note down and what to note down (set clear tasks and limit the space or word count), will not only help pupils with ADHD, but also pupils who do not have learning, behaviour or socialisation issues.

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide

Holly Beckwith, Head of Year 7 and Head of Politics, explores Siena Castellon’s book The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide. Holly says that it helped her, as a ‘neurotypical’ teacher, consider how a ‘neurodiverse’ student might view the world.

It was her chapter on mental health which I found most useful, particularly in its explanation of alexithymia, which is very common in autistic people.

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic was written by Siena Castellon when she was 16. She wrote the ‘guide’ so autistic teenage girls could read advice from another autistic teenage girl, rather than an autistic or neurotypical adult, by which she found most of the literature had been written. While teachers are not its target readership, I would argue it is an especially valuable read for us in seeking to better understand how we can support our neurodiverse students in addition to the pedagogical texts and research into cognitive science. It allowed me, as a neurotypical teacher, a view into the ways in which some of our neurodiverse students may see and experience the world differently as well as similarly to me. Reading her guide cultivated empathy that is more difficult to attain in other literature on neurodiversity.

She says of herself:

‘In many ways, I’m a typical teenage girl. I love music, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, makeup, chocolate and my awesome dog, Rico. Yet there is one important thing about me that makes me very different from most teenage girls. I’m autistic. I’m also dyslexic and dyspraxic, and I have ADHD.’

Siena is very aware of her own individuality as well as some of the commonality she may have with others with autism and so while it is very much her own experience which is drawn upon, some typicality can be inferred. It is both these things that help us as teachers build empathy and understanding and thus enable us to alter our approach or consider how we can empower our neurodiverse students to identify strategies to cope with the school environment.

But we must be mindful that this is one person’s experience that is mostly drawn upon and at times this comes through very strongly – particularly in the passage on toxic teachers, which addresses some sad and what would have been for her, traumatic, experiences in her school years.

Siena dedicates chapters to topics such as dating, surviving school, fashion, making friends and gender identity. It was her chapter on mental health which I found most useful, particularly in its explanation of alexithymia, which is very common in autistic people and I characterised by three main difficulties:

  • Difficulties in identifying what you’re feeling
  • Difficulties in describing your feelings to others
  • Difficulties in distinguishing between your feelings and the physical sensations related to an emotional response.

Siena shares stories of misunderstandings that have arisen since her emotions rarely match her facial expressions and the time delay she can have when it comes to identifying and processing emotions and I will share one here:

‘When our social battery is fully charged, we’re at our social best. As the social battery starts to drain, our social skills deteriorate until we reach the limit of our ability to socially interact. Social interaction comes at a price. It leaves us physically and emotionally spent. The only way for us to recover is for us to have time to ourselves so that can recuperate and recharge. […] When I’m at school, I try to ration my social battery so that it lasts the entire day. [..] When my social battery drains and my anxiety reaches critical levels, my ability to function drastically deteriorates. I become a lot clumsier, less tolerant of being touched, more rigid in my thinking, less able to cope with any changes in my schedule or routine and more sensitive to lights, noise and smells.’

Siena then offers a series of strategies she has used and encourages readers to identify their own in an empowering and encouraging way. This is Siena’s achievement and purpose – to address the challenges she faces candidly while also role modelling agency and ambition.

Trouble with Maths? Maths Anxiety? or Dyscalculia?

Rebecca Brown, GDST Trust Consultant Teacher for Maths and WHS Maths teacher, reviews part of Steve Chinn’s paper on The Trouble with Maths – a practical guide to helping learners with numeracy difficulties.

Each learner needs to be understood as an individual and the teaching style and lessons adapted to suit each individual learner.

Is it Dyscalculia or Mathematical learning difficulties? However it may be described, challenges with Maths create anxiety amongst children and adults alike.

The 2017 National Numeracy booklet, ‘A New Approach to Making the UK Numerate’ stated that ‘Government statistics suggest that 49% of the working-age population of England have the numeracy level that we expect of primary school children’. This indicates that having a difficulty with maths should not automatically earn you the label ‘dyscalculic’. So what does it mean to be successful at Maths and why does it make so many people anxious?

Two key factors which aid learning are ability and attitude. Some learners just feel that they can’t do Maths. They feel helpless around Maths. Maths can create anxiety and anxiety does not facilitate learning. Ashcraft et al (1998) have shown that anxiety in Maths can impact on working memory and thus depress performance even more.

More recent research using brain scanning has found that regions in the brain associated with threat and pain are activated in some people on the anticipation of having to do mathematics.

The key question, when faced with a learner who is struggling with learning maths is, ‘Where do I begin? How far back in Maths do I go to start the intervention?’ This may be a difference between the dyscalculic and the dyslexic learner or any learner who is also bad at maths. It may be that the fundamental concepts such as place value were never truly understood, merely articulated.

None of the underlying contributing factors are truly independent. Anxiety, for example, is a consequence of many influences.

Chinn favours the definition of dyscalculia to be ‘a perseverant condition that affects the ability to acquire mathematical skills despite appropriate instruction.’

A learner’s difficulties with Maths may be exacerbated by anxiety, poor working memory, inability to use and understand symbols, and an inflexible learning style. Chinn suggests adjustments to lessons to assist difficulties in maths based on four principles:

  1. Empathetic classroom management
  2. Responsive flexibility
  3. Developmental methods
  4. Effective communication.

In short, the issue is that not every child or adulty who is failing in Mathematics is dyscalculic. Even for those who do gain this label, it does not predict an outcome or even the level of intervention but as Chinn suggests whatever teaching experiences this pupil has had, they may have not been appropriate.

Deb McDowell, Head of Drama at WHS, reviews Andy Williamson’s podcast on the importance of developing autonomous intelligence

Deb McDowell, Head of Drama at WHS, reviews Andy Williamson’s podcast on the importance of developing autonomous intelligence in order to fulfil our potential as learners and navigate our lives with confidence. Deb reflects on how embracing metacognition could help us dismantle some of the more unhelpful and outdated aspects of our educational tradition.

‘Children should be taught how to think not what to think’ – Margaret Mead

Andy Williamson is an Oxford graduate, academic and founder of the Hampton Tutors, a US based academic coaching and tutoring agency. In July 2020 he launched the Hampton Tutors Podcast Network. In the first episode in his series of talks, (confusingly Episode 2 of the podcast series), Andy reflects on what it means to be ‘intelligent’ and the skills and tools we can develop in order to maximise our own learning and operate more effectively in an educational context and the world more broadly.

His clear and straightforward approach to this topic is refreshingly unpretentious as he asks the listener to consider the different ways we judge intelligence. He reminds us of various types of intelligence so often underappreciated within a competitive academic environment and uses comparisons with physical and sporting development to illustrate his points.

Williamson asks us to recognise that our educational system rewards depth of knowledge over breadth; how well we can zoom in on one narrow area. While this requires a great deal of hard work, what we are actually rewarding is diligence and memory rather than developed intelligence. I was minded to consider how much this reinforces cultural inequality and also discourages the kind of cognitive risk-taking and creative thinking we want to to see at WHS.

Andy applauds the breadth and depth of knowledge which is borne of hours of study and hard work, but proposes that true intelligence is applied when a person has the ability to adapt to a range of situations, and any test of intelligence should be measuring your capacity to learn. When faced with a challenge can you work out how to work it out?

I enjoyed how Williamson connected with the College students in his audience by using his Oxford interview as a good example of how he was taken out of his comfort zone; being purposely asked questions about a specific area of History he had never studied in order to test whether he could extrapolate, make connections and apply knowledge from other areas whilst all the time conscious he was almost certainly making errors.

This was a timely reminder that, particularly at A level, we must resist the urge to soothe away all the anxieties of those students who come to us seeking support; waving their mark schemes and asking for exemplars. What they really need is greater autonomy and we should be facilitating this – not attaching stabilisers to the bike they would otherwise be able to enjoy riding just as fast, if not faster than everyone else.

To reinforce the need to encourage learners to use metacognitive skills to become more autonomous as learners Williamson references Todd Rose’s ‘The End of Average’ which reminds us that using a statistical mean as the basis for any system is most likely to lead to something which ‘best fits’ very few. At this point I was minded to reflect on which learners are best served by our current education system, and more importantly, which are seriously disadvantaged.

Any Williamson outlines seven skills to have in a toolkit to support the development of autonomous intelligence. He asserts that by focussing on developing these skills we will improve academic outcomes and this will also help us re-frame how we see ourselves.

  • Metacognition: Knowing how best you learn.
  • Executive Function: Knowing how to manage tasks, time and people to learn better.
  • Growth Mindset: Being willing to push boundaries and get things wrong in order to learn.
  • Resilience and Endurance: Being able to endure disappointment and uncertainty.
  • Enjoyment: Finding an angle that interests you in what you are doing.
  • Communication: Ensuring your ideas are as precisely understood by someone else as they are by you.
  • Mindfulness: Using strategies to avoid over thinking and find contentment.

Williamson promises to talk in more detail about each of these in subsequent podcasts in order to identify what we can do to build our toolkit to become more efficient and effective learners and be more confident operating outside our individual comfort zones.  (Metacognition and Executive Function are already available as chapters 4 and 6 in the podcast series).

As statues fall and monuments are being re-evaluated in the light of much needed cultural change, it’s time for a radical re-think in Education. Perhaps, rather than relying completely on the traditional regurgitation of increasingly narrow spheres of knowledge – a system which arguably restricts diversity and reinforces inequality – we should be putting the acquisition of metacognitive skills at the forefront of what we do in schools.

Listen on Apple Podcasts here


Coutts, Director of Sport, gives a short review of Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel

She considers the ‘illusion of mastery’ and how metacognition can help students avoid falling into this trap with our games players


In Make it Stick, P. Brown, H. Roediger III and M. McDaniel discuss the Science of Successful Learning. In general, it’s an incredibly interesting book peppered with examples of how we learn most effectively. Being aware of how we learn and think, can result in an improved ability to problem solve, decision make and over-come hurdles (apologies for the sport pun!). The content is enjoyable, supported by various examples and easy to consume – it’s almost as if they know how to convey information and make it memorable!

This book begins by addressing how learners can fall into the trap of the ‘illusion of mastery’. This is where pupils think they have grasped what they have been taught but once tested fall short. Frequently the revision strategy for this approach would involve making notes and then reading and re-reading them time and time again, simply creating the feeling and appearance of mastery.

With the return of competitive sport on the horizon, I turned my thoughts to how I was going to avoid this illusion with our Wimbledonian games players and make the most of this insight.

Practically in Sport, we must then be careful of striking the balance between enhancing the efficiency and fluency of skills, at the detriment of pupils being able respond flexibly and adapt to an unknown scenario during competition.

When teaching open skills, for example during invasion games eg Netball, adopting a games-sense approach is a desirable method. This allows pupils to become more self-aware, encouraging meta-cognition and evaluation of their own success criteria. It helps them to really judge when they have grasped a skill and perform it under pressure, rather than think that they have without success to prove it. This means that the pupils are improving their skills in a more realistic environment so that they are transferable to high-level competition against other schools. Furthermore, the ability to reflect on your performance and then have a flexible skill set when responding is useful when a taught ‘set play’ is challenged by the opposition. This means that pupils can’t fall into the illusion trap as they are constantly being challenged and having to apply their knowledge and skills appropriately.

Another important aspect of learning in sport is the ability to recognise when similar situations occur during this open environment. In a match context, quick recognition of when a ‘set play’ could be implemented is beneficial as it allows pupils to respond effectively whilst under pressure. It also encourages reflection on your own learning and performance.

Although this games-sense approach needs a good skill base to be effective, I think that it prepares pupils for competitions more effectively by helping them to become better critiques of their own learning than solely focusing on closed drills.

Jaime-Lee, Head of Netball and Head of Year 10 at WHS, explores the journal article ‘Metacognition and Action’

Jaime-Lee, Head of Netball and Head of Year 10 at WHS, explores the journal article ‘Metacognition and Action’ to consider how to use metacognition to become elite in sport.

MacIntyre, T., Igou, E., Campbell, M., Moran, A. and Matthews, J. (2014). Metacognition and action: a new pathway to understanding social and cognitive aspects of expertise in sport. Frontiers in Psychology

Success in sport has traditionally centred around executing motor skills under competitive conditions. Sport provides benchmarks to distinguish the elite from the amateur, through performance outcomes (e.g. placing in a race), player statistics (e.g. shooting percentage in Basketball) or level of competition (e.g. National vs. County). In addition to the data that is readily available to all performers, athletes are looking beyond the strictly measurable in order to advance in their sporting area.

Metacognitive processes have become a pivotal part of an elite athlete’s repertoire to give them the competitive edge. In sport, metacognitive processes can be used in a variety of ways both in training and in competition. Below are some examples of how athletes can use metacognition to better their physical attributes.

  • The use of mental imagery and mental practice, in which athletes play out physical skills and/or scenarios in their mind. This could include, an athlete imagining themselves in the starting blocks, acknowledging all of their senses.
  • Pre-performance routines, in which an athlete engages systematically in a sequence of actions prior to their performance. This could include, stepping out an athlete’s run up in Long Jump or the position a ball is placed while taking a penalty kick.
  • The use of strategies and set plays, in which decision making is done prior to an athlete’s performance. This could include, anticipating your oppositions movements in Netball and planning counter moves.

The use of metacognitive process not only reduces the chances of error but maximises an athlete’s physical capabilities. Elite athletes need to be not just be experts in movement execution but also experts in controlling their own mental processes.


Lucia Flaherty, Teacher of English, reviews the podcast ‘Trialled and Tested’

Lucia Flaherty, Teacher of English, reviews the podcast ‘Trialled and Tested’, in which Jamie Scott and Alex Quigley explore how students must learn to verbalise the process of metacognition early.


‘Metacognition is intuitive […] We just need to give it a language’ – Alex Quigley


This week, in a bid to think about metacognition off screen, I have been listening to the podcast ‘Trialled and Tested’. In the first episode, Jamie Scott and Alex Quigley explore what metacognition and self-regulation is and how it can be implemented in the classroom. There was more food for thought in the podcast than a review can cover so I’ve focused on what resonated the most with me: the type of language we can use to talk about what metacognition looks like in the classroom.

Alex Quigley is quick to note the values of metacognition with the impressive statistic that it can provide ‘7 months of additional progress in 12 months’ when students use metacognitive strategies effectively. The problem is that a surprising amount of students are rather poor at metacognitive skills. Consider the default revision method (even used by university students) of reading over and highlighting notes when this has been shown to be a very ineffective strategy.[1]

To help solve this, Quigley believes that students must start metacognition early and learn the language to verbalise what is an intuitive process. To start, he defined a 3-stage process that he refers to as ‘metacognitive regulation’.[2] It is simply:

  • Plan
  • Monitor
  • Evaluate

These are things we do in our daily lives such as planning to take an earlier bus so that we are not anxious about being late to work. We monitor what the traffic is like and whether we should change to walking instead. We then evaluate whether our journey was a success. Did we arrive on time? Would we take that bus again?

This is a process that both teachers and students do in lessons all the time but Quigley says that the trick is to verbalise it. He noted how the same process looks in ‘the best Art lesson he ever saw’.[3]

  • Plan: The teacher verbalises the planning process by introducing the task and discussing the strategies needed to draw a self-portrait. What tools should we use? Why is a pencil best? How did I prepare for this drawing?


  • Monitor: The teacher would model a self-portrait and monitor what he was doing to create the art in real time. What shapes are being used? How should the pencil be held? How did I know where to start?


  • Evaluate: At the end, students and teachers evaluated the drawing done. What are the successes? What would you change? Was it a clear process? Did you struggle or was it a seamless process?


Coming from the land of teacher training that talked in ‘starters’, ‘objectives’, ‘main activity’ and ‘plenary’, I rather prefer Quigley’s language for the process of learning and how to structure a lesson that puts metacognition at the heart of it.

Lucia Flaherty

[1] Jeffrey D. Karpicke, Andrew C. Butler & Henry L. Roediger III (2009) Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practise retrieval when they study on their own?, Memory, 17:4, 471-479, DOI: 10.1080/09658210802647009

[2] Jamie Scott (2018), Metacognition and Self-Regulation [Trialled and Tested], 8th September, Available at:, (Accessed: 09.02.21)

[3] Ibid.

John Gunn, Teacher of Religious Studies at WHS, emphasises the importance of “being careful to think about thinking” as teachers

Have you ever walked into a classroom and made an initial judgment which you can’t see to amend? Perhaps when we make initial observations, we are comparing two things and judging their similarities? If our judgments are distorted by perception, how can we be sure that our decision making is having a positive impact on teaching and learning? This is why it is so important for us to think first about why we think the way we do. Not only will this reflection allow us to consider how we come to make judgments, but also make us factor in the unknown in our decision making.


The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis

On each round of a game, 20 marbles are distributed at random among five children: Alan, Ben, Carl, Dan, and Ed. Consider the following distribution:

Type I   Type II  
Alan 4 Alan 4
Ben 4 Ben 4
Carl 5 Carl 4
Dan 4 Dan 4
Ed 3 Ed 4


In many rounds of the game, will there be more results of type I or type II?[1]

If you have spent a moment looking at the above example, I wonder if you thought why you chose type I or type II. What are we doing when we make judgments? How do we take pieces of information, process them, and come to a decision or judgment?

For one or more answers, I recently read The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis in which he tracks the careers and lives of two of the greatest psychologists, Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

The above table is taken from Lewis’ book, chapter 6, The Mind’s Rules. Questions such as, ‘when/where was human judgment likely to go wrong’, ‘why do people often say that they were doing one thing when they were actually doing another’ ‘what are people doing when they judge probability’ are examples which Kahneman & Tversky try and tackle. In their paper Subjective Probability: A Judgment of Representativeness[2] Kahneman & Tversky attempt to ‘demonstrate people make predictable and systematic errors in the evaluation of uncertain events’. If nothing else this should get you thinking about thinking. Part of their approach comes from the premise that when people make judgments, they compare whatever they are judging to some model in their minds. “Our thesis is that, in many situations, an event A is judged to be more probable than an event B whenever A appears more representative than B.”[3] So, take a look again at the above example. Do you know why you chose type I or type II? If you think that the uneven distribution of type I is more likely than all the children receiving four marbles each, then think again. Just because type II “appears too lawful to be the result of a random process…”[4] it doesn’t mean it is wrong. This is something worth thinking about, “if our minds can be misled by our false stereotype of something as measurable as randomness, how much might they be misled by other, vaguer stereotypes?”[5]

Throughout the book there are questions raised about our understanding of how hard it is to know anything for sure. Kahneman himself favoured Gestalt psychology which sought to explore the mysteries of the human mind. The central question posed by Gestalt psychologists was, ‘how does the brain create meaning?’ Look at the two parallel lines below.[6] Are you really going to insist that one line is longer than the other?

If perception has the power to overwhelm reality in such a simple case, how much power might it have in a more complicated one?

For those of you of a more medical persuasion you may prefer Chapter 8 which tracks the impact Kahneman & Tversky had on Dr. Don Redelmeier, an internist-researcher. Working at Sunnybrook, Canada’s largest trauma centre he says, “You need to be so careful when there is one simple diagnosis that instantly pops into your mind that beautifully explains everything all at once. That’s when you need to stop and check your thinking.”[7] This is not to say that the first thing that comes into our mind is wrong, but because it was in our mind, we become more certain of it. How costly may this be in school life? This I think is highlighted in an example of a maths problems in which we can check our answers to see if we have erred. In comparison to education it highlights an interesting thought. “…If we are fallible in algebra, where the answers are clear, how much more fallible must we be in a world where the answers are much less clear?”[8] This is certainly a book to read from cover to cover even if it doesn’t give you all the answers why we should be careful to think about thinking.

[1] Lewis, P176

[2] Published 1972

[3] Lewis, P182

[4] Subjective Probability: A Judgment of Representativeness, p5

[5] Lewis, P184

[6] Lewis, P76

[7] Lewis, P214

[8] Lewis, P221

George Cook, explores ideas from The Culture Code (Daniel Coyle) and Radical Candor (Kim Scott)

George Cook, Head of Hockey at WHS, explores ideas from The Culture Code (Daniel Coyle) and Radical Candor (Kim Scott). These books show that it is less about the questions we ask, and more about the environment we create that enables us to ask them. Culture is everything.

Questioning is a hot topic in the world of education. What type of questioning do you use? What type of questioning should you be using?

There is no doubt that questioning allows us, as the teacher, to identify areas of strength and weakness in our classes. It gives opportunity to really challenge the most gifted, stretching and pushing the limits of their understanding. It is a great tool because in the same breath we can use questioning to give great confidence to those who are unsure or perhaps, normally, quieter and more reserved in lessons.

However, according to the two books listed above, the type of question you use and who you ask it to, is irrelevant if the environment we create is not quite right.

The Culture Code examines many high performing groups ranging from high end military task forces and airline pilots, to successful start-up companies as well as big hitters like Google. On the face of it, none of these groups have much in common. Apart from the culture they have developed, built on honest two-way communication and trust.

It was found that regular small snippets of communication within these high functioning groups allowed them to not only know each other better, but made sure they stayed on track throughout the task at hand to complete it in the most accurate and efficient way possible. The opposite of this in a classroom situation would be to wait for over an hour into a lesson before catching a pupil off guard with a challenging question to answer in front of their peers. Small and frequent two-way communication is much more effective.

Radical Candor states that if we are to have open and honest communication in our groups and teams then we must instil two key elements first. Firstly, care personally about all those in your class, and show it! As teachers we do this more often than we might expect and can be as simple as asking a pupil how their weekend was etc. The second element is to challenge directly. Challenge the beliefs of pupils directly, but also actively encourage them to do the same to us as this is more likely to build trusting relationships where more in depth and honest discussions and conversations can be had.

If we can take these lessons and implement them into our classroom and practical teaching, then we are far more likely to have open and lively debate and discussion that includes all members of the group and not just those that feel confident in the subject area. This is why I think the culture we build around questioning is equally important as the type of questions we use.