Category: Book Notes

Notes from ‘Differentiated Coaching’

I read this book about six months ago and have just got round to typing up my notes; I found it less to be about coaching per say; and more how to use coaching and the pre-conditions needed for coaching to succeed.


Six key steps for using coaching for effective staff development:

  1. Use a common framework for unbiased reflection on education.
  2. Understanding the strengths and beliefs of the teachers, instead of relying on our own ingrained beliefs of why teachers resist change.
  3. Provide information and evidence to influence teacher’s beliefs about how students learn.
  4. Meet the needs of individual teachers, often through coaching; however not all teachers would want a coach in their classroom for a significant amount of time.
  5. Focus on the problems teachers want to solve.
  6. Encourage deep, reflective collaboration.

A quote from Michael Fullan summarises what school reformers have learnt over past decades:

“The hardest core to crack is the learning core – changes in instructional practices and in the culture  of teaching towards greater collaborative relationships among students, teachers and other potential partners. Stated differently, to restructure is not to reculture – a lesson increasingly echoed in other attempts at reform. Changing formal structures is not the same as changing norms, habits, skills and beliefs.”

Pre-observation conferences are necessary to discuss:

  • Build trust.
  • Clarify the lesson goals and objectives.
  • Seek the coached input on what should be observed.
  • Help the coached clarify how they think the lesson would work.

Coaches often help teachers understand the benefits of practitioner research. Many teachers  seem to suffer from “research anxiety” stemming from several causes such as:

  • It will be too time consuming – a coach can help reframe action research as a part of a normal part of looking at student work.
  • I won’t discover anything useful – a coach can help a teacher identify the questions he or she wants answered and why other teachers might be interested as well.
  • I ‘m not a researcher – a coach can help tailor a research effort to match a teacher’s strength.
  • I don’t know what to measure or how to measure. – A coach can point out useful data besides assessment data.

Coaches can take on several roles, including:

  • Helping teachers select and define a problem that (a) interests them, (b) is within their realm of influence, and (c) involves measurable outcomes.
  • Brainstorm solution sets.
  • Providing guidance in selecting options.
  • Working with teachers, and helping teachers get beyond their habitual beliefs.

What gets in the way of teacher collaboration:

  • A culture of silence – that discourages teachers from talking about their classrooms; teachers are  afraid of being viewed as incompetent, or of being censured for questioning conventional wisdom.
  • Teachers as individual entrepreneurs or executives. Executives do not take kindly to others’ critique of their methods, decisions, or demeanour. Teachers reign in there individual classrooms and therefore take on executive characteristics.
  • Teaching as creative expression – a common theme is teaching can’t be taught; each teacher discovers his or her own norm of practice.
  • Bias towards noninterference.
  • Lack of common goals and meaning.
  • Intensifying work.

What is required for collaboration:

  • Time for reflective discussion.
  • A common framework for discussion teaching and learning.
  • Trust, respect, and honesty.
  • A willingness to probe one’s own beliefs and acknowledge boundaries of one’s experience.
  • Articulated goals to measure effectiveness.
  • If these are not present, a coach’s role is to help a team develop them.

A framework for authentic school change:

  1. A deep understanding of teachers’ strengths and beliefs.
  2. Concrete evidence that influence beliefs and shows that change will be worth the effort.
  3. Communication and assistance (coaching) in ways that meet each teacher’s learning style and needs.
  4. A focus on problems that concern the teachers.
  5. Deep collaboration.
  6. A common framework for unbiased discussion of education.

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.- Buckminster Fuller

Notes from ‘Busy’ by Tony Crabbe

This book was an interesting one; and one that is relevant in all walks of life. However there are some clear ideas that can be applied to teaching. The below are my notes:


‘Busyness’ is that frantic, always alert, multitasking that propels us through overburdened lives. It involves being always ‘on’, glancing regularly at our phones and jumping from task to task. It is the juggling, cramming, and rushing that makes up so much of our daily existence. It is urgency, distraction and exhaustion.

Why is busyness a bad thing?

  • Busyness is bad for your health – accelerated wear and tear on the human body.
  • Busyness is bad for relationships.
  • Busyness is bad for your happiness – people who focus on external values – money, stuff and status – are less happy and less healthy than people who focus on things that busyness kills: relationships, personal growth, or contribution to your community.
  • Busyness is bad for your career – it is not quantity that matters – the thing that matters it is attention and differentiation: people who are able to cut through the frenzy of activity are who get notice.
  • Busyness is bad for business – creativity is needed over busy.

Why we’re really busy

  • Lack of control – we give up our sense of control and feel helpless in the face of so many demands.
  • Lack of choice – We are too lazy to think of alternatives; busyness is the easiest option.
  • Lack of boundaries – work life boundary is diminished due to technology.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Lack of momentum.

How to find time – quick ways to create space in your life

  1. Use the word ‘because’ – when turning down a request that will take up time use the word because; this makes the listener respond as though there must be a good reason.
  2. Switch off – be deliberate and intentional when you ‘check in’ on main and messages.
  3. Turn off the notifier – turn off the ping or email notification.
  4. Kill a meeting – either cancel a meeting or don’t attend.
  5. Think of the time … and double it – when planning how long a task will take, estimate it and then double it.
  6. Watch the clock – if you want to get through a large amount of tasks carefully watch the clock as this will focus you and help you work quicker.
  7. Finish on time – this helps raise time awareness, and it also stops creating space and time in our diaries.
  8. Start Quicker – read through a task or think through a task early on – then leave it and work on something else – your subconscious will be thinking through the task which will make it easier when attempting the main body.
  9. Clear your head – write down ideas rather than remember them, don’t analyse things when you record them. Go through your brain-dump list regularly.
  10. Hold on a minute – think through a task before you start it to ensure you are doing it the most efficient way.
  11. Take a (good) break – When you take a break (and do) make sure it is a valuable one and do something different than you have been doing.

Feeling More In Control

You cannot control the demands made on you, however you can feel in control of your response to those demands.

  • Let go – let the inputs wash by you, and focus on the outputs you choose to make.
  • It’s not your fault you can’t do it all – let go of your desire to do it all.
  • Create a rhythm to you day, build in breaks and recovery tim to reduce you allostatic load and to increase you ability to immerse yourself in the things that are important.

How to Make Better Choices

  • We make great choices when we’re cold, but in the grip of temptation (when we’re hot) all our best intentions disappear. So stay ‘cold’ for longer, and make better decisions about your priorities.
  • When the brain is tired, we’re more likely to do the thing that requires less choice, less risk/ That means the busy, depleted brain is less able to make the choices to step beyond busyness. Make your choices when your brain is fresh.

Setting Limits

  • Boundaries restrict us, but they also protect us; we have to set them, and negotiate them ourselves.
  • Manage your boundaries in three ways: offer more to get more in return; be clear about which boundaries matter for you.
  • When negotiating don’t offer just one option; but three; more often than not, people will choose the middle ‘compromise’ option.

Being Different: Positioning and Differentiation

  • There are two ways to succeed: through productivity (the ‘More’ game) or through differentiation. The best way is to differentiate yourself; do things better.
  • There are four strategic positions you can take: everything, everyone; audience-based; product-based; niche. Everything, everyone is the most common, and it’s rubbish. Audience-based differentiation means serving the unique needs of your key stakeholders; product-based differentiation means developing unique capabilities or expertise.
  • Trade-offs: choosing not to pursue great ideas in order to go deep on others is hard, but that is strategy.

Efficient Thinking

  • The big thing to remember if you want to think better is to minimise your multitasking. Switching regularly between tasks makes you slower and dumber, even if you feel productive.
  • Do one thing at a time by getting things out of your head and externalising your thinking.
  • Cut down on the amount you switch your attention between tasks by working in bigger chunks of time, and minimising distraction.

Stop Procrastinating

  • Busyness is a form of procrastination: doing lots of simple, un-taxing activities rather than a few important ones.
  • The four horseman of procrastination are: Perfection, Mood, Fear and Dependence.
  • Deal with perfection by creating momentum through thin-slicing and swiss-cheesing. (Thin-slicing is tackling a task for dedicated fixed periods of time; whereas swiss-cheesing is tackling bits of a task one by one).
  • When you’re ‘not in the Mood’ make progress despite that by selecting useful, but easier tasks; reverse your mood with music or movement.


  • To make a less defensive, more positive approach requires confidence. To build confidence you need to work on your self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  • Low self-esteem makes us poorer judges of the best focus of our attention, focusing on keeping everyone happy all of the time, and trapping us in a prevention mindset.
  • Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and to make mistakes – all three things we need to move beyond busyness.
  • High self-efficacy makes you more able to take the ‘road less travelled’ – it increases your belief, lets you persist longer in the face of challenges, and you experience more flow.
  • When you’re confident you will be able to cope no matter what ; you will have self-efficacy.

It is important to ‘Make Good Intentions Stick’

Building Momentum

  • Good intentions don’t last long; if you intent to do something, take action quickly! It’s all about momentum.
  • It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lapse into inertia. So start building momentum by getting really clear about the behaviour you want to change, and the context you’ll make that change in.
  • Start really small, build on the fact that we like to be consistent and make the next step for yourself obvious.


  • To make lasting changes you need willpower. But one thing is almost certain: your willpower is weaker than you think it is.
  • Willpower is limited; it gets used up, leaving us ego depleted and less able to resist further temptations.
  • The good news is that you can strengthen your willpower. A strengthening of willpower in one area spreads to other aspects of your life.

Notes from ‘Prisoners of Geography’

This book is an interesting read that looks at the impact of Geography on global politics; I have made some notes from my reading. However there is much more in the book that I left out of my notes!


The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars the power, politics and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth. Technology may seem to overcome the distances between us in both mental and physical space, but it is easy to forget that the land where we live, work and raise our children is hugely important, and that the choices of those who lead the seven billion in habitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lake and seas that constrain as all -as they always have.

There are numerous examples of how different countries are limited by there geography, for example the author states that “In Russia we see the influence of the Arctic, and how its freezing climate limits Russia’s ability to be a truly global power. In China we see the limitation of power without a global navy.” Or alternatively how geographical decisions in the past impact the future: “The conflict in Iraq and Syria is rooted in colonial powers ignoring the rules of geography, whereas the Chinese occupation of Tibet is rooted in obeying them; America’s global foreign policy is dictated by them” These claims, among others made in the introduction are later discussed in further chapters.


Russia is not an Asian power for many reasons. 75 per cent of its territory is in Asia, only 22 per cent of its population lives there. Siberia may be Russia’s ‘treasure chest’, containing the majority of the mineral wealth, oil, and gas, but it is a harsh land, freezing for months on end, with vast forest (taiga), poor soil for farming and large stretches of swampland. Only two railway networks run west to earth. There are few transport routs leading north to south and so no easy way for Russia to project power southward into modern Mongolia or China; it lacks the manpower and supply lines to do so.


Until now China has never been a naval power- with its large land mass, multiple borders and short sea routes to trading partners, it had no need to be, and it was rarely ideologically expansive. Its merchants have long sailed the oceans to trade goods, btus its navy did not seek territory beyond its region, and the difficulty of patrolling the great sea lanes of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans was not worth the effort. It was always a land power, with a lot of land and a lot of people – now nearly 1.4 billion.

[The reason for the Chinese control of Tibet] is the geopolitics of fear. IF China did not control Tibet, it would be always be possible that India might attempt to do so. This would give India the commanding heights of the Tibetan Plateau and a base from which to push into the Chinese heartland, as well as control of the Tibetan sources of three of China’s great rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong.

China has locked itself into the global economy. If we don’t buy, they don’t make. And if they don’t make there will be mass unemployment. If there is mass and long-term unemployment, in an age when the Chinese are a people packed into urban areas, the inevitable social unrest could be – like everything else in modern China – on a scale hitherto unseen.

Western Europe

Western Europe has no real deserts, the frozen wasters are confined to a few areas in the far north, and earthquakes, volcanoes and massive flooding are rare. The rivers are long, flat , navigable and made for trade. As they empty into a variety of seas and oceans they flow into coast lines which are, west, north and south, abundant in natural harbours.

Greece suffers due to its geography. Much of the coastline comprises steep cliffs and there are few coastal plains for agriculture. Inland are more steep cliffs, rivers which will not allow transportation, and few wide, fertile valleys. What agricultural land there is is of high quality; the problem is that there is too little of it to allow Greece to become a major agricultural exporter, or to develop more than a handful of major urban areas containing highly educated, highly skilled and technologically advanced populations.

Geographically, the Brits are in a good place. Good farmland, decent rives, excellent access to the seas and their fish stocks, close enough to the European Continent to trade and yet protected by dint of being an island race – there have been times when the UK gave thanks for its geography as wars and revolutions wept over its neighbours.


Africa’s coastline? Great beaches, really, really, really loverly beaches, but terrible natural harbours. Rivers? Amazing rivers but most of them are rubbish for actually transporting anything, given that every few miles you go over a waterfall.

As long ago as the fifth century BCE the historian Herodotus said: ‘Egypt is the Nile, and the Nile is Egypt.’ It is still true, and so a threat to the supply to Egypt’s 700-mile-long, fully navigable section of the Nile is for Cairo a concern – one over which it would be prepared to go to ware. Without the Nile, there would be no one there. It may be a huge country, but the vast majority of its 84 million population lives within a few miles of the Nile. Measured by the area in which people dwell, Egypt is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The Africa of the past was given no choice – its geography shaped it – and then the Europeans engineered most of today’s borders. Now with its booming populations and developing mega-cities, it has no choice but to embrace the modern globalised world to which it is so connected.

The Middle East

The Middle of What? East of Where? The region’s very name is based on a European view of the world, and it is a European view of the region that shaped it. The Europeans used ink to draw lines on maps: they were lines that did not exist in reality and created some of the most artificial borders the world has seen.

Groups such as Al Qaeda and, more recently, Islamic State have garnered what support they have partially because of the humiliation caused by colonialism and then the failure of pan-Arab nationalism – and to an extent the Arab nation state. Arab leaders have failed to deliver prosperity or freedom, and the siren call of Islamism, which promises to solve all problems, has proved attractive to many in a region marked by a toxic mix of piety, unemployment and repression.

In impoverished societies with few accountable institutions, power rests with gangs disguised as ‘militia’ and ‘political parties’. While they fight for power, sometimes cheered on by naive Western sympathisers many innocent people die.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan can agree on one thing: neither wants the other one around. This is somewhat problematic given they share a 900-mile long border.

Pakistan is geographically, economically, demographically and militarily weaker than India. Its national identity is also not as strong. India, despite its size, cultural diversity, and secessionist movements, has built a solid secular democracy with a unified sense of Indian identity. Pakistan wis an Islamic state with a  history of dictatorship and populations whose loyalty is often more to their cultural region than to the state.

With India, it always comes back to Pakistan, and with Pakistan, to India.


How do you solve a problem like Korea? You don’t, you just manage it – after all, there’s a lot of other stuff going on around the world which needs immediate attention.

North Korea is a poverty-stricken country of an estimated 25 million people, led by a basket case of a morally corrupt, bankrupt Communist monarchy, and supported by China, partly out of a fear of millions of refugees flooding north across the Yalu River. The USA, anxious that a military withdrawal would send out the wrong signal and embolden North Korean adventurism, continues to station almost 30,00 troops in South Korea, and the South, with mixed feelings about risking its prosperity, continues to do little to advance reunification.

The geography of the peninsula is fairly uncomplicated and a reminder of how artificial the division is between North and South. The real (broad-brush) split is west to east. The west of the peninsula is much flatter than the east and is where the majority of people life. The east has the Hamgyon mountain range in the north and lower ranges in the south. The demilitarised zone (DMZ), which cuts the peninsular in half, in parts follows the path of the Imjin-gang River, but this was never a natural barrier between two entities, just a river within a unified geographical space all too frequently entered by foreigners.

Latin America

Latin America, particularly its south, is proof that you can bring the Old World’s knowledge and technology to the new, but if geography is against you, then you will have limited success, especially if you get the politics wrong. Just as the geography of the USA helped it become a great power, so that of the twenty countries to the south ensures that none will rise to seriously challenge the North American giant this century nor come together to do so collectively.

The River Amazon may be navigable in parts, but its banks are muddy and the surrounding land makes it difficult to build on. This problem, too, seriously limits the amount of profitable land available.

The Arctic

The effects of global warming are now showing more than ever in the Arctic: the ice is melting, allowing easier access to the region, coinciding with the discovery of energy deposits and the development of technology to get at them – all of which has focused the Arctic nations’ attention on the potential gains and losses to be made in the world’s most difficult environment.

the Arctic Ocean is 5.4 million square miles; this might make it the world’s smallest ocean but it is still almost as big as Russia, and one and a half times the size of the USA.

There currently are at least nine legal disputes and claims over sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean, all legally complicated, and some with the potential to cause serious tensions between the nations. One of the most brazen comes from the Russians: Moscow has already put a marker down – a long way down. In 2007 it sent two manned submersibles 13,980 feet below the waves to the seabed of the North Pole and planted a rust-proof titanium Russian flag as a statement of ambition.

Perhaps the Arctic will turn out to be just another battleground for the nation states – after all, wars are started by fear of the other as well as by greed; but the Arctic is different, and so perhaps how it is dealt with will be different.




Pretty Good – or why we need Great Expectations in Education.

This poem was in ‘There are no shortcuts’ by Rafe Esquith, however was written by Charles Osgood in 1986. It is an interesting read and is an interesting explanation of why teachers should continually improve.

exam hall

Pretty Good

There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class;
And was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass –
He wasn’t terrific at reading,
He wasn’t a whiz-bang at math,
But for him, education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.

He didn’t find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well;
And he did have some trouble with writing,
Since nobody taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine-
5+5 needn’t always add up to be 10
A pretty good answer was 9.
The pretty good class that he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school;
And the student was not an exception,
On the contrary, he was the rule.

The pretty good school that he went to
Was there in a pretty good town,
And nobody there seemed to notice
He could not tell a verb from a noun.
The pretty good student in fact was
Part of a pretty good mob;
And the first time he knew what he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough,
And he soon had a sneaking suspicion
Pretty good might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state
Which had pretty good aspirations
And prayed for a pretty good fate.
There once was a pretty good nation
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned much too late,
If you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

Taken from:

There are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquiththere are no shortcuts

Notes from “Addiction by Design”

I read this book because a small part of it was referenced in a book I read earlier this year. It presents an interesting view of what gambling is in Las Vegas, and how important machine gambling is. It also presents a interesting perspective of why people gamble – essentially they gamble because they need to, not because they want to win.


A quote from Mollie (a gambler), when asked if she was hoping for a big win:

“In the beginning there was excitement about winning,” she says, “but the more I gambled, the wiser I got about my chances. Wiser, but also weaker, less able to stop. Today when I win – and I do win, from time to time – I just put in back in the machines. The thing people never understand is I am not playing to win.”

Why, then, does she play? “To keep playing – to stay in that machine zone where nothing else matters.”

The author talks about the rise of gambling machines, by the late 1990s, gambling machines had been moved to key positions on the casino floor and were generating twice as much revenue as all “live games” put together. Prior to this they had been placed along hallways or near elevators and reservation desks, rarely without chairs or stools, the devices had occupied transitional spaces rather than gambling destinations. At industry conventions such as G2E the machines were being referred to as “cash cows”, “golden geese”, or the “workhorses” of the industry. In 2003 it was estimated that 85% of industry profits came from machines.

Machines gambling is distinguished by its solitary, continuous, and rapid mode of wagering. Without waiting for “horses to run, a dealer to shuffle or deal, or a roulette wheel to stop spinning,” it is possible to complete a game every three to four seconds. It involves the most intensive “event frequency” of any existing gambling activity.

The author talks about the increase in rate of game play when machines change from pull handle machines to push button machines. The rate of game play could double from 300 to 600 games per hour.

The CEO of Las Vegas Stratosphere said this about slot machines – “When we put 50 slot machines in, I always consider them 50 more mousetraps. You have to do something to catch a mouse. It’s our duty to extract as much money as we can from customers.

One surprising development is the decrease in denomination used for game play. In 2000 nickels began to overtake quarters as the most popular denomination of play. However it is not really nickel players, as machines also multiple line play at the same time. “You are not really a nickel player when you are playing 90 nickels at one time”.

The book talks about the two different casinos in Las Vegas; the tourist casinos and the local casinos. “Local-market casinos are not designed for enchantment; they are designed for connivence and habit.”


Notes from ‘The Energy Bus’

“Every morning you have a choice. Are you going to be a positive thinker or a negative thinker? Positive thinking will energise you.”

energy busThis book is a short book that presents a philosophy on life that is essentially, remain positive, and surround yourself by positive people. The message is given through the story of a man called George. The author explains what he means by positive energy. “No one goes through life untested, and the answer to these tests is positive energy – not the rah-rah, cheering kind of positive energy… But when I talk about positive energy I’m referring to the optimism, trust, enthusiasm, love , purpose, joy, passion, and spirit to live, work, and perform at a higher level; to build and lead successful teams; to overcome adversity in life and at work; to share contagious energy with employees, colleagues, and customers; to bering out the best in others and in-yourself; and to overcome all the negative people and negative situations”.

The story equips the reader with a list of 10 rules ‘for ride of your life’:

  1. You’re the driver of your bus. – If you don’t take responsibility for your life and control of your bus then you can’t take it where you want to go. If you’re not the driver, then you’ll always be at the whim of everyone else’s travel plans.
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your bus with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus – if people don’t get on ou bus just let them sit at the station as you drive on by.
  6. Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus. – E-motion stands for energy in motion and your emotional state is all about how the energy is flowing through you. So instead of letting negative emotions take you down a dark road of negativity, sadness, and despair we can take control of our emotions, charge ourselves up, and let the positive energy flow.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energises them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

The author has this to say about complaining: When you complain you get more things to complaining. I don’t allow complaining because if you are complaining you cant be thinking about or creating what you do want. Plus complaining also ruins everyone else’s ride. Stop thinking about what you don’t want and start focusing your energy on your vision and what you do want.

As part of ‘being the driver of your own bus the author suggests you answer the following questions:

  • My vision for my life (including my health) is…
  • My vision for my work, career, job, and team is…
  • My vision for my relationship and family is…

The author expands on rule 8 (love your passengers); and gives five ways to ‘love your passengers;:

  1. Make time for them.
  2. Listen to them.
  3. Recognise them.
  4. Serve them.
  5. Bring out the best in them.

Energy Bus


One of the key takeaway quotes for me was:

“Your success and life are so important that you must surround yourself with a positive support team. No one creates success in a vacuum and the people we surround ourselves with have a big influence on the life and success we create. If you want to be successful you have to to be very careful about who is on your bus. After all there are people who increase your energy and there are people who drain your energy.”

The author has a website here.

The book can be purchased from amazon via the link below:

Social Media MBA in Practice


One of the books that I have read over the last week is ‘The Social Media MBA: In Practice’ by Christer Holloman. Although I am not in business there are a number of lessons for education and all users of Social Media. It is a book that consists of case studies of how different organisations have effectively used social media.

The book is supported by a LinkedIn Group – ‘The Social Media MBA Alumni’, search for it on LinkedIn!

Some thoughts about before beginning projects (on Social Media but could be applied to other contexts):

  • Time spent gaining understanding is not wasted, and should not be underestimated.
  • Taking the time to have a discussion can be more valuable than any report.
  • More haste, less speed. Take the time to plan and carefully implement.

Ideas about starting large scale social media projects:

  1. Start small, build confidence and get your back office in order.
  2. Get the right team of people for the job and provide training if required.
  3. Keep the messages simple and professional.

Notes from “Embedded Formative Assessment”


I purchased this book when it came out in 2011; however I decided to re-read it over the last few weeks. This is probably the best book out there on formative assessment; it has exactly the right balance between theory and practical ideas.

My notes are as follows:

  • To be able to use assessment formatively; or to use assessment to improve learning requires five key elements:
    1. The provision of effective feedback to students.
    2. The active involvement of students in their own learning.
    3. The adjustment of teaching to take into account the results of assessment.
    4. The recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of students, both of which are critical influences on learning.
    5. The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.
  • Any assessment can be formative and that assessment functions formatively when it improves the instructional decisions that are made by teachers, learners, or their peers.
  • Assessment is the key process in instruction. Students do not learn what we teach. If they did, we would not need to keep grade books. We could simply record what we have taught. But anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows what students learn as a result of our instruction is unpredictable
  • The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, not to facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for the students. The key features of effective learning environments is that they create student engagement and allow teachers, learners, and their peers to ensure learning is proceeding intended direction. The only way we can do this is through assessment. That is why assessment is, indeed, the bridge between teaching and learning.
  • Putting learning learning objectives and success criteria in student friendly language can have some merit. However it is also important that students understand the more subject specific language used in syllabuses or curricular
  • When a study analysed teacher questions over half the questions (57%) were managerial questions, such as “Have you got your books” or “Who has finished all the questions”, another third only required recall of previously taught information “How many legs does an insect have”, only 8% required analysis, e.g.”Why is a bird not an insect?”
  • Sharing high quality questions may be the most significant think we can do to improve the quality of student learning.
  • Whether feedback is given orally or in a written format it is not important; the most important thing is students are given time to improve their work.
  • When teachers allow students to choose whether to participate or not – for example, by allowing them to raise their hands to show they have an answer – they are actually making the achievement gap worse, because those who are participating are getting smarter, while those avoiding engagement are forgoing the opportunities to increase their ability..
  • There are five key strategies of classroom formative assessment:
    1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success.
    2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning.
    3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward.
    4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another.
    5. Activating learns as owners of their own learning.
  • Feedback functions formatively only if the information fed back to the learner is used by the learner in improving performance. If the information fed back to the learner is intended to be helpful but cannot be used by the learner in improving her performance, it is not formative.
  • A technique for structuring feedback relating to a piece of work is called “three questions”. When the teacher sees something they would like the student to reflect they place a numbered circle at that point in the text. Underneath the student’s work, the teacher writes a question relating to the first numbered circle, leaves a number of lines for the student’s response, writes a question for the second leaves space for the student’s response, writes a question for the second, leaves space for the student’s response, and then writes a third question. The first ten or fifteen minutes of the next lesson are devoted to students responding.
  • Having students work together (cooperative learning) is successful because:
    1. Motivation. Students help their peers learn because in well structured settings it is in their own best interest.
    2. Social Cohesion. Students help their peers because it is in their own best interest because they care about the group.
    3. Personalization. Students learn more because their moor able peers can engage with the particular difficulties a student is having.
    4. Cognitive Elaboration. Those who provide help in group settings are forced to think through ideas more clearly.
  • As long as group goals and individual accountability are present, cooperative learning is equally effective for students at all achievement level.
  • Students need to be taught how to self-assess, students’ first attempt at self-assessment are usually neither insightful nor useful.
  • A technique that some teachers have found useful is a learning log; get students to reflect on their own learning by responding to no more than three of the following prompts:
    • Today I learned…
    • I was surprised by…
    • The most useful think I will take from this lesson is…
    • I was interested in..
    • What I like most about this lesson was…
    • One think I’m not sure about is…
    • The main thin I want to find out more about is…
    • After this lesson, I feel…
    • I might have gotten more from this lesson if…



Notes from ‘Who’ by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

As a middle manager in a inner city school one of the activities I spend part of my time is the recruiting of new teachers. In the last academic year we had to recruit six new teachers for my faculty, and for some of those posts we did not appoint on the first time round. In addition if the wrong person is appointed; this will create additional work, and potentially have a negative impact on educational outcomes.

I saw this book on Amazon and thought it would be worth a read.


“The most important decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions, but who decisions.”

– Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

  • The book opens by explaining the problems of finding the right people, and quotes The Economist in 2006 stating that “finding the right people is the single biggest problem in business today”.
  • The author states that the hiring process is something that has resisted an orderly approach; this is in a culture that every other management process has been studied and codified.
  • The first thing that is needed is a ‘scorecard: a blueprint for success’; it is important to consider what is needed in the individual that is being hired. What specialisms, skills, and other needs are best suited for the roles. Don’t hire the generalist, hire the specialist.
  • When creating a scorecard consider the following things:
    1. Mistion
    2. Outcomes
    3. Competencies
    4. Ensure Alignment and Communicate
  • There is a list of critical competencies that should be looked for in ‘a players’:
        • Efficiency – Able to produce significant output with minimal wasted effort.
        • Honesty/integrity – Does not cut corners ethically.
        • Organisation and planning – Plans, organises, schedules, and budgets in an efficient, productive manner.
        • Aggressiveness – Moves quickly and takes a forceful stand without being overly abrasive.
        • Follow-through on commitments.
        • Intelligence – Learns quickly.
        • Analytical skills – Able to structure and process qualitative and quantitative data and draw insightful conclusions.
        • Attention to detail.
        • Persistence – demonstrates tenacity and willingness to go the distance to get something done.
        • Proactivity – acts without being told what to do. Brings new ideas.
  • When looking for potential new employees don’t forget the power of business and personal networks.


  • When interviewing the following tactics need to be used:
    • Don’t be afraid to interrupt to get the interview back on track.
    • Use the three P’s:
      • Previous
      • Plan
      • Peers
    • Push versus Pull – were they pushed out of any previous roles.
  • Watch out for the following ‘major flags’ or ‘stop signs’
    • Candidate does not mention past failures.
    • Candidate exaggerates his or her answers.
    • Candidate takes credit for the work of others.
    • Candidate speaks poorly of past bosses.
    • Candidate cannot explain job moves.
    • People most important to candidate are unsupportive of change.
    • For managerial hires, candidate ha never had to hire or fire anybody.
    • Candidate seems more interested in compensation and benefits than in the job itself.
    • Candidate is too self-absorbed.

Selling the Job to the Candidate

  1. Fit – tie the candidate’s goals, strengths, and values with the company’s needs, vision and culture.
  2. Family – take into account the broader trauma of changing jobs.
  3. Freedom – make the candidate aware of the autonomy they will have to make decisions.
  4. Fortune – reflects the stability of your company and the overall financial upside.
  5. Fun – describes the work environment, and personal relationships that the candidate will make.



Notes from ‘Cities are Good for You’ by Leo Hollis


This book is one that I read about sixth months ago. I found it interesting and engaging. It provides lots of interesting information, and has recently been released in paperback. Before the summer holidays we purchased copies for all our A2 geographers to read.

Some of my notes are listed below:

  • It is estimated that by 2050 75% of the world’s population will live in cities.
  • The genius of the city is not it’s physical fabric but the complexity caused by interactions. We are constantly making connections, moving from place to place, these connections are important, they formulate the network of the city.
  • Dubai is a nation run by a constitutional monarchy, however most of the key government roles are in the hands of the family members. The city was built by thousands of workers shipped in from the sub-continent who have few rights and no chance to share in the pleasures of the state or citizenship. In Dubai the desires of the state, in person of the Emir, supersede the individual citizen.
  • Bangalore International Airport is India’s fourth largest airport. However the terminal opened well before the road that connected the airport to the city, causing three hour plus transit times. This is an example of the fabric of the city failing to keep up with the demand of the burgeoning creative economy it has spawned.
  • The world population is becoming more fluid; a survey of 8,500 people in fourteen major cities showed that 75% of residents had chosen their city.
  • An experiment by Robert Levine of California State University in Fresco timed the average walking speeds in thirty-one cities and found nine out of the top ten were wealthy cities – and economic factors such as earning power, cost of living and time accuracy were key factors. When time is money, we tend to pick up the pace.
  • Informal settlements have significant value. Dharavi contains 5,000 industrial units producing garments, pottery, leather and steel goods as well as a further 15,000 single-room factories. It produces almost $500 million in revenue every year.
  • Researchers are using ‘smart’ cities to save time and money. For example in Beijing researchers studied congestion on 106,579 roads within the city, over 5,500 kilometres, and created a smart grid forming a digital map of the city. This was also integrated with weather and public-transit information. As a result, the new smart grid improved 60-70 per cent of all taxi trips, and made them significantly faster.
  • Congestion is a significant sources of pollution within the city. In 2005 the average American spent over thirty0eight hours stuck in traffic. It is estimated in New York that gridlock adds $1.9 billion to the cost of doing business, a loss of $4.9 billion in unrealised business, and nearly $6 billion in lost time and productivity.
  • Cities are thinking of creative solutions, such as ‘shared spaces’. In 2012 exhibition road was re-opened as a ‘shared space’, a broad Victorian thoroughfare lined by the national museums of London. There is only a shallow brick lip between the road and the pavement. 92.9 per cent of the people interviewed considered the ‘shared space’ an improvement. Many felt the design had increased a sense of empowerment, and 80 per cent of shops reported a significant increase in takings.
  • In Park Space, Brooklyn, 45% of all traffic is created by cars circulating the block. In the Chinese city of Chongqing there is a deficit of 190,000 parking spaces, and this is growing by 400 a day.
  • Living in cities can make us fitter and healthier; a study compared the fitness of young men in inner Atlanta versus men living in the city suburbs. Compelled to walk more inner city dwellers were 10lbs lighter than their suburban neighbours.
  • City dwellers emit different amounts depending on where they live. The average New Yorker emits 6.5 metric tonnes of carbon, versus 15.5 for people living in Houston. The difference is the population density, in New York, people live on top of each other.