FORUM
ISSN 0963-8253


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Volume 55 Number 1 2013

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

SPECIAL ISSUE
THIS WAY OUT: teachers and pupils escaping from fixed-ability thinking and practice
Guest Editors: MARY JANE DRUMMOND & PATRICK YARKER

Mary Jane Drummond & Patrick Yarker. Editorial. The Enduring Problem of Fixed Ability: but is a new conversation beginning?, pages 3‑7 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.3 VIEW FULL TEXT OPEN ACCESS

Michael Armstrong. The Brian Simon Memorial Lecture 2012. Education as Reconstruction: another way of looking at primary education, pages 9‑29 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.9 VIEW FULL TEXT OPEN ACCESS

Rachel Marks. ‘The Blue Table Means You Don’t Have a Clue’: the persistence of fixed-ability thinking and practices in primary mathematics in English schools, pages 31-44 OPEN ACCESS

Julian Stern. Surprise in Schools: Martin Buber and dialogic schooling, pages 45-58

Terry Wrigley. Beyond ‘Ability’: some European alternatives, pages 59-72

Gwen Tressider & Anne Watson. The Possibilities and Difficulties of Teaching Secondary Mathematics in All-attainment Groups, pages 73-84

Holly Linklater. Teaching and the Individuality of Everybody, pages 85-94

Lani Florian. Preparing Teachers to Work with Everybody: a curricular approach to the reform of teacher education, pages 95-102

John Cornwall. What Makes an Inclusive Teacher? Can Fish Climb Trees? Mapping the European Agency Profile of Inclusive Teachers to the English System, pages 103-114

Annabelle Dixon. Differentiation, Resistance and Courage: at work in the infant school, pages 115-120

Mary Jane Drummond & Susan Hart, with Mandy Swann. An Alternative Approach to School Development: the children are the evidence, pages 121-132

Sally Tomlinson. From Defective Loafers to Ignorant Yobs: low attainers in a global knowledge economy, pages 133‑142

Jo Boaler. Ability and Mathematics: the mindset revolution that is reshaping education, pages 143‑152

Patrick Yarker. ‘Can I have me on here?’: ‘ability’ and the language of pupil-progress, pages 153‑160

Amy Milik & Mark Boylan. Valuing Choice as an Alternative to Fixed-ability Thinking and Teaching in Primary Mathematics, pages 161‑172

BOOK REVIEWS
Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools (Tony Booth & Mel Ainscow), and Education, Education, Education: reforming England’s schools (Andrew Adonis), reviewed by Clyde Chitty, pages 173‑176 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.173 VIEW FULL TEXT


 

‘The Blue Table Means You Don’t Have a Clue’: the persistence of fixed-ability thinking and practices in primary mathematics in English schools

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.31

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The use of structured ability grouping is increasing in English primary schools and is regularly seen in primary mathematics classrooms. Ability is a normalised discourse with beliefs that some individuals are ‘born to do maths’ permeating society and infiltrating school practices. In this article, observation and interview data illustrate the persistence of fixed-ability thinking, even in situations where explicit ability-grouping practices are not used. The data analysis suggests a mismatch between mixed-ability practices and fixed-ability thinking, and the article argues that change will be difficult.

 

Surprise in Schools: Martin Buber and dialogic schooling

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.45

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The philosopher Martin Buber described the central role of surprise in education. Surprise is not an alternative to planning and order in schools, and it is not even an alternative to repetitive practice. It is, instead, that which must be allowed to occur in any dialogic encounter. Schooling that is creative and filled with hope will also be surprising; schooling that is wholly predetermined, certain, and perfect (at least in its own eyes), will be unsurprising – and also uneducational. Darwinian theories of evolution by natural selection are similar to communitarian anarchist challenges to political wishes for precise, centralised, planning. And the necessity of genetic mutation alongside largely repetitive copying, in such theories, provides a model for the necessity of surprise even alongside repetitive, transmissive, and copied work in schools. Surprise overcomes the potential of schools to be soulless institutions. It is promoted here as a defining characteristic of truly educational, dialogic schooling.

 

Beyond ‘Ability’: some European alternatives

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.59

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This article draws on European approaches to differentiation that do not entail fatalistic determinism. It describes two challenging initiatives in Denmark, where democratic learning and learning for democracy are enshrined in law. Other examples come from Germany, from the Bielefeld laboratory school and a sixth form college, where planning for diversity is the starting point for curriculum development.

 

The Possibilities and Difficulties of Teaching Secondary Mathematics in All-attainment Groups

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.73

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It is a well-established norm in England that secondary school mathematics is taught in groups categorised by prior attainment. It is therefore worthwhile to report alternative practices of all-attainment teaching – but these are rare. In this article, we report aspects of all-attainment mathematics teaching in a secondary school that has maintained this practice as its norm over a considerable time, including in recent years, when a hierarchical approach to measuring mathematics learning has become the norm for accountability purposes. The teaching described here takes account of the needs and progress of different students within a common curriculum focus, and we identify key principles behind it. The article is intended to contribute to a record of all-attainment grouping practices in mathematics in England, so that these practices are not lost.

 

Teaching and the Individuality of Everybody

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.85

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This article presents a study in which the author researched her own practice as the teacher of a reception class in a large primary school in England. The research focussed on the challenge of articulating what was tacitly or intuitively known: how, and why, the myriad of choices and decisions of which teaching is constituted could be made and justified. The author considers the significance of the class as a community; the relationship between everybody and children as individuals. A consistent and coherent principled stance was identified, articulated in terms of attention to imagination. The article discusses the significance of this as the means by which the individuality of everybody could be perceived.

 

Preparing Teachers to Work with Everybody: a curricular approach to the reform of teacher education

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.95

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This article reports on a curricular approach to teacher education using the ideas in Learning without Limits to prepare teachers to enter a profession in which they take responsibility for the learning and achievement of all learners. Key aspects of Scotland’s Inclusive Practice Project (IPP) are described and the role of university-based teacher education in supporting and challenging practice-based learning in schools is discussed.

 

What Makes an Inclusive Teacher? Can Fish Climb Trees? Mapping the European Agency Profile of Inclusive Teachers to the English System

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.103

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This article examines whether or not teachers working in an inherently exclusive education system can in fact be ‘inclusive teachers’. The author draws on work done over the past three years in a pan-European Teacher Education project highly committed to notions of social and educational cohesion and equity, and challenges both fixed and hierarchical notions of ability, valuing all learners equally. The development of a pan-European Profile of Inclusive Teachers serves as an indirect challenge to the legitimacy of politicians and executive bodies in England for lack of cohesion and failing to establish some kind of equity and inclusion for young people.

 

Differentiation, Resistance and Courage: at work in the infant school

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.115

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Annabelle Dixon was co-editor of FORUM from the summer of 1998 until her untimely death in May 2005. The article we reproduce below is based on an article that first appeared in FORUM in 1984, Volume 26, Number 2, with the title ‘Divided We Rule’. At that time, she was a practising infant teacher, and deeply concerned about the ways in which the widespread practice of differentiation affected young children’s learning. The version printed here has been extended, edited and retitled, drawing on a longer, later version, unpublished as far as we know, which she circulated to friends and colleagues in 1986.

 

An Alternative Approach to School Development: the children are the evidence

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.121

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In this article, the authors describe the alternative approach to school development taken by the head teacher and staff of a primary school in Hertfordshire. Their approach is based on a resolutely optimistic and anti-determinist view of every child’s capacity to learn, and their commitment to working as a school-wide community of learners. The article illustrates how the culture, policies and structures of the whole school were harnessed to the process of transformative change, and shows how staff members were given the support that enabled them to play their full part in bringing about these changes. It demonstrates how, when people are learning together, the power of the collective strengthens the learning capacity of everybody.

 

From Defective Loafers to Ignorant Yobs: low attainers in a global knowledge economy

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.133

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In a global and increasingly ‘knowledge-driven’ economy where even semi-skilled jobs require qualifications, what may be done with and for young people whose attainment in school is low? This article draws on recent research with head teachers, college principals and administrators in English local authorities, combined with material gathered on visits to a number of foreign countries, to outline the issues. It illuminates that successive English governments have failed to provide a coherent system of vocational education.

 

Ability and Mathematics: the mindset revolution that is reshaping education

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.143

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Recent scientific evidence demonstrates both the incredible potential of the brain to grow and change and the powerful impact of growth mindset messages upon students’ attainment. Schooling practices, however, particularly in England, are based upon notions of fixed ability thinking which limits students’ attainment and increases inequality. This article reviews evidence for brain plasticity, the importance of mindset and the ways that mindset messages may be communicated through classroom and grouping practices.

 

‘Can I have me on here?’: ‘ability’ and the language of pupil-progress

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.153

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The flip-side of teaching-as-delivery is assessment-as-ventriloquism. Required to describe pupils and their progress through the language of Level Descriptors and exam grade criteria, any teacher risks losing her voice. This article notes the hierarchising and normalising intention of currently authorised versions of assessment, and looks for a countervailing practice and language.

 

Valuing Choice as an Alternative to Fixed-ability Thinking and Teaching in Primary Mathematics

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/forum.2013.55.1.161

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This article offers a personal account of a primary mathematics teacher’s current practice and how it developed through participation in a professional development programme. This alternative to fixed-ability teaching is based on creating opportunities for learners to exercise choice and on an understanding of mathematics as connected. Key influences in the development of practice have been research evidence and theory, engagement with mathematics and alternative practices as a learner, and space and encouragement to reflect and make choices as a teacher. The account is structured in the form of a dialogue between the authors.

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