Commas are a Pause for Breath: 2015 is the Year of the #EduBotch

What is an #EduBotch?

An #EduBotch is any discrete item of teaching (such as the example in the title) that inhibits a deeper understanding in the long term. It is the pedagogical equivalent of kicking a problem into the long grass: “Teach like a Cowboy Plumber”, if you will. It solves a short term problem for the teacher by creating a lasting problem for the student and his or her future teachers.*

Here are further examples:
1) telling students to ‘carry the one’ in mathematics which masks a deeper understanding of place value;
2) insisting that a sentence cannot begin with ‘and’ or ‘but’.

Why do seemingly good teachers use the #EduBotch?

We fall back on botches for the following reasons:
1) perhaps we are being questioned by a student about something peripheral to the main lesson objective and want to quickly move on;
2) maybe we don’t fully appreciate the full negative impact of the botch because we have never taught beyond a particular key stage. So we don’t reach the point in the spiral where the botch becomes a sticking point.
3) Finally, we may just be plain ignorant and/or lazy.

Personally, I have never used an #EduBotch. [endures long stare from Mrs Whatonomy] But I understand why they persist and how many problems they needlessly generate further along the line.

So, I’m making 2015 the Year of the #EduBotch. My goal is to generate an exhaustive list of botches by subject and link each botch to both the deeper understanding that is jeopardized and a recommended alternative teaching strategy.

Project #EduBotch will have three stages:
1) collating a list of botches grouped by subjects;
2) defining each botch in terms of the deeper understanding that is at risk (so teachers can see why it is a botch);
3) and linking the botch to a proposed alternative – a way to address the teaching of an item that will lead to the deeper understanding.

I would like you to help me in the collation of this list by sending me your botches. Please tweet your botch using the hashtag #EduBotch to me at @whatonomy and let me know which subject it affects. If you have time, please also let me know the deeper understanding that is put at risk.

I’ll curate the list by subject then begin the process of getting your suggestions for alternative approaches that preserve the pathway to deeper understanding.

One bi-product I’m hoping for is that, by defining pathways to deeper understanding in this way, we may actually be generating a useful progression across a range of subjects. We should also be able to see how discrete items taught in one subject can impact on another subject.

Please comment below if an #EduBotch springs to mind. I look forward to hearing from you.

*Project #EduBotch is inspired by David Didau’s ‘The Secret of Literacy’: an excellent introduction to the best of current thinking and practice in the teaching of literacy across curricula. He mentions ‘commas as breathing spaces’ and ‘not using conjunctions at the start of sentences’ as problematic learning that inhibits deeper understanding.


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