What if we were faced with uncomfortable questions about some of our brightest and best teaching and learning ideas? It would be uncomfortable and challenging, no doubt. Perhaps, though, such reflection on the potential of unintended consequences and unforeseen failures could prove both  revealing and instructive?

With this thought experiment in mind, I pose these ten tricky questions:


Spelling instruction: What if we are testing spelling, but never properly teaching spelling?

Whole-class feedback: What if every child thinks that the whole-class feedback we are giving them is for every other child and not them?

Dual coding: What if ‘dual coding’ results in teachers using an array of nice pictures that actually distracts students from reading and understanding complex texts?

Reading for pleasure: What if we are so focused on encouraging lots of reading for pleasure that we don’t address how effectively our students can actually read?

Drop everything and read (DEAR): What if ‘dropping everything’ and reading fiction in Science lessons makes our students worse at reading Science texts?

Oracy: What if a focus on oracy encourages a generation of over-confident Boris Johnson clones?

Mastery: What if ‘mastery’ is the new ‘growth mindset’, meaning everything and nothing to all people?

Assessment: What if teachers being grossly undertrained in assessment is one of the major factors that is hampering teaching, learning and school improvement in England?

Vocabulary instruction: What if a focus on vocabulary results in teachers merely undertaking a laborious gathering of vocabulary lists to be tested? [See question 1.]

Cognitive science: What if the majority of the research evidence from cognitive science cannot be translated successfully from the university laboratory into the classroom?