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English Teaching and Learning The Expert Teacher

The new GCSEs place a greater emphasis on knowledge and memory. Students are required to know, understand, and remember a lot more content than in previous exams. The challenge for many disadvantaged children is that this can create an ever-widening knowledge gap: reading and knowledge is built upon prior knowledge. Without this prior knowledge, it is difficult to understand, sort and retain new information successfully. As Lemov illustrates: ‘when you know a little about a topic going in, the text adds more knowledge and detail to your framework – easily and naturally deepening your understanding and building connections to existing knowledge…When you know very little about a topic, it's easy to be confused or over-whelmed by new information. You can hold just a small fraction of it in your working memory, but you don't really know enough to decide what's important and worth prioritising.’ (Lemov Reading Reconsidered) This leads on to another important skill that is now more important than ever: developing effective working and long term memory. ‘we don’t remember things because of insufficient focus, time or attention spent on them, and because of insufficient practice, usage, revisiting, consolidation or application.’ (Willingham Why children don’t remember what they’ve learned) There is a need to close the knowledge gap, improve students memory and develop non-fiction reading skills.

The Expert Teacher Programme provides experienced teachers with the opportunity to explore the current thinking around memory, reading and knowledge to produce practical strategies to enable disadvantaged students to succeed.

Alongside this, the aim is to develop expert teachers so they can go back to their departments and schools and take the lead in training and developing other teachers to equip them with these new skills. They will be asked to carry out a small action research project and then present their work.

About the Expert
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Vicky Hawking

Vicky has been the English Subject Facilitator for Brighton and Hove for the past nine years. She works to support English departments across the city by offering training and network meetings for English leaders and running the annual English Joint Practice Development day for the city. Vicky's other role is Senior Lead Teacher at Cardinal Newman School, where she currently leads on a whole school mentoring initiative to help disadvantaged students to progress further faster. She is a pedagogical enthusiast and obsessive reader who is keen to encourage the development of teachers and students.

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