On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Dylan Wiliam.
Quite simply, Dylan is one of my heroes. He was the inspiration behind my Diagnostic Questions website, and his many books, presentations and writing that I have eagerly consumed over the years have always left me filled up with new ideas to try in the classroom.
Dylan Wiliam is Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at University College London. In a varied career, he has taught in inner-city schools, directed a large-scale testing programme, served a number of roles in university administration, including Dean of a School of Education, and pursued a research programme focused on supporting teachers to develop their use of assessment in support of learning.
It was an absolute pleasure to talk to Dylan, and we covered loads of stuff. In fact, you might want to listen to this episode at one-quarter speed in order to pick up on all the ideas Dylan shares. Amongst other things, I asked:
- What makes a lesson successful in Dylan’s opinion
- Why is Dylan a big fan of the classic SMILE resources, and what did a lesson look like involving these materials?
- Why is it a mistake to plan a lesson on the assumption that students will understand a topic, and what should teachers do instead?
- Dylan describes a lesson he taught that went badly, and what he learned from it, which leads to a discussion about the dangers of so-called “real life maths”
- We talk through Dylan’s selection of things he’d wished he knew when he started teaching, including ensuring students know you care, and the importance of forgetting for learning
- Dylan explains why he thinks lesson observations are a waste of time, and describes a model that he believes would support teacher development much better.
- Why is a good idea to test our students more, and how can we get around the problem that students often hate being tested?
- What makes good group work, and how can you make the whole group accountable?
- We discuss feedback in great depth, specifically when it is effective and when it is simply a waste of time. Some of the findings might surprise you.
- Dylan describes the most important piece of research he has been involved in, and what other piece of research has surprised him the most
- How would Dylan up-skill teachers who simply do not have time to go on Twitter, read blogs, study research, listen to podcasts, and so on?
- Why does Dylan like multiple choice questions, but is not overly keen on using them with mini whiteboards or electronic voting systems?
- What books would Dylan suggest teachers read?
- Finally, Dylan offers up advice for Heads of Department, and describes how he would change teacher training courses
Hopefully you will agree with me that this interview is jam-packed full of food for thought and practical takeaways. Things you can try in the classroom tomorrow, and ideas that will hopefully improve your teaching practice for good, whatever stage of your career you are at. And also, whatever subject you teach. Many of the ideas Dylan shares are not maths specific, so please share this episode with your non-maths colleagues, especially any student teachers or NQTs you may know.
Spoiler alert here, but I was both proud and humbled that Dylan picked Diagnostic Questions as one of his Big 3 websites to direct listeners towards. For listeners not aware of the site, it is the largest collection of top-quality maths multiple choice questions in the world, with a growing number of Science and Computer Science questions as well. We have been working hard over the last few months to develop new features, such as feedback, reporting, a scheme of work, and a mobile app for students. All of this is 100% free and always will be. Head over to Diagnostic Questions to find out more.
Dylan gives some background on his favourite number, Skewes Number, here
The links to the books Dylan recommends, along with the books recommended by all my podcast guests, can be found here: mrbartonmaths.com/teachers/books/
The SMILE Cards that Dylan talks about are available to download for free from by registering at the STEM e-library here: www.stem.org.uk/elibrary/
Dylan’s “Relevance as MacGuffin in Mathematics Education” article is here
Dylan’s article entitled “The nine things every teacher should know” (although he would prefer the title “”Things I wish I’d known when I started teaching”) that he wrote for the TES is here
Dylan describes in more detail the piece of research he has found most surprising here
Dylan Wiliam’s Big 3:
Dylan’s two Podcast Puzzles can be found here
Dylan has kindly compiled all the references to the articles he discusses in the interview here
Finally, the concepts of “Convince me that…” and “VI3 Treatment” that I discuss in the takeaway segment at the end can be found in the Topic section of my Mr Barton Maths website here: mrbartonmaths.com/topics/ . Find the topic you want and click on Probing Questions.
Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
I am a maths teacher, currently teaching at Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton, UK. Here are links to some of my work:
Mr Barton Maths Blog
Mr Barton Maths Podcast
Just the Job Podcast