#050 Dylan Wiliam – the return! Creating the Schools our Children need

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Dylan Wiliam

Dylan first appeared on the show back in 2016, and his appearance marked a turning point for my podcast. Prior to my interview with Dylan, the show had a bit of a niche – dare I say, geeky – audience. But Dylan coming on brought the show out of my maths teacher bubble, and attracted thousands of new listeners – both maths teachers and non-maths teachers – from all over the world. His appearance has also helped my lure in some of the world-class guests who I have since been lucky enough to interview, including the Bjorks, Doug Lemov, Daisy Christodoulou. After all, when Dylan has been on the show, how can you say no? So, before I introduce the episode, I just wanted to publicly thank Dylan for saying yes when I asked him to come on to a show two years ago that no-one really knew a lot about. He didn’t ask for listeners figures, or what was in it for him, he just said yes. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

And now Dylan is back, this time to talk about his new book, Creating the Schools Our Children Need: Why What We’re Doing Now Won’t Help Much (And What We Can Do Instead)

In a wide-ranging conversation, we covered the following and much, much more besides:

  • Why is it difficult to hire better teachers, and what selection criteria would Dylan use if he were a head of department interviewing a prospective teacher?
  • Why is Dylan not convinced that reducing class sizes will improve student outcomes as much as we might think it would?
  • Why might attempts to replicate the success of other, higher-performing, countries and regions also not have the desired effect?
  • Then we turn our attention to all things curriculum, knowledge and skills, and Dylan responds to a comment about an extract from his book that went a bit viral after I tweeted it out
  • Why does Dylan believe textbooks might be key in improving student outcomes?
  • Should students actually be encouraged to recall number facts in timed conditions?
  • What are the practical applications of forgetting being an important part of remembering?
  • Is Dylan as obsessed with the hypercorrection effect as I am?
  • How do teachers become experts?
  • Does the way Dylan and Paul Black’s work on formative assessment has been used in schools upset him?
  • And then, just when we are getting on well, we have a minor disagreement about whether formative assessment is a skill or not

There is always a danger when you invite a guest on the show for the second time that the sequel will be more Speed 2 Cruise Control than the Godfather Part 2, but I am thrilled to say that Dylan is more Al Pacino than Jason Patric. Just like the first time, I learned so much from talking to Dylan, and I hope this will turn out to be one of those episodes that is continually revisited by maths teachers, teachers of other subjects, senior leaders, and anyone with an interest in how to help our students. I will reflect on my thoughts from our conversation my Takeaway at the end of the interview.

Obviously, if you buy one book as a result of this episode, make it Creating the Schools Our Children Need. And indeed, if you buy two books, just get yourself a second copy. But if you are interested in reading about 12 years of maths teaching mistakes, then maybe take a chance on my book, How I wish I’d taught maths, available from all good and evil book stores. And thanks so much to all of you who have bought and reviewed the book. It means the world to me.

On Twitter Dylan is @dylanwiliam
Dylan’s book, Creating the Schools Our Children Need, is available on Amazon here 

My usual plugs:

Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
Craig Barton

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