#031 Kris Boulton – Part 2: Minimally guided instruction, Understanding, How before Why

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I once again spoke to Kris Boulton.

Since I last spoke to Kris, it is all change in his professional life as he has a brand new job. He is now the Director of Education at UpLearn – a project with the tagline: learning with certainty, powered by AI and neuroscience. Indeed, Kris is currently looking for teachers and tutors to work with him on this exciting venture, and you can find more details in his blog post.

Kris’ first appearance on the show caused a bit of a Twitter sensation, as he spoke at great length about how he planned a sequence of lessons on simultaneous equations. Indeed, “how do you plan a lesson?” was pretty much the only question I ask. Kris followed this up with a wonderful series of blog posts that I highly recommend checking out..

The danger with having a guest on twice is that the sequel never quite lives up to original. However, I am delighted to report that this is very much a case of Terminator 2 than Titanic 2.

So, in a wide-ranging discussion, we covered the following things, and more:

  • Kris responds to two questions from Part 1 about his planning process – how can we make planning simple, and a classic from Dr Becky Allen who asks if Englemann is so great, why haven’t his methods taken off?
  • Then we turn our attention to less teacher guided forms of instruction, and Kris addresses Andrew Blair’s question from last episode about what Kris means by an “outcome”
  • Are less guided forms of instruction more motivating?
  • Do they have any advantages at all over more explicit instructional approaches?
  • Then we move onto performance, learning and understanding
  • What does it mean to “understand” something in mathematics?
  • How as teachers can we assess this understanding?
  • When should we teacher the How before the Why – and indeed, should we ever teach the Why before the How?
  • I pitt Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory against Bjork’s Desirable Difficulties by asking i thinking should be easy or hard?
  • And finally we turn to the issue of memory, and I ask if the approach to teaching Kris advocates runs the risk of not giving students enough time to forget, and hence benefit from Bjork’s New Theory of Disuse.

Scattered throughout this are Kris’ philosophical tangents about values, purpose, outcomes, expertise, scientific thinking, and much more besides. It is an absolute treat. I was cognitively knackered afterwards, and had to join my wife in watching an episode of Geordie Shore just to recover. And Kris has promised to return to the show to discuss such matters as schemes of work, variation theory, questioning, problem solving and teacher training. Some of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcasts are 5 hours long – I reckon Kris and I can trop that, with some Hardcore Maths.

Speaking of podcasts, a quick shout-out to three new education ones that I have enjoyed listening to recently:
Learning Scientists – one of my favourite blogs for practical applications of education research now have their own show, and it is excellent.
Michaela Community School – hosted by Thomas Kendall, and featuring interviews with Michaela staff, including Joe Kirby on knowledge organisers. My advice to Tom would be to keep that trouble-maker Dani Quinn off the airwaves – we all know what happened after she appeared on this show.
TES – whose new Podagogy series not only features a good pun for a title, but also an impressive line-up of guests, including Daisy Christodoulou and Dylan Wiliam. I feel a bit like Daisy and Dylan have cheated on me by appearing on another podcast, but I will let them off.

Whilst these podcasts are great for my ears and brain, they are doing my iTunes ranking no favours whatsoever, so any help you can offer in terms of a review or spreading the words to your colleagues is highly appreciated.

On Twitter Kris is @Kris_Boulton
His excellent blog can be found at: tothereal.wordpress.com

My usual plugs:

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

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