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Primary Education News
News Evidence-based teaching: should everyone be doing it?
Plus the academic researching what makes people laugh and Clearing tips for students, all on our online communities this week
Earlier this year Ben Goldacre, the academic best known for his attacks on the misrepresentation of science in his Bad Science books and Guardian column, called on teachers to drive the research agenda. By doing so, he pushed the debate about the need for evidence-based teaching – having access to research and being able to put it into practice – into the mainstream.
Goldacre suggested that education should embrace the randomised controlled trial (RCT) favoured by the medical profession to create an education system that was truly evidence-based. This, he said, could replace the current system where untested methods and ideas are passed throughout the profession.
At the time, his comments created a flurry of debate that quickly died down as fast as the news stories that Michael Gove, the education secretary, had used research from a Premier Inn survey of travellers to suggest that school children were woefully ignorant of history.
But on the Guardian Teacher Network we know this issue really matters to our members, so this week we take another look at the importance of trialling ideas and evidence-based teaching, with a specific focus on cognitive psychology – the study of mental processes such as problem-solving and thinking.
In his blogpost "Cognitive psychology in the classroom: why teachers should take care with new research", Tim Taylor, a teacher working in Norwich and a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University, explores the teaching profession's fixation with cognitive psychology.
Taylor writes: "I've always thought it interesting how, as a profession, we find the ideas of cognitive psychologists so beguiling and persuasive. In my view, we should be very careful how we use research findings from cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychologists are a bit like those early explorers who set out to find a new route to India. Everything they discovered was new and exciting, but it didn't mean they knew what was coming next over the horizon, let alone how the whole thing fitted together."
Also on the network:
• New citizenship hub: we launch a new section to explore teaching and learning in the subject. We start by looking at citizenship in the primary curriculum and with a collection of resources teaching feminism.
• Plus, Christine Harrison, senior lecturer in science education at King's College London, profiles the Assessment for Learning model – which helps to track student progress – and asks: are schools using it properly?
Guardian Higher Education Network
They don't call summer the silly season for nothing. Three weeks into August and the Edinburgh fringe is still in full swing, with nervous standups waiting to see who will be crowned king or queen of comedy at the end of the world's largest arts festival.
But how do you judge comedy? Isn't it all academic? Well, yes, at least for Dr Sam Friedman, sociology lecturer at City University, London and author of the forthcoming book Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a 'Good' Sense of Humour. This week on the network, we hear from Friedman about life at the coalface of comedy research.
"I've always been fascinated by the lack of uniformity in what people find funny," he says of his research area. "I wanted to understand whether some comedy is valued [more] and whether taste for more legitimate forms constitutes a form of 'cultural capital'."
As publisher of the dedicated fringe review, Fest magazine, Sam is interested in the gap between popular and academic publishing: "Academia puts a premium on detail and complexity, and is happy for style to be compromised in pursuing these goals. Popular publishing, in contrast, demands that writers tell compelling stories and make them as coherent and readable as possible."
Clearing kicked off last week, as students received their A-level results and found out whether they'd been accepted on to the university courses they had applied for. Many of those who hadn't got the grades they needed hit the phones and found new options through Clearing.
But others were frozen with shock and indecision. The good news is that there are still plenty of vacancies out there, and Clearing remains open for several weeks.
Take a look at theguardian.com/clearing for all the advice you need about picking the right course and what to say on the phone. We've also set up a chat group for students about to start uni. Go to the Guardian Students Facebook page to find the link and join the discussion.
This week Guardian Students will be focusing on student finance, looking at how to get all the financial help you are entitled to, how to balance your budget, and whether you should work part-time. Plus there will be a live Q&A with experts, so post your money questions and get the answers you need.