Best of the Best: Progress

By: Leah Kirkman , Isabella Wallace


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 150 x 125mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781785831607
Format: Paperback
Published: February 2017

In Progress, Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman explore our understanding of this core educational concept, drawing together ideas from leading international thinkers and practical strategies for busy teachers. The Best of the Best series brings together ' for the first time ' the most influential voices in education in a format that is concise, insightful and accessible for teachers. Keeping up with the latest and best ideas in education can be a challenge ' as can putting them into practice ' but this new series is here to help.

Each title features a comprehensive collection of brief and accessible contributions from some of the most eminent names in education from around the world. In this exciting first volume, Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman have curated a collection of inspiring contributions on the theme of progress and have developed practical, realistic, cross-curricular and cross-phase strategies to make the most of these important insights in the classroom. Each expert has provided a list of further reading so you can dig deeper as you see fit. In addition, the Teacher Development Trust has outlined ideas for embedding these insights as part of CPD.

Suitable for all educationalists, including teachers and school leaders.

Many myths abound about progress. We have to show that learners are making progress, but what do we really mean by the term? Who decides what constitutes progress? Who should set targets, and why? How do we measure progress? How do we know when pupils are demonstrating it? How do we differentiate and allow for learners' different starting points? Should we be measuring everyone against the average or should we be looking at ipsative progress, where achievement is relative only to the pupil's personal best? Indeed, if everyone is making expected progress, is that really progress or just doing as expected? Do we need to rethink assessment? Does meta-cognition hold the answer? What about other approaches like SOLO taxonomy or Building Learning Power? If progress isn't linear, what kind of shape does it have? What implicit value judgements may we be making when applying the term uncritically and unthinkingly? How do we ensure that funding, including the Pupil Premium, is having a tangible effect on progress? Can we make learning and progress visible? What does the evidence base ' the research studies and meta-analyses ' have to say? Will that be applicable in all contexts?

These are just some of the questions that the educational experts delve into in this first volume in the Best of the Best series. The practical strategies offered by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman demonstrate how teachers can immediately use these ideas in the classroom. Advice from the Teacher Development Trust demonstrates how to plan sustained and responsive changes to practice based on the book's key insights.

Contributions include:

Professor John Hattie makes a powerful argument, supported by practical examples, of how funding can be used effectively and equitably to enhance progress in learning for every pupil.

Geoff Petty points us to the invaluable resources provided by meta-research, which identify for us which are the most effective, progress-yielding teaching methods.

Sir John Jones, writing about life chances, reminds us of the enormous influence that the quality of teaching can have on pupil motivation and progress.

Sugata Mitra looks at the link between progress and improvement of life chances, and the role that technology can play in this respect.

David Didau echoes the postmodernists in his argument that progress in the classroom should not be thought of as linear, as a steadily advancing route of improvement aimed at some distant goal of perfection.

Professor Mick Waters refers to the practice of assessing progress against externally fixed markers as an obsession' which should be challenged.

Will Ord urges us to interrogate exactly what it is that we mean by progress'.

Claire Gadsby suggests that progress should be learner centred rather than criterion based and that it is only the pupil, not the teacher, who can demonstrate progress.

Professor Robert Bjork warns us against making a supposition not only about what pupils can do but also about what they may need from us in order to do it.

Professor John West-Burnham suggests that practice is essential to effective progress in learning, and that the effort we demand of our learners can be directly proportionate to the success they achieve in reaching their goals.

Professor Guy Claxton cautions that there is a fine line between challenging learners into making positive progress and over-stretching' them.

James Nottingham makes the point that the measurement of progress should not be made by teachers against externally set markers, but by learners against their own personal best.

Mark Burns argues that progress is a personal measure, not a fixed absolute.

Martin Robinson questions what he refers to as the progress myth'.

Mike Gershon urges the wider use by teachers of exemplar materials ' examples of work which illustrate the content and standard which the pupils should be aspiring to as a next step in their learning.

Pam Hook suggests that progress is most usefully expressed not as a forward-moving line but as a spiral where learning experiences are returned to and repeated, perhaps several times, at increasingly higher levels or at greater depth.

Andy Hargreaves sees building confidence and self-belief as central to the teacher's role and not simply as an optional soft skill', and extends this same concept to the need for mutual support between colleagues ' which he refers to as giving uplift'.

Teacher Development Trust – Next steps ...

Picture for author Leah Kirkman

Leah Kirkman

Leah Kirkman is co-author of the bestselling teaching guides Pimp Your Lesson! and Talk-Less Teaching, and is an experienced AST and trainer. Keeping the needs of both the busy teacher and the discerning learner at the heart of all her training, Leah works with teachers both across the UK and abroad developing outstanding teaching and learning.

Picture for author Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace is co-author of the bestselling teaching guides Pimp Your Lesson! and Talk-Less Teaching, and has worked for many years as an AST, curriculum coordinator and governor. She is a consultant for and contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of Education and presents nationally and internationally on outstanding learning and teaching.

Listen in on Isabella's podcasts with Pivotal Education - click here to listen to Isabella on NQT issues and here discussing the pedagogy of talk-less teaching'.

Click here to view Isabella's Pinterest.

Click here to read Isabella  Wallace’s blog.


  1. In Progress, Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman provide the teaching and training fraternity with a much-needed collection of key contributions on progressive achievement as the true evidence for effective teaching and learning.

    Teachers will undoubtedly welcome the book's practical advice on shaping progress, removing barriers to learning, fostering a conducive learning environment, providing challenge, and the use of monitoring tactics. The SOLO taxonomy and the need to aim high with a favourable learning mindset are also examined in terms of the learner's advancement.

    Progress will bring welcomed enlightenment to the teacher or trainer, who should regard this work as essential reading.
  2. The authors' aim of bringing “The most influential voices in an accessible format” has been realised in this publication. As a small handy book, it is easy and enjoyable to read for everyone concerned with teaching and assessing children or adults' understanding, regardless of the subject matter or academic level.

    The introduction points the reader to consider the theory carefully to appreciate how this is translated into practice. The choice of expert contributors is unremarkable as they are well known writers and speakers in the profession. Their viewpoints and wisdom vary in each chapter providing valuable -˜pint sized' information toreally whet the appetite of both the inovice and experienced teacher. The experts' key messages are skilfully explained in concise and well edited form which maintains the individuality of each contributor to ensure that their insight into specific interpretations of progress are meaningful. Further reading, signposted at the end of each section, is useful for accessing information through research and other written material but also directs us to information websites and YouTube video for instant accessibility.

    Philosophical and ethical discussion is considered and reworked as practical and pragmatic ideas with comments and guidance by the authors to ensure that the reader understands that progress is fundamentally about the individual learner and not current trends or targets. The authors' comments follow on from each contributor and provoke the reader into considerably more thought about practical application with useful suggestions which can be adjusted for any age learners.

    The authors have distinct and clear methods and processes to advocate but often these can be variations on their own suggestions although rooted in experience and research. For the reader that reads the book from cover to cover, the overall effect could be seen as the authors' approach to teaching as some key messages are handled similarly. However, if the reader dips in and out looking for inspiration, which is certainly there, the recommendations are both helpful and credible.

    To really put theory into practice the guidance notes from the Teacher Development Trust shows a broader view to engage neighbouring schools to share expertise. This idea may be particularly relevant for aspirational leaders to spear head a progress project but is also a reminder of how valuable internal CPD is to a school.

    In conclusion, the book is an easy read without unnecessary prose, ensuring a collection of interesting and varying views about learning progress, from across the teaching profession, ready for further discussion or development which will appeal to teachers at all stages of their careers.

    This reviewer will be keeping a copy close at hand ready for presentation and discussion at a future INSET training!

    Click here to read the review online.
  3. With an increasing number of learners - particularly those from deprived backgrounds - failing to optimise their potential due to social and emotional issues, and especially their limiting beliefs, this book is a must buy for teachers and tutors at all levels. The authors have brought together an enthralling compendium of expert opinions discussing a range of really practical strategies to promote learners' desire to improve personal performance levels.

    There are interesting discussions on building confidence, self-belief and aspirations both for teacher and learner. In this context the essay by Andy Hargreaves emphasising the need to give -˜uplift' to colleagues is particularly pertinent. The structure of the contributions enables the reader to examine a wide range of ideas and strategies that have been effective in practice.

    The book is overflowing with outstanding ideas which will inspire teachers at all levels to reflect upon, and extend, their current practice in their efforts to encourage progress as stepping stones to higher levels of achievement. Above all, this book is an excellent resource of thought-provoking ideas which will enable staff teams to move practice forward.
  4. Measuring progress within educational circles is one of those constants that just continues throughout teaching and learning journeys. As some individuals will make significant and notable progress throughout an academic year, there are others who really seem to struggle to progress, even with small steps.

    Part of the Best of the Best practical classroom guides, Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman have gathered a digestible collection of inspiring short essays from a broad range of discerning experts, all offering advice, further reading suggestions, and practical ideas to help you implement across the whole school.

    This is a great little book, with pedagogy and good practice central at the core.

    Click here to see the review on the UKEd Chat website.
  5. Progress offers practical ideas for teachers and leaders alike. The problem for many of us in education today is that there is more information out there for us to explore but not enough time to do so. Wallace and Kirkman help us to sift through the different ideas of some great educational thinkers around the issue of progress. I particularly liked the contributions of Geoff Petty, who talks us through proven evidence-based practice that will have a positive impact on the progress of students, and Mike Gershon, who explains why exemplar work with students is such a good thing as this can help students to think about the quality of their own work in comparison. As ever, Will Ord gets us thinking about progress at a deeper level by considering the different types of progress that exist, and the need for both teachers and students to stay mindful of this. I also loved Claire Gadsby's thoughts around classrooms being a place where confident, metacognitive pupils abound and how this culture can be achieved.

    I suggest reading each writer's contribution. See which ideas resonate with you and perhaps go deeper into their work.
  6. In an era when some politicians mistakenly think that progress is a narrow concept focused on just eight subjects, a serious exploration of this topic is long overdue. The Best of the Best series is true to its name: great thinkers and great practical wisdom, thought-provoking, engaging and useful.
  7. The best thing about this book is the way we hear the different and varied voices of educational experts and the way the ideas are interpreted into actions we could put into practice in the classroom. As a teacher you can pick out an idea that intrigues you and consider how to make it work in your school: in the classroom, the staffroom or with individual pupils. Progress for pupils has been our mantra and this book makes you stand back and consider what it really means - and how to get more of it, wherever you work.
  8. Progress is an exciting publication for busy teachers and school leaders. Just as Hattie brought together thousands of studies to show us what worked, Wallace and Kirkman have tapped the thinking of the most relevant experts and confined them to an accessible summary of what matters. From Hattie to Claxton to Nottingham and Hargreaves, their uplifting and encouraging words illuminate and develop the continuing and difficult dialogue about progress.

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