Achieving independence and self-regulation in learning is the holy grail of education, but how to go about it is as equally mystical. Essential to the quest is developing a rich schema through the building and interaction of knowledge, and whilst belief in the explicit teaching of students in how to think about their thinking processes (metacognition) and how to evaluate them as being an integral part of self-regulation is gaining momentum (EEF), this 2 part post will seek to extend the current understanding by discussing whether it is necessary to promote critical and creative thinking inside subject domains. The essay also expounds on Zimmerman and Moylan’s 2009 paper that theorises that motivation is inextricably linked to both of these metacognitive processes, can’t be omitted from the discussion, and in fact needs to be explicitly taught to students in equal measure. As Kuhn exhorts, ’People must see the point of thinking if they are to engage in it.’  


Whilst many argue that labelling skills such as critical thinking and creativity as ‘21st century’ does an injustice to those who for thousands of years exhibited such proficiency in them, few could argue that there is a growing demand for graduates to be strong in these areas in the age of increasingly automated and mechanised jobs. How to equip students with such skills then has become the mission of educators, but many well-intentioned educators have erroneously conflated the desired outcome with a direct pedagogy, succinctly stated by Kirschner: the epistemology of a discipline should not be confused with a pedagogy for teaching or learning it. The practice of a profession is not the same as learning to practise the profession. There are plenty of excellent voices who assent to this notion, none better then Daisy Christodoulou, specifically pointing to the fact that thinking critically or creatively relies entirely on a strong bedrock of knowledge and can’t be taught in the abstract. If we think about this it seems rather logical – you can’t think about things you have no knowledge of, and most creativity is the accommodation of knowledge already in existence. Such constraints make the application of such skills heavily context and domain dependent. But what tends to be lacking from such unequivocal pedagogy is the answer to this question: once the foundations of knowledge are secure, do students need explicit modelling of how to think critically and creatively with that knowledge? I contend that the answer is yes.  

If we consider how learning is characterised by the acquisition of schema, and how crucial modelling is in that continuum, I would argue that modelling how to play with knowledge is no less important than modelling the knowledge itself. However, it is something that is often overlooked in modern curricula for three reasons:  

  • Because we sometimes assume that students will naturally think in these ways  
  • Because of the need to fit in so much content in so little time  
  • Because it is hard to assess, relying on subjective and therefore unstable evaluation 

The first relies on Geary’s theory of primary vs secondary knowledge. The exposition of the theory is that once sufficient knowledge is obtained, the mixing/matching and challenging/critiquing of what is understood should become axiomatic. From my experience though, without the continuous prompting by the teacher to engage with the knowledge in this way, such an outcome tends to rely heavily on a student being highly motivated in a specific domain of knowledge, with the less interested, but equally as capable student, content with achieving in assessment but not necessarily interested in exploring the content further. But what is notable however about the self-motivated student, is that they still will undertake a process of learning in how to mix and match and challenge what they know, albeit, independently: it is through the experimentation of their thinking and its evaluation that they may eventually arrive at something unique and interesting, but this ostensibly natural skill is actually being practised and refined to be maximised – and quite possibly, inefficiently, compared to what some guidance in the process could afford. When motivation to pursue a discipline is not as high, students need to be prompted to engage in ‘higher order’ thinking. Interestingly, sometimes it is only after these higher order prompts that real interest and motivation is sparked, and so the explicit provocation of them in a learning environment is important.

Sweller’s addition to Geary’s thesis, that : ‘Organizing general skills to assist in the acquisition of subject matter knowledge may be more productive than attempting to teach skills that we have evolved to acquire automatically…’ supports the earlier statement that teaching critical and creative thinking in the abstract is pointless, but it is the focus on the word ‘organising’ that is crucial here: the conclusion then is that it’s not enough to assume students will naturally engage with this type of thinking – it is only through the explicit organisation and modelling of it that will facilitate students being able to self-regulate this thinking.

Practising the application of critical and creative thinking needs time and space for it to be strengthened, and this is why the existence of the 2nd obstacle in educational contexts is so concerning. The impetus of non-invigilated exams has certainly made apparent the need for assessment to involve the application of knowledge. But to do so requires a carefully designed curriculum that facilitates such opportunity in the sequence of learning.  I tend to promote a sequence patterned by the rhythm: learn, practise, apply. New knowledge is introduced by the expert, students interact with and practise using the knowledge to confirm understanding, students then apply their knowledge to do something with it. The application doesn’t have to be a large project type task. It may simply be the asking of higher order questions that include hypothesising, creating analogies, exploring various points of view, wondering if the content can be applied in other contexts, what the connections are to other aspects of the course, or brainstorming with a view to generate new ideas for a real-world context. The latter is especially relevant for the later stages of higher education.  

It is such a pattern of learning that models for students how to interact with the understood knowledge they now have in their possession, a modelling process that observes what Volet (1991) imports as the necessity of identifying and making explicit how an expert thinks. This is relevant to not just when the expert is presented with new problems, but also how they think with the knowledge they already have. Palincsar &Brown (1989) concur, ‘By demonstrating the different activities by which subject matter may be processed, problems solved, and learning processes regulated, the teacher makes knowledge construction and utilization activities overt and explicit that usually stay covert and implicit.’ Like all learning, the goal is to take the metacognition to automaticity so the propensity for self-regulation in the next sequence of learning isn’t compromised by cognitive overload.   


Whether or not this explicit process of thinking within specific domains can be transferred to new contexts remains to be seen, but Simon, Anderson, & Reder (1999) arouse our curiosity when they suggest that transfer happens far more frequently than we might think. They cite reading as a prime example, but more specifically challenge a famous study by Gick and Holyoak who demonstrated that students were unable to see the abstract similarities between two problems even when they were presented side by side:  

One of the striking characteristics of such failures of transfer is how relatively transient they are. Gick and Holyoak were able to increase transfer greatly just by suggesting to subjects that they try to use the problem about the ‘general’. Exposing subjects to two such analogues also greatly increased transfer. The amount of transfer appeared to depend in large part on where the attention of subjects was directed during the experiment, which suggests that instruction and training on the cues that signal the relevance of an available skill might well deserve more emphasis than they now typically receive–a promising topic for cognitive research with very important educational implications.’  

They then continue to suggest that: ‘Representation and degree of practice are critical for determining the transfer from one task to another, and transfer varies from one domain to another as a function of the number of symbolic components that are shared.’ It follows then that for Dignath and Buttner’s claim to be valid, in their meta-analysis on Components of Fostering Self-regulated Learning, that ‘Providing students with opportunities to practice strategy use will foster the transfer of metastrategic knowledge to real learning contexts’, relies on students being able to recognise patterns or connections between contexts where they can apply their metacognition.  

As stated earlier, you can’t think critically and creatively without a strong foundation of knowledge, and further, some of that thinking will be only relevant in specific domains. But it does seem likely that some of the higher order strategies stated above (hypothesising etc) would be able to be applied in a range of disciplines, and that a student observing the modelled thinking processes of a teacher in a second context will recognise some (if not many) elements learnt from their first. Once reinforced through this observation, students will begin the regular learning continuum of taking the skills to automaticity through practice. Once achieved, being able to apply the thinking in new contexts is made more possible – it will be up to further research to ascertain whether, having met these conditions, such transfer is actually possible.  


 Another consideration when teaching critical thinking draws from Kuhn, who exhorts that the development of epistemological understanding may be the most fundamental underpinning of critical thinking. In no uncertain terms, she beseeches that teachers provide the opportunity for students to reach an evaluative level of epistemological understanding, realising that simply possessing an absolute epistemology constrains and in fact eliminates a need for critical thinking, as does a ‘multiplist’ stance, allowing students a degree of apathy characterised by statements such as “I feel it’s not worth it to argue because everyone has their opinion.” The explicit modelling of an evaluative epistemology, where students are encouraged to the fact that people have a right to their views with the understanding that some views can nonetheless be more right than others, sets up a learning culture where students see the ‘weighing of alternative claims in a process of reasoned debate as the path to informed opinion, and they understand that arguments can be evaluated and compared based on their merit (Kuhn, 1991).’ Such a pedagogy may satiate an interesting question posed by Martin Robinson: ‘Should the result of a good education include all students thinking the same or thinking differently?’

The 3rd obstacle also looms large. Assessing creativity especially is a difficult thing due to its subjectivity. Rubrics are notoriously imprecise as a reliable reference in determining success or failure of creativity: what I may think satisfies one element of a rubric may be argued against by a colleague; maintaining consistency even with myself in marking is difficult. And if we don’t assess, will students not particularly interested in the topic lose motivation, and make the process a challenging one to manage? I think the answer lies within the answer to Martin Robinson’s question: surely we don’t want everyone robotically programmed. We want students to engage critically and creatively with concepts, and participate in the building of a dynamic and interesting world, so we have to have faith that the knowledge taught to our students, when learnt well, will provide avenues for curiosity that will engage them to participate. Such an epistemology then satisfies stakeholder desires to employ graduates who can think critically and creatively in a modern workplace.      

So how is motivation linked to it all?

 In the next post, I will extrapolate on Zimmerman’s imperative that metacognition is inextricably linked to motivation, and how educators can ensure they incorporate both in learning design.  


Anderson, J. R., Reder, L.M., & Simon, H.A. (2000, Summer).Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education.Texas Educational Review. 

Dignath, C., Buttner, G. (2008). Components of fostering self-regulated learning among students. A metaanalysis on intervention studies at primary and secondary school level. Article in Metacognition and Learning · December 2008 retrieved from here 

Geary, D. (2001). Principles of evolutionary educational psychology.
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri at Columbia,
210 McAlester Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-2500, USA here

Palincsar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1989). Classroom dialogues to promote self-regulated comprehension. In J. Brophy (Ed.), Advances in research on teaching, Vol. 1 (pp. 35–67). Greenwich, CO: JAI Press. 

Sweller, J. (2008) Instructional Implications of David C. Geary’s Evolutionary Educational Psychology, Educational Psychologist, 43:4, 214-216, DOI: 10.1080/00461520802392208

Volet, S. E. (1991). Modelling and coaching of relevant metacognitive strategies for enhancing university students’ learning. Learning and Instruction, 1, 319–336. 

Zimmerman, B., Moylan, A. R. (2009). Self-Regulation from:
Handbook of Metacognition in Education. Routledge.

I’m Paul Moss. I’m a learning designer at the University of Adelaide. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger


If creativity is biologically primary does that mean it wouldn’t tax the working memory in discovery learning, thereby eliminating one of the main arguments against the pedagogy?

As humans we are naturally inclined to problem solve. When we problem solve we employ creativity. It as an instinctive aspect of our human condition primarily because our lives are dominated by cause and effect – every decision we make is influenced by a perceived outcome, and we get good at creatively solving problems so we can survive in this way. In this sense, problem solving and creativity are synonymous. Think about the decisions you’ve made today – you invariably did everything to achieve a goal. Of course, most of the decisions were likely to be automatic and subconscious, like cleaning your teeth, but nonetheless, they are goal orientated. To illustrate, imagine if your toothpaste had ostensibly run out. What do you do? Stand there, helpless? No, you find a way to scape every last drop out of that tube – you roll it up, you cut it open etc. You do this because you have the problem of going to work with unbrushed teeth and the social implications your mind conjures up with that fact are unbearable. We find solutions to hundreds of things all day, every day.

Despite the very large elephant in the (class)room of the above notion rendering such an insistent focus on teaching creativity in ’21st century’ curricula practically redundant, even if it is removed as a central focus of curricula, can we not exploit this natural biological tendency in students to be creative and immerse them in project based or discovery learning in which students will creatively solve the problems presented before them via instinct. Wouldn’t this cultivate an independent learning environment but crucially, without it placing excessive load and strain on the working memory and incapacitating it? As John Sweller puts it, “Novices, not possessing appropriate schemas, are not able to recognize and memorize problem configurations and are forced to use general problem-solving strategies such as means-ends analysis when faced with a problem.” Is this cognitive science wanting its cake and eating it too?


It’s not the general problem-solving strategies which are to blame in overloading the working memory, it is the limited amount of knowledge the novice possesses that denies the problem solving from taking place in the first place. The instinctive problem-solving brain, if prompted, scurries to solve whatever it is confronted with by mixing and matching what it already knows into new and novel ways, but if it can’t access any knowledge to creatively apply to the current context, it can’t do it. It’s like one of those shows like Taskmaster where contestants are provided with a problem and given a limited number of resources to overcome the issue – but they come across a challenge without any resources whatsoever. What would contestants do without anything to use? They would revert to what information they already had in their minds. And some will have more than others based on their cultural literacy and thus be able to achieve better solutions. And this is where discovery learning can become enormously disadvantageous for those students with limited background knowledge. Discovery learning can exacerbate the Matthew Effect significantly.  

But what if the student did possess enough background knowledge to creatively apply problem-solving strategies, would discovery learning then be a suitable approach? Yes, it would be, and I contend that it is important to regularly provide such a context in education (which I discuss below), but with two caveats for educators: there’s lots of content to learn in so little time, and it’s far easier not to learn it.

The path of least resistance is deleterious

Learning biologically primary knowledge such as learning to speak and learning to walk is easy and relatively effortless because it is an adaptive evolutionary strategy we need to survive. However, learning biologically secondary knowledge like learning to read and learning to write is not easy as the brain hasn’t evolved sufficiently yet to do it effortlessly. David Geary’s article explains this concept here. It requires dedicated focus and enormous amounts of scaffolding. Setting up a context where students have to continually find the knowledge for themselves in order to promote the end goal of autonomous and independent learning is an inefficient way of going about it. It requires significantly more effort than biologically primary learning, resulting in most students naturally shying away from pursuing it and taking an easier option.

It is not me being some pessimistic bore that exhorts that students will take the path of least resistance, and not engage in a range of learning activities of their own volition. It’s a human trait. The loss is most evident when the path of learning chosen from the inquiring mind is ultimately and ironically determined by what it already knows, and won’t make giant leaps in thinking if it simply doesn’t have the tools/knowledge to do so. It might ask itself questions that arise from the learning that are significantly removed from the current understanding, which is fabulous, but when it comes to the reality of trying to answer those questions, if the knowledge isn’t there that the mind can creatively mix and match to solve the problem, the path of least resistance will take over, and little learning will eventuate. This is an ironic corollary for those citing constructivism as a justification of discovery learning. By the way, if you’re interested in how constructivism has been incorrectly conflated with the need to make learning in schools an unguided affair, read this by Mayer.

It is at this point of the student mind flailing that the teacher would be expected to step in and scaffold the learning to accommodate the inquisitive philosophy, but again, in reality, it would be impossible to fill the gaps of a class full of discoverers. Take this sequence as an example from a ‘pure’* discovery context: a teacher initialises learning with a prompt which the student then learns about thereby opening the door to a tangential aspect of the learning, which the teacher then adapts to and designs necessary assessment of, including the interleaving of that assessment to ensure learning is actually happening. After several iterations of this, the student would find themselves significantly diverged from the initial teaching moment.

Even in a utopianly small class of 5 students, this becomes totally unmanageable, with the teacher effectively teaching 5 lessons in one. The teacher ends up working infinitely harder than the student. And that’s just for a class of 5. Also, the fact that the divergence is all student led could result in a very thin range of knowledge being learnt – only knowledge that is desirable to the student. It’s difficult to not sound patronising when I use the analogy of it being like allowing your child just to eat what they want and avoid anything that they don’t like, but I think it is a similar level of maturity that tends to guide most children’s/teen’s educational aspiration if left to their own devices.  

It is only an assiduously designed, unbounded and appropriately funded curriculum that could possibly facilitate a true discovery approach to learning for an individual, and we all know this just isn’t practical.

Another thorn in the side of discovery learning is that it is incredibly difficult to assess. We know there are problems with summative assessment, but it is still by far the fairest way of assessing a mass of people and providing relevant stakeholders with information that is wanted in selection processes (jobs, universities etc). Assessing discovery learning relies on subjective perspectives against criteria that must be adopted for a vast range of projects, which not only suffer greatly from marker bias, but also raise issues of parity when projects are so diversified: which tangents are more desirable, which show greater insight etc? Therefore, the validity of such assessment comes under question.

So it seems that despite the pressure from a misinformed public’s view of creativity, fashioned largely through emotive claims, which in a time poor schooling context has enormous implications for which components of curricula, by default, must be missed out, proponents of discovery learning really do want to have their cake and eat it too!


That’s the focus of the next post.

* ‘Pure’ discovery is where the jumps in learning can be cognitively managed as there is adequate knowledge to draw on.  

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blof for more educational discussions


Few educators would argue that reading is critical to a successful education. Reading builds background knowledge: of ideas, of vocabulary, of sentence construction, of spelling and of punctuation. It helps reduce the Matthew effect, and is possibly the only way to mitigate cultural bias implicit in GCSE and other standardised assessment. The more you read, the more you can read, and the more you will learn. David Didau presents an intuitive argument that having access to more culturally rich knowledge can spiral into advantage:

  • more knowledge potentially gets you into a better class at school, which pushes cognitive development compared to a weaker class
  • more cognitive development plays a part in determining the type of people you hang out with
  • those associations with people of equal or higher levels of cognitive development push and strengthen further cognitive development
  • higher cognitive capability opens access to cognitively demanding jobs, which are normally higher paid
  • intellectual levels are maintained via environmental contexts and demands

The graph below represents the potential widening of the gap between students when they are presented with varying cognitive demands over time.

Designing curriculum that demands intellectual rigour then becomes more than simply a consideration: it becomes imperative, with reading at its core. But crucially, we must design the sequence of teaching with precision, in order to avoid gaps in learning. The incomparable Tom Needham advocates such an approach here. This means that we have to be pragmatic at times, and if necessary, provide struggling readers with extra sessions to accelerate their levels to match those in their class.

Despite the enormous benefits of reading, unfortunately for many young people, and perhaps more pertinently for students who are in the higher grades at school, the love of reading, and thus reading independently, seems to have become as fictitious as the books we espouse, except for a select few. The causes of this are for another post, but it leaves educators with a dilemma. How can we get students to read outside of class?


Building capacity to sustain attention is critical to engage students with reading for pleasure. Whilst incredible literature will always rise to the top, it is important to note that lots of it takes some time to achieve its greatness (length), and most of it requires expert teaching to help unlock the potency. The average student can be put off by a multitude of reasons, but difficulty with the cognitive demands of a text as well as a lack of perseverance are two large factors that quickly become indomitable forces against reading, invariably resulting in students not reading at all. I am certainly not suggesting that we pander to these inadequacies, but shorter stories could become the gateway to longer texts, and if it comes down to reading a shorter text or not reading at all, the choice is clear.

This can be achieved by exposing them to short, 400 – 600 word stories. It just so happens that this is the length they are required to write for their exams, so focusing on this length has an extra benefit. In fact, exposing students to these types of stories has 4 large benefits:

  • it is an extremely accessible length – 3 – 4 minutes of reading
  • it models good exam creative writing – this can be in terms of structure, as well as offering multiple opportunities to engage with vocabulary, varying sentence construction and its effects, and spelling and punctuation.
  • it provides students with ideas to generate their own stories
  • it inspires reading for pleasure


I need your help to build a bank of strong stories, so that students from around the world can develop their reading.

For this reason, I have decided to create a platform for students to read and share such stories. It is along the same lines as Cloud 9 Writing, but the criteria is a little less strict. Having said that, the quality still has to be maintained, and submissions need to be error free, of the designated length, and be entertaining. The platform is called EXAM LENGTH STORIES. At first, the name seems rather unimaginative, and therefore ironic, but I wanted it to say what it does on the tin, and explicitly direct students to engage in reading to assist their exam preparation. I don’t think I could make it any more explicit.

I need your help to build a bank of strong stories, so that students from around the world can develop their reading.

Student stories are submitted by teachers (an immediate quality check) via completing the upload form,* and student names of course are withheld from view. You may point out that there are quite a few sites online that publish short stories, but I can see that the quality control in terms of suiting exam style criteria is lacking, and so EXAM LENGTH STORIES may well better suit students sitting GCSE and other standardised assessments. The other advantage of this platform is regarding posterity.


One of my great laments is that I never kept really good stories written by past students. I must have read hundreds of them over the years, and certainly have read a few out to my respective classes, but invariably, most were written in exercise books that were thrown out, never to be read again. The waste of resource is staggering. EXAM LENGTH STORIES seeks to eliminate this, calling on teachers to submit stories that are just plain and simply good reading. They don’t have to be mind blowingly author level good, they just have to be good. With access to free, moderated, purposeful stories that can be read on the bus, train or any time where 3 minutes is available, we eliminate potential barriers for the reluctant reader. Shortly, I will be creating comprehension activities to go along with each story, so they can be used as a teaching resource also.

Ultimately, EVERY story read is a movement in the right direction. Let’s all help build this so we engage our students with enough stories to hook them as readers for life.

*If you submit the form and don’t receive a reply, it will not be from want of trying from my end. Sometimes, school emails block the message generated from the platform’s email address. If this happens, please recontact and send stories to Thank you.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources and discussions.

Tes Education Resources: An Open Expression of Concern

This post has been agreed by several teachers and is shared across several blog sites. 

In the last couple of years, we have openly expressed concern at the approaches taken by Tes Education Resources to plagiarism and copyright violation, theft of resources, and the selling of resources that violate copyright. This is not a blogpost intended to cast disapproval on those who sell resources. It is a simply an open expression of concern at the approach taken by Tes Education Resources, when these incidents are uncovered. We also wish to make clear that this is not about an individual or anybody working for Tes Education Resources. We believe that this is a systemic problem that should not fall on one person to solve.
We feel that the following issues need to be properly addressed by Tes Education Resources:

  • The fact that people upload and sell plagiarised resources, which have been clearly copied from free shares on Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes from colleagues.
  • The fact that although Tes Education Resources offer ‘goodwill’ gestures to those who give public challenge, and offer compensation when they recognise plagiarism, the onus is on the victim of theft to report and prove the theft.
  • The fact that customers are being advised to buy resources to check the content if they suspect a theft has occurred, and then claim the money back.

These issues need addressing because:
Plagiarism can constitute copyright violation, which is covered by legislation in both UK and EU law, as well as being a feature of international treaties and agreements. We believe that this is not being taken seriously by Tes Education Resources, who provide a platform for the sale of resources which have been taken, copied, and presented as original resources by the thief. Tes Education Resources describe themselves as ‘one of the world’s largest peer-to-peer platforms for teachers to trade and share digital teaching resources’ (Tes Education Resources Ltd: Annual Report and Financial Statements – Directors’ Report 2017). We feel that a company of this scale, regardless of financial status, should not be placing the onus on individuals to identify instances of copyright violation.

A goodwill gesture is something given on a case-by-case basis. It means that those with the time and tenacity to challenge instances of copyright infringement are being offered compensation, but there are victims who are unaware of the issue, or perhaps who do not have the time and resources to prove the provenance of the resource. We believe that the Tes Education Resources could and should ensure there is parity here.
Tes Education Resources have conceded that only 5% of their resource downloads are purchased. The rest are free downloads. We appreciate this valuable resource, but feel that the 5% are being prioritised over the 95%. It is understood that the 5% is the download, rather than the upload, figure – but the point still stands – 95% of people downloading from Tes Education Resources are downloading free resources.

We also believe that asking people to buy resources to check for copyright issues, in order to then claim a refund, is an unfair and illogical request. Perhaps most pertinent is the fact that all of these issues are contributing to our workload. The Tes recognise this too. In fact, they have an entire section of their website dedicated to this issue – you can read this here: In refusing to adapt their practice, either by demonetising the site or by taking further steps to prevent these incidents, teachers are being forced to spend time searching the site for their own resources. When teachers locate stolen resources, the expectation that they buy their own work and prove its provenance is onerous and frustrating.

What Tes Education Resources Can Do:
– Have a long-term aim to demonetise the site and subsidise it, to enable an entirely free sharing platform for those working in education.
In the meantime:
– Improve checks on resources to identify plagiarism and/or copyright infringement.
– Allow for full download with retrospective payment, rather than asking people to buy resources simply to check for copyright infringement.
– Enable reviews of paid content without purchasing – so that copyright infringement which is clearly evident in the preview pane can be challenged in a review.
What you can do:
– Avoid downloading from Tes Education Resources until the long-term aim (above) is fulfilled.
– Use your Social Media account to inform your followers that you are doing this.
– Share your resources through Dropbox and any other suitable medium.

CLOUD 9 – A place for high quality inspired writing

High expectations dominate my entire pedagogical approach. In most lessons I push students to think deeply about topics and make connections to the bigger picture of the course. No matter the class, I explicitly teach high level vocabulary, and no matter the student, use questioning to delve deeper into their current thoughts about what I am teaching them.

Differentiation is done mostly through directed questioning, with higher level inquiry directed to students who have moved closer to expert status with the particular topic, and challenging verbal feedback as I move around the room and observe responses. Some students are closer to mastery, and to be frank, for GCSE level, are at mastery level, and require more stimulating conversations and explorations into texts. These students are able to produce higher level, sophisticated responses to essays by weaving judicious quotes together, making links across texts and contexts, and generally writing with precision, concision, and perspicacity.

It is these students that indeed enjoy reading other texts that are of the highest calibre for GCSE, because they serve as inspiration to think, and invariably, as inspiration to produce. Sometimes it is the other way round, with the writing process their initial indulgence. But underlying either approach is the strong desire to see and absorb writing of high quality, writing that demands thinking and takes students into matrices intricate, new worlds of thought that propagate, swell, and change the soul for the better.

This is why I have set up a space on my revision/resource website called Cloud9Writing, which has now been taken over by Cheryl Quine and renamed as Cloud9EnglishClub. Students need to submit an adroit and accomplished response for their work to be added to the site. The categories are essays and creative pieces. To boost the quantity, I have also added essays I have written as well as other teachers’ submissions for students to read, as a further stimulus for students to push their thinking. It is nice for these students to see their teachers write with passion, to see him or her similarly fascinated by the texts taught, and wanting to explore themes as a source of enjoyment; as a compulsion.

The space is open to all nations. Students being able to read high quality essays from across the country, and where relevant, across the world, exposes them to a wide, diverse range of viewpoints and thinking, thinking influenced by culture, location, and gender.

As an added bonus, after some time, students’ work will remain, for posterity; how many times have you read a student’s work, been blown away by it, but end up never seeing it again? Cloud 9 Writing eliminates this frustration.

There are things to consider with such an ambition, including stipulations regarding GDPR, and who will moderate submissions. Measures in place include:

  • Having moderators who are examiners to ensure the quality of uploads is maintained.
  • A submission form satisfying all GDPR requirements for teachers to submit pieces from their students they believe are of an outstanding level.
  • Promotion of teh site to build the quantity of submissions and promote the site’s efficacy.

If you believe you have a student who has written something of exceptional quality, and the student is willing for their work to be placed on the site (anonymously of course), leave a message below.

The platform has had over 35,000 views, and I have received lots of encouragement from teachers about the benefits for students in being able to read and indeed submit high quality essays. Please help spread the word, and even better, submit an essay.


I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more educational and English teaching resources.

3 Reasons To Encourage Student-Generated Content

See on Scoop.itconstructivism: the lost art of learning

Criticisms from adults about the quality of student-generated content are unfair, because up until now, all theories and assumptions are mostly drawn from youth engagement in entertainment and gaming contexts, and not from educational contexts.

Paul Moss – teacher, learner‘s insight:

Students are capable of harnessing the power of social media – they just need the opportunity. Good teachers will not only encourage students to participate in user-generated learning, but also assist students in developing and strengthening the emotional capacities required in such a learning context.

See on

There are smarter ways teens should use social media, this 16-year-old expert says. Here’s how

See on Scoop.itconstructivism: the lost art of learning

Patrick Mott makes the case for teaching all teenagers about harnessing the knowledge and networking power of social media

Paul Moss – teacher, learner‘s insight:

adult guidance and trust of students will unleash the power of social media for learning.

See on