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What are explanations for?

This week I led a short morning CPD on explanations. Explanations are such a crucial yet complicated part of our day-to-day as teachers, and demand a great deal of thought. It's very easy to take explanations for granted.

I drew heavily on the fantastic work of Andy Tharby (@atharby) and his wonderful book 'How To Explain Absolutely Anything to Absolutely Anyone: The art and science of teacher explanation' which I would thoroughly recommend all teachers purchase (can be found here on Amazon!)

I wanted to quickly and clearly explain why explanations are so hard to get right, and how they link to the work we'd already started doing on understanding the idea of schema.

To that end, I used the fantastic work of the graphical maestro himself Oliver Caviglioli (@olicav) to try and bring the central ideas alive.

I've included the graphical accompaniment to my explanation below, sans commentary from me! I think it still works pretty well.

The rest of the session focussed on just a couple of features of great explanations identified by Tharby in his book:

  • The importance of explanation design (we focussed on explicit instruction and chunking explanations)

  • The use of concrete examples (in particular I focussed on the importance of providing multiple examples)

  • The provision of opportunity for elaboration after the explanation has been given (never leave a good explanation hanging; always follow up with opportunities for students to use the new knowledge through questioning and practice)

I love having the opportunity to share brilliant ideas and communicate them with my own spin. In particular, it's a joy to have so much great thinking out there to draw upon when designing CPD. Thanks very much to Andy Tharby and Oliver Caviglioli for making CPD everywhere a little bit (or a big bit!) better!

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