TLAB13 Keynote 1: Alistair Smith

50,000 chunks: how we become experts and what it means for us. Great teachers interleave different strategies. Alistair implores us to reclaim language from Ofsted: make teaching pupil-centred again. We look at the numbers of hours needed to become experts in a variety of things (knitting: 5760!) Deliberate practice is when we’re at the edge of our comfort zone. Masters retrieve key information more quickly than novices. Expertise differs from experience because it requires deep contextual understanding of their subject matter. Persistence, cognitive flexibility also key.


Make an expert school. Establish a core purpose and make it the centre. Be clear on who your great learners and teachers are, and what excellent learning and teaching looks like. Be coherent with your message: plan for excellent teaching. Lesson plans should not be a to-do list and Ofsted should not set the agenda. Be consistent. Build a community: supportive environment. Beware the Ofsted whisperers because their agenda is different. We all stand and Alistair eliminates us one at a time using statements to identify expert schools. Lots of laughs at the idea that schools have a develoment plan than some staff have never seen.


Good point: marginal gains are all very well, but “you still have to cycle the bike up the hill” – the basics need to be in place. Alistair cites St Andrews school who moved from special measures to Outstanding across the board without the Head mentioning Ofsted once. “Get the outcomes right and they’ll give you the rest for free.” Model the practices you espouse. Be visible – leaders and teachers. You can game the system but that’s not what gets you up in the morning. What makes expert learners? More responsibility: Learning Leaders. Effective interventions:


Alistair finishes with some examples. He talks about the holy trinity of feedback: self-, peer- and tutor-assessment. Video clips model this. Lots to think about here! Enjoyed Alistair’s focus on how to make a difference, and humourous delivery.

This entry was posted in tlab13. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to TLAB13 Keynote 1: Alistair Smith

  1. Adam Jacob says:

    “Make an expert school. Establish a core purpose and make it the centre.” Can anyone think of a school who would benefit from doing this?

  2. Adam Jacob says:

    This article is brilliant. All schools (especially some) should ensure these concepts are at the heart of what they do everyday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s