In a study updated last year, John Hattie of the University of Melbourne crunched the results of more than 65,000 research papers on the effects of hundreds of interventions on the learning of 250m pupils. He found that aspects of schools that parents care about a lot, such as class sizes, uniforms and streaming by ability, make little or no difference to whether children learn (see chart). What matters is “teacher expertise”. All of the 20 most powerful ways to improve school-time learning identified by the study depended on what a teacher did in the classroom.
That’s both a clear picture of the problem and the road to the solution. Too many “clean” sideline drills; not enough practice in learning to play the “messy” game, intelligently. Too great a gap between what the (simplified) drill was “teaching” and what the complex performance demanded that they learn.