Cathy Walter

Cathy  Walter

As a former teacher and senior leader in schools, I am now the Assistant Director of Education at the Girls’ Day School Trust.

Location London, UK


  • Your efforts in this area are really admirable. I would be terrified to enter a rap battle! One of our schools has just set up a Stand-Up comedy club. Some of the teachers go along to show their own vulnerabilities. However, I think we can all do a little bit every day whilst teaching.... e.g I am a terrible speller, so I used to give out rewards to students...

  • Sometimes I find it is hard to even uncover which bit of their mindset is, in fact, fixed. For example, last week I was involved in a review of a music department's exam results. Everyone was struggling to see why, from some great teaching and enthused students, the results were not as high as would be expected from the students.

    After talking at length...

  • Thanks Jim. For any others interested in how to carry out their own Action Research, I have found these guides from the NFER very user-friendly:

  • Great reflection Helen. I love how when we really stop to reflect on 'how' we are teaching it can open up such big questions as to 'why' we do what we do. Again, you may be interested/inspired to read the speech on this topic from the GDST's CEO in our annual conference.

    'To survive and thrive of course we need personal resilience, but I also believe we...

  • I think you are spot on Joanna. At the GDST we hold an annual conference and last year's focused on this very topic. You may be interested to read our CEO's speech here: ('Girls and women are already starting to make their own rules, making a difference and making the...

  • Hi @DeeKerwick-Chrisp The transcript for this audio is in the download section

  • @JohnTench I'm sorry that survey seems to be an annoying pop up. Just close it with the cross when it appears and it should take you back to the workbook download.

  • @JohnTench An interesting reflection John.
    We should be asking ourselves as educators, and challenging schools leaders, as to how schools are designed to maximise opportunities for girls to realise their potential. They might do this through considering what needs to change in:
    - the design of the schools themselves, including not just the classrooms but...

  • @AlemiCharlesB.MODI Thanks for sharing Alemi, lovely to read. How did you convince them to work together?

  • Absolutely, Vygotsky's work on the zone of proximal development refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. This may well be a peer.

  • Really useful link, thanks for sharing @JohnTench

  • @AnnettePayling @JohnTench A very interesting topic to discuss, it could take up a full course!
    For interest, and further reading might I suggest:
    With review:

    And this is the book...

  • You make a really interesting point Jane. Another learner has shared this link in week 4 of this course. I think the experience of this super women would align with your suspicion: (TedX talk from the founder of Goldie Blocks - an engineering toy for girls)

  • I would agree with you. Our research also suggests that girls often also adapt their behaviour in the presence of boys, to their own disadvantage – for instance in adopting supporting or moderating roles in discussion, avoiding risk-taking in inquiry, and in their choice of subjects for study. Perhaps this is a case of needing to educate both the teachers and...

  • You might find it useful to read the GDST perspective on girls-only education:
    For interest..... Because of course, I would stress that this course is structured around themes that have a particular resonance in teaching girls:...

  • Oh Nikki, you sent me down a googling tunnel there with the Goldie Blocs suggestion! Great.
    I think our learners interested in supporting girls in STEM will be really interested by some of the ideas and approaches. Even a suggested reading list for your budding girl engineers this summer:

  • This is the interesting point for me @ChristopherBasham : 'Girls and boys do choose different roles in life and have different expectations of themselves and their environment.' But why? Our learners from around the globe have certainly shown that these 'roles' and 'expectations' are not universal.
    Don't worry, I'm not expecting you to tackle that massive...

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences @BurhaniAlizada . I will be really interested to read what your reflections are at the end of the course about what you can do as an individual to change things like this, at least with the girls in your care.

  • @FarukhPracha A quick google search provides quite a few free resources

  • It is also important to ensure the girls in our care are used to and comfortable with the ues of technology. As explained by the GDST's CEO in a recent article
    'In my view, one of the biggest challenges [for women] lies in the digital space. Whereas great progress has been made in women’s representation and participation in public life and in many...

  • Of course, many educators on this course will find our other course (currently open) useful:

  • I think in part this is to do with providing many many opportunities for students to practice the skill of peer feedback to allow it to be effective and meaningful.

  • Absolutely! I know I wish I had had more practice at this at school. It took me years in the workplace to work out that collaboration can look like disagreement and that the end product is more often the better off for that. Before that penny drop moment I would put my ideas forward, have them (what felt like) shouted down and I would back off. Now I recognise...

  • @AlemiCharlesB.MODI
    We must continue to be very careful about generalisations. The existence of gendered styles and preferences itself says nothing about whether they are ‘hard-wired’, or are themselves a response to gendered socialization. The fact is, though, that without doubt these difference affect and influence what and how girls learn.

    I will...

  • A really really interesting reflection @MeganLevey , thank you for sharing

  • Young girls appear to be better prepared for the student ‘role’ than boys –they enter school with more school-relevant knowledge, and tend to be more conscientious, have higher cognitive competencies and possess a more positive social self-concept (Fabes et al, 2014). Indeed, this seems to persist – a UK government review concluded that girls and boys relate...

  • I hope you saw my reply to your previous post about this @JohnTench but just in case.... this is the article that the Telegraph ran at the start of the project:

  • This might be a useful resource for you @almaRodriguez ... one of our teachers made this revision FAQ for our students:

  • @GarofaliaKotsimpos @JamesMacLeod @SusanSteward
    An interesting thread. More research is needed but to start you off....
    90 countries participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Confidence appears to be one of the strong factors affecting the evident disparity found in the PISA tests – where high-performing fifteen year old...

  • so pleased to read this @OyebolaPrecious See you in week 2!

  • Week 3 is open... see you there!

  • This senior leader has helped grow and sustain a culture like this. I suppose I would ask you, which do you feel you personally could start to make the greatest headway with?
    Evidence based teaching and learning strategies
    Expert staff
    Pastoral care
    Role models
    Relationships with parents

  • absolutely!

  • @IainGarioch I take your point about the need for training the teachers. Teachers are crucial because:
     Scaffolding throughout the process is critical to success.
     Expert guidance needs to be embedded at all stages
     Disciplinary thinking and strategies need to be made explicit
     Complex tasks need to be structured in order to reduce the cognitive load...

  • Great summary @ElizabethMN
    How do you think you might use this type of approach?

  • I used to find the ASE concept cartoons useful for STEM teaching. Some can be found here: for those interested in this great thread. Thank you for reminding us of these @ZoeFarrell and @JudyVatcher

    The website puts it well 'This ASE resource shows different characters arguing...

  • What sort of language are you referring to @TarandeepLChohan ?

  • Do let us know what you plan and if it works! More ideas for games like this would be really useful. Sometimes just 'icebreaker' games at the start of lesson can help students find their voice.
    The NHS commissioned some research in 2013 that found that if everyone in the operating theatre spoke (just to introduce themselves) before the operation everyone,...

  • “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

    ― Benjamin Franklin

  • And that isn't wrong @ValerieRoss .
    John MacBeath asserts that, ‘All learning is a form of narrative quest for deeper meaning.’ Viewed in these terms, the individual lesson is emphatically not the fundamental pedagogical unit, and should not be seen in isolation. A single lesson cannot be self-contained. Nor should it be expected to be all singing,...

  • Your point reminds me of how important it is for us teachers to stop and reflect on the decisions we have made in good faith already, as well considering those new things we want to try. I certainly used to pair students like this to try to achieve a calmer classroom. And it did! - so it did support an improved learning environment in a way. But if we agree...

  • You do not need to pay for the certificate but you will not be able to achieve it until you have completed all four weeks of the course.

  • @JohnTench Hi John, this is the article that the Telegraph ran at the start of the project:

  • You can read the full research report here: and you can access the course bibliography through step 1.1

  • Don’t worry, me and the course team will keep an eye on the previous weeks as the other weeks become live. Great to have you on board! @AlemiCharlesB.MODI

  • There is no cost if you complete the course within 6 weeks of the start date : )

  • touché!

  • Super aims there - In a nutshell....Week 1: Confidence, Week 2: Articulating, Week 3: being listened to.... I hope you find the course really useful!

  • It is an honor to have you and your perspective joining us on this course @BreshnaYarmand , I look forward to reading your contributions

  • Nicely put Tarabdeep. It can feel like quite the mountain to climb sometimes can't it! We are so privileged however to be in a position to attempt to bring about these admirable goals. Welcome to the course.

  • Great to have you on the course Valerie. I think you will find this article interesting: The two imperatives of re-engaging disaffected boys and ensuring equity for girls should not be set against each other -
    Let me know what you think!

  • @UmmeHani You will need to mark 90% of the steps in the course as 'complete' to be eligible for the certificate. You will then be able to download the certificate. I hope that you find it a useful certificate to demonstrate your dedication to your own continuing professional development as an educator.

  • Love this, a really clear strategy. Thank you for sharing @JudyVatcher

  • How do you think an approach like this might improve the quality of dialogue in a classroom?

  • Next week we will look at how to extend think-pair-share and other collaborative ways of working. You are right, there is a real art to introducing more dialogue in the classroom.

  • This is a great idea, thank you for sharing. Do you train the students in the type of language to use when analyzing the scripts?

  • What is the app called @LaurisGrundmanis ? Otherwise a good old trusty lolly pop stick can work! The best use of these I've observed is for trainee teachers to help them remember to call on everyone. The lollipop sticks can be colour coded (for differentiation purposes perhaps) and the students choose their 'praise comment' on the stick next to their name. The...

  • Wow @CharityKatotobwe it sounds like you are doing some amazing work. We are honored to have you giving your experiences to this course. What kind of things have you been doing to support your girls to express themselves more clearly?

  • This is a really interesting point, thank you @IainGarioch
    It brings home the point for me that we need to train our students in their own collective meta-cognitive vocabulary so that it is 'easier for them to understand each other' and that we facilitate better collaborative working in our learning environments. I hope that this week supports you on your...

  • Of course, we sometimes forget to listen to our students as you did. Next week we will look into the importance of student voice.

    In 2016 we asked students to complete a questionnaire, to find out what they think makes for great teaching. 11,902 students responded.

    In our survey, the ‘personal qualities’ of the teacher come out very strongly, much more...

  • Welcome to the course, it is very interesting to read your contributions. Thank you for joining the discussions, the learners input is what makes the content of this course so valuable to educators around the world. In response to your comment here I would say that all excellent schools encourage and assist pupils to realise their potential, and are designed...

  • @LauraF Love this : )

  • I think most of us would agree that all of these approaches could apply to teaching boys too but what we hope to do in this course is to look at themes that have a particular resonance in teaching girls: confidence/challenge, communication and collaboration. The aim is to play pedagogically to girls’ strengths, and to address obstacles to learning that appear...

  • Welcome to the course John, I look forward to reading your views and your reflections as the course progresses and we start to unpack some of the items you have highlighted.
    The course is structured around themes that have a particular resonance in teaching girls: confidence/challenge, communication and collaboration. The aim is to play pedagogically to...

  • Research suggests that while these themes are not gender-exclusive, girls typically display certain preferences and exhibit certain behaviours. It’s a spectrum, so many boys will also fit this profile, but typically, boys’ learning behaviour is different. Girl-friendly approaches are therefore calibrated to optimise the typical dispositions of girls, without...

  • This is a really good example of the need to build confidence beyond the comfort zone. This is, I suppose, actually a closed question as there is a right answer (according to the mark scheme anyway) but students would find it harder to recognise this and become anxious because of how the question is phrased. They would likely know the answer if you asked them...

  • This is interesting @katherinerichard - how do you think they had been taught before you arrived that made them under confident?

  • @IainGarioch The Learning Pit is featured in step 1.8

  • All of the approaches put forward, including this one, are not aimed to be a paint by numbers approach to teaching girls. Of course boys will benefit from teaching approaches such as these that promote good pedagogical practices. The aim is to play pedagogically to girls’ strengths, and to address obstacles to learning that appear more prominent among girls....

  • Well put Iain. Next week we will consider further this need for a meta-cognitive vocabulary in students.
    .....although... when I'm putting together Ikea furniture my language is, ahem.... probably not demonstrating my appreciation of the process! But I appreciate your point!

  • I tend to agree with you about phones in the classroom. Some might argue that largely due to the impact of social media gender increasingly matters in teaching and learning. We must actively educate students in how to use technology to better their futures. Perhaps instead of limiting the use of phones in schools, schools should look to influence the use of...

  • This sounds like a number of great ideas. I hope that you find next weeks' focus on dialogue in the classroom and week three's focus on collaboration really useful to help you plan your lessons

  • I think you will find this article useful as much of the article in this step is based on it:

  • Absolutely, in week 4 we look at the concepts of ‘lesson studies’. These might be a way for teachers to work together in small supportive groups

  • I remember reading your research Charlotte. We are looking at feedback in more detail in week 3 - I am so pleased you are hear to share your findings and expertise with the learners on this course.

  • Fabulous to have you along on this learning journey with us Ailie, I hope that the articles, videos and discussions help you to realise your admirable aim

  • Perhaps that sentence is a little clunky on reflection. I hope that the preamble before it spells out that we are talking here about the opportunities available for girls, beyond their school years, to achieve equality in whatever their chosen pathway.
    At the GDST we talk about how we want to 'help every girl, whatever her background, to fulfil her potential...

  • The orthodox view is that this is a problem for business, that there is either a leaky pipeline or a glass ceiling, or both. But what if success at school actually creates the conditions for failure at the next stage? What if, “The very skills that propel women to the top of the class in school are earning us middle-of-the-pack marks in the...

  • Gaye, I think you will really enjoy week 4 of this course when we will fully open the debate: Does gender still matter in learning?' Lots of what you reference above will be touched upon.

  • I am interested to understand what you mean by 'better students'?

  • I agree with you that collaboration can't be added to a learning environment for collaboration sake, it needs to effective - perhaps by setting clear guidelines as you suggest. The other problems some of us face is that collaboration, when passed through the filtration bed of assessment, is separated out as plagiarism. Some argue, that it is left to...

  • Thank you for these thoughts Anwen. I think our community of learners on this course could produce a really comprehensive list of ideas to add to your examples that we could all share with our students. I hope people share even more! In step 1.10 we ask everyone to share some ideas they will trial to demonstrate that we too need to take risks and face failure....

  • John West Burnham, an educationalist that has contributed generously of his time to this course, has high praise for the resource you mention - it 'develops a coherent strategy to empower students’ understanding and help them become confident self-managing and self-aware learners.' Certainly something to check out, thank you for sharing Debbie.

  • Sounds interesting, could you share the headlines of the article with us?

  • Sounds great. Did you see the mural that a teacher has drawn on her school wall in Dubai of Minions travelling through the Learning pit? It is posted on the padlet board in step 1.7. It looks fab!

  • Nicely drawn out Anwen. We will spend some time unpacking your first point there in week 3. Within a climate of trust, we need to consider the many opportunities that should be taken to develop partnerships (relationships) within and across the learning community.

  • Let us know how it goes! His website has some good resources to help you to introduce the Learning Pit also, so that your students both experience the struggle and recognise why it was a good thing!

  • What a great experiment - do let us know your reflections. I certainly used to be guilty of, more often than not, using the girls to 'police' the boys in group work.

  • Do remember to add your own examples to the padlet board by pressing the big + button in the browser when it launches

  • Wow, what a resource!
    Thank you for sharing. I have recently had a daughter and many of the topics on there are concerns of mine.

  • Have you observed any notable exceptions to this? What characteristics did the students have that relished a difficult problem?

  • That's it Janet, absolutely... this isn't about girl-only learning strategies, this is about girl-friendly learning environments. Beyond content knowledge and the subject or vocational skills that can easily be captured and quantified by test scores lies a portfolio of attitudes, dispositions and skills that are developed at school. They rarely find expression...

  • Your perspectives on this will be really valuable next week when we look further at the need for, and strategies to improve, dialogue in the classroom.

  • It also appears the old adage remains true: a woman will see one skill on a job spec that she does not feel confident about and ditch her application, while a man will apply for the same job based on the one skill that they do have. Is this perhaps why our learners are using this word confidence, I wonder....

  • An interesting thought George, thanks for sharing.
    A survey commissioned by Girlguiding found that the confidence gained by girls at school is more easily eroded in later years. 90% of nine- and 10-year-old girls felt they would have the same chance as boys at succeeding in their chosen jobs. This dropped to 54% among 11- to 16-year-olds, and to 35% among 17...

  • Great link to share thanks Linda - I love Maggie - what an inspiration to young women!

  • Hi Iain, its great to have you on board. I have been itching to share this find with someone (as a previous physics teacher myself)..... I met the creative agency behind this series of videos aimed at young people considering a career in engineering ( For me it is a step in the right direction in trying to address the...

  • It is great to have you on the course Natalie. Your insights from your perspective will be really valuable to many of the teachers working with the girls you are trying to inspire to join the STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and maths - for our non UK colleagues!).
    Women are significantly under-represented in maths, science and technology,...

  • Thank you for letting us know Iain. We are looking into it asap. If you launch the program through this step it should by pass the need for a code.

    *Edit: You should now be able to use the code 64 76 21