**I am currently doing a big update of this – please come back later!**

Below is a list of things I have read and found interesting and have helped me develop as a teacher. I’ve been collecting them over the last year or so and tried desperately to keep them in order. This is a work in progress and I’m going to try and update it when I can. I’ve marked everything that I think is super important with a * so you can ctrl+f for it. I’ve tried to keep my summaries as short as possible – the individual pieces will speak for themselves. You will note that I have avoided books too. This is because I don’t really find the time to sit and dedicate time to full books, I prefer to read stuff on the go, in the little snippets of time I find for myself here and there.

This is mainly a list for my own benefit. If anyone else finds it useful I would be more than happy. And if you have something I’ve missed please let me know.

You can ctrl+f topics as:

What makes great teaching?
Cognitive Science general principles
Cognitive Load Theory
The importance of knowledge
Direct Instruction/Discovery Based Learning
Dual Coding
Meta-Syntheses and Policy
Pupil Premium and Closing the gap
Student welfare
Teacher Training
Educational Research
School inspection

The categories are loose so if you’re looking for something else just search your key word – chances are good there will be something here on it. I’m also aware that some thing deserve their own section but this is just how the list grew so I mean no value statements by the headings.

What makes great teaching?

*The number one thing for every teacher to read is the now legendary Rosenshine (2012) paper which is very clear on how to teach effectively

*The best introduction to the research as it stands as of 2014 written by the Sutton Trust and Rob Coe. A really important read that covers a lot of material and can lead in many different directions. Also explains what things don’t work (e.g. discovery based learning)

Here is Nick Rose’s 7 pillars of classroom practice involving his curated list of further reading.

I’ve tried to categorise my links below so that the aspects of “great teaching” are easier to find.

The What Works Clearing House study guide is also great and gives some very straightforward advice for achieving great teaching.

Cognitive Science General Principles 

*The easiest straightforward introduction to CogSci is by Deans for Impact here

*Daniel Willingham incredibly important piece on how the brain actually works. This is based on his book “Why don’t students like school” which is blooming brilliant.

The Learning about Learning report is great because not only does it talk about important principles but it looks at whether those principles are taught to trainee teachers (spoiler: they aren’t)

Though this is going to come up later as well, Kirschner, Sweller and Clarke’s piece here is a very important and wide ranging read

*A good dose of humility and understanding that teachers are not cognitive scientists is also important. See here for Sue Gerard’s critique of Michaela

There is an outstanding list of seminal papers to be read on Paul Kirschner’s blog here

Here is a very good long-read by Clare Sealy covering most of the basics of cognitive science

Cognitive Load Theory

CLT has been described by Dylan Wiliam as the “single most important thing for teachers to know.” There are loads of great summaries out there but the best in my opinion is this one from an Australian group.

A lot the headings below are aspects at alleviating or mitigating Cognitive Load so should be read in that light. There’s another great collection of things to read here.

The importance of knowledge

Knowledge is important. Without facts your brain doesn’t work as well at digesting new information and solving problems.

ED Hirsch is one of the key players in this. there isn’t a lot online written by him, it’s mostly in books, but this is a nice taster 

*Dan Willingham’s piece here is really straightforward and easy to follow

*This Tricot and Sweller article is a really great piece tracing the history of how domain specific knowledge and domain general knowledge (i.e. “skills”) have been approached within psychology. It also discusses the difference between biologically primary and biologically secondary knowledge. Long, but excellent.

I really enjoyed Tom Sherrington’s post on the subject and especially his thoughtful reflection on how he has changed as a practitioner.

As in the Tricot and Sweller piece above, being able to think about something in large part depends on the information you have in your long term memory about that thing. Willingham describes how that applies to critical thinking here 

Tom Bennett’s piece here is aimed at the common classroom folk wisdom that factual recall is somehow unimportant or “lower level”

Greg Ashman with links:  Ashman is a warrior against Dewey-inspired “progressive” education and all of his pieces are well-researched and feature extensive links. See also here for more links

This is a really interesting article about critical thinking in colleges and how it is taught. One of its conclusions is that teaching critical thinking doesn’t really improve anyone’s actual ability to think critically

There are lots of “aptitude tests” out there especially in use by the top tier universities. Daisy Christodoulou takes aim at the History Aptitude Test here.

More findings which show the importance of domain specific knowledge, here regarding “digital literacy”

David Didau on Sugata Mitra and the importance of core knowledge with lots of important links  (see also here for specific take-down of Mitra)

Fascinating interview dealing with a 94 year old physicist and issues of scientific creativity. There is also a link to this fascinating article showing that the highest value patents are designed by older scientists.

Very interesting report here on whether extra computing code classes boosts computational thinking. Interestingly, it doesn’t, but the authors do not seem able to accept this finding and say that this is because computational thinking is already being improved by the normal computing curriculum in school.

Whenever anyone posts a classic “facts are outdated” type article make sure you respond with this by Willingham or this article by Kirschner about why Google is not enough.

Nice recent article here about far transfer – does learning music or chess lead to cognitive benefits in unrelated fields? No.

How many items can the working memory hold? How does it vary within populations? Unclear, see here for more on the topic and how it is important to teachers.

I also presented about this at The Festival of Education. My slides can be found here and there are a couple of other points that may be new to you – the blog post has focussed on how the way you experience the world changes depending on your knowledge of it.

Lots of research about how students cannot multi task here and here

Direct Instruction/Discovery Based Learning

*One of the most heavily cited pieces available on Instruction models vs. discovery models. This is a classic and a must read 

One of the authors of that piece has a lengthy interview here where he also references the genesis of the  2006 piece

They followed up with an article in this journal (this particular journal edition also contains the Rosenshine piece linked above and a long piece by Pasi Sahlberg on the Finnish system. It also has another piece by Willingham about educational disadvantage.)

A lot of the evidence for direct instruction comes from Project Follow Through which looked at a number of teaching methods. Not only did it help students learn the material better but their affective scores (enthusiasm/motivation etc) were also increased. So evidence suggests that not only is direct instruction more effective for student learning, but also for student motivation. See here and here

PISA 2015 report on science shows a negative correlation between science performance and “enquiry based instruction.” The strongest negative correlation is associated with increased practical and hands on work. My theory for this is that teachers assume that by having done a practical students have learned something, when in fact this is highly unlikely. See Pg 63 and on from the link

Most of the above was influenced by Greg Ashman, and his  work on Pisa has been fantastic

Discovery based learning and inquiry-led learning mean a different thing. I think probably most people use them interchangeably, but strictly inquiry is about trying to find the answer to some question, rather than just generally “learning about.” I have written about inquiry learning here in science, as it is still considered crucial in science pedagogy.

Dual Coding

Dual coding, or the multimedia effect, is about reducing cognitive load by making use of both auditory and visual representations of information. The best stuff I’ve seen on this comes from the blogosphere so see here or here for a general introduction or here for some great science specific examples (I have my own here too). If anyone knows any other subject specific ones please send them to me.

Memory and retrieval practice

*You will see a lot of people online talking about retrieval practice. Essentially this is the principle that active quizzing is an excellent way to remember things, and most other routes are significantly less efficient. As a straightforward read for class teachers, Dunlosky et al is a great start.

A lot of the original research is by Roediger and Karpicke. A good relatively recent review can be found here. Review of retrieval practice

Basically anything by The Learning Scientists. Most notably their stuff on effective study strategies

Efrat Furst is a cognitive scientist working in this area too, and her presentations are great. Here are the slides from one similar to one that I attended RetrievalPractice_Routes_EfratFurst_REdHan_March2018

The Chartered College of Teaching have some great CPD resources on RP here

It’s really important to understand when retrieval practice is appropriate. Davis et al (2017) retrieval and encoding is a very good paper on the topic which I wrote about here.

Retrieval practice has also been shown to mitigate effects of high stress environments like exams RP and high stakes exams



Dylan Wiliam wrote an incredibly influential document on assessment which led to the AfL movement:

*I have never been convinced by AfL due to the performance vs. learning conundrum

For some of the original material on performance and learning see: here (or here) (or a video here) If the above link doesn’t work try this

The Bjorks have been at the front of explaining learning and performance, and This is an amazing treasure trove of detail and references from the their lab in the states

See Wiliam’s response to David Didau here

Here is a blog I recently found and really like with his take on it

This is a good review of the evidence on feedback which, despite what people say, is highly mixed, with the seminal Kluger and DeNisi study being very important as pointing out that 1/3 of feedback interventions have a negative effect.

Cool mythbusting piece here by Ben Wilbrink about assessment generally

I recently discovered this very interesting guide to setting whole school assessment policies. Includes a very important discussion of validity and reliability

We recently ran an AfL in science online symposium which was rounded off by Dylan Wiliam himself. Introduction can be found here and DW’s response at the end deserves a *here


I used to have a whole long section here but I recently wrote the Markaggedon document which encompasses everything from the old section and sets out the case for no more marking.

Meta-syntheses and policy

Education policy is more often than not driven by ideology rather than facts. Politicians who have no experience of teaching go off to some other country and come back proposing a new magic bullet. It’s easy pickings because you can never expect to see impact until a lot further down the line and if there is no impact then you can ignore it and if anything at all improves then you can act as though it was your change that affected it. This is why I used to think that people like Hattie are so important – so that we can have an evidence-informed discussion about how to actually improve our systems. Unfortunately, as per the links below, there are now many chinks in the armour of meta-syntheses which should greatly concern us. 

*Have schools in the UK improved? No. This is a really great paper where Rob Coe discusses how politicians and other stakeholders have insisted that our schools are improving when in reality they aren’t. One of my favourite pieces ever

Know thy impact: an introduction to Hattie’s work. see also the recent expansion of Hattie’s effect sizes

Hattie is generally considered top dog when it comes to this kind of thing, but I’ve seen a couple of things recently which have made me question that. See here for a really intelligent critique

It is worth noting that Hattie has his critics. See especially this brutal takedown of Visible Learning from a statistician who argues that VL is actually pseudoscience. Another piece critical by Gary Jones can be found here and Robert Slavin here.

Hattie on academies, performance related pay and the politics of distraction

One of Ashman’s pieces on PISA 

Sutton Trust’s toolkit – very heavily used but not without its critics https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence/teaching-learning-toolkit

The “London Effect”: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/row-breaks-out-over-cause-londons-state-school-success

Tom Bennett on Sir Ken Robinson and other junk policies: https://www.tes.com/news/blog/tom-bennett-reviews-%E2%80%98creative-schools-grassroots-revolution-thats-changing-education%E2%80%99-ken

Pupil premium and closing the gap

Headline figures: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/how-fair-britain/online-summary/key-areas-education and http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/1NCEE_interim_report.pdf

Lots of important statistics from Mary Bousted https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/teachers-their-own-cannot-compensate-endemic-childhood-poverty

This post by the Learning Scientists highlights the need to be aware of educational disadvantage and the fact that student awareness of such disadvantage can reduce their performance http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2017/1/5-1

This study from the states can be summarised as “spending money well can close the gap.”

Another study from the states here looking at the effect of socio-economic status on educational outcomes and whether the gap is closing

Very nice summary here by Martin Robinson on to what extent education can influence social mobility

Very interesting set of charts showing gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students by the EEF here

*ED Hirsch and other “traditionalists” argue that the only way to actually close the gap is through the systematic accumulation of facts by the less well off https://atlantaclassical.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Reading-Comprehension-E.D.-Hirsch-article.pdf

Grit and Resilience

See below regarding Grit and Duckworth. Duckworth and others are classic magic bullet people. If only students had this one trait then everything would be fantastic… http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-limits-of-grit.

There is another peer-reviewed piece here on the effect of grit and the tangle of other concepts it is tied up with.

A recent study shows that poor American students who start college after a basic “lay-theory” session where they are taught about not giving up and how the setbacks they face are normal and temporary have an increased chance of completing their course http://www.pnas.org/content/113/24/E3341

There is also Duckworth’s theory of Grit which is highly influential and Nicky Morgan is a big fan of. It’s also highly open to critique http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2016/06/talent-trap-why-try-try-and-trying-again-isn-t-key-success

See also three star learning’s take on grit – full of references. https://3starlearningexperiences.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/to-grit-or-not-to-grit-thats-the-question/

Student Welfare and mental health

School health and education survey: http://sheu.org.uk/content/page/young-people-2015

Mental health and exam stress is making it big in the news at the moment. Lots of people in the blogosphere have been writing about this (see here for summary https://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/the-child-mental-health-crisis-debate-part-2/) and the NHS has written about it and specifically how it is covered in the press here http://www.nhs.uk/news/2016/05May/Pages/Exam-stress-linked-to-teen-suicide.aspx

More data on how young people nowadays are smoking less drinking less etc. http://www.content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB22610

Fascinating and disturbing piece by Cracked here about the pro-ana community.

The British Psychological Society’s discussion of how to treat mental health issues in schools is here. See also this government document with a lot of important stats.

Very interesting review of well-being here which shows that it actually had a positive effect. Some have questioned that it seems to be the same team finding the results in all of the studies.

Social media is very often pointed to as the Root Of All Evil, but it is unclear whether or not the data supports this. Lots of correlation/causation fallacies. This is an interesting experiment where they found little danger of using SM.


Carol Dweck’s seminal work Mindset is a whole book but she summarises her key findings here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/

One noted problem with the theory has been termed “false growth mindset” and has been acknowledged by Dweck and discussed here: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/psychology/why-the-false-growth-mindset-explains-so-much/

(Meanwhile some schools have clearly taken it too far)

Jan 2017 following an article in Buzzfeed there has been a renewed focus on Growth Mindset. Andrew Old wrote a good summary here https://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/is-growth-mindset-the-new-brain-gym/

There is an interesting interview with Hattie where he argues that we haven’t really understood mindset properly


Robert Plomin is the leading advocate of a more genetics based approach  due to his work on TEDS (Twins Early Development Study) and a discussion of his findings is here: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/growth-mindset-theory-overplayed-and-could-be-harmful-geneticist

Recent publication on genes in education from Nature discusses a LOT of important concepts. 

Fantastic and wide ranging review on cognition, genetics and learning ability here


*Very good summary of IQ for teachers here

Here is a collection of links building on the controversy surrounding The Bell Curve. There is also a suggestion here that there as well as the well-documented Flynn effect, there is also an anti-Flynn effect

There is a big debate online and in academic circles about all sorts of issues with IQ including the above. This article also argues that IQ and executive function are basically the same thing.

Every time someone mentions IQ on social media people seem to go nuts – it’s a very emotionally charged area. As well as the summary of IQ for teachers above this piece from Plomin is also a good primer

Practice, purposeful and deliberate

There is a lot more to be said about Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice. This article outlines the major issues and draws on papers like this (and Ericsson’s response). The seminal Macnamara paper is important too.

A good piece here on the role of deliberate practice and nature in acquiring expertise (see also the Willingham review of Peak) https://3starlearningexperiences.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/expertise-a-good-old-naturenurture-debate/


An overview of behaviour as it stood in 2014 from Ofsted

*Andrew Old’s classic lies about behaviour is a must read. He has a lot of pieces about the importance of a solid behaviour policy.

Marzano’s work on this is cited quite often, but I’ve not got round to reading it yet.

*Good stuff on behaviour is quite hard to come by. I imagine this is because research on behaviour is difficult. This is Tom Bennett’s recommendation to government for ITT on behaviour is great, as well as his full reportHe is also here. Basically anything written by Bennett on behaviour is worth a read.

This digest from a working paper shows that being exposed to disruptive peers in schools can actually have a significant effect on future earnings – especially among disadvantaged students

This ridiculously interesting article about police interrogation techniques isn’t directly about teaching. However, we spend quite a bit of time trying to get to the bottom of the story. Perhaps as per the article a non-confrontational approach would be most effective? 

Joe Kirby teaches at Michaela where they have a very traditional behaviour approach with an inner city demographic. He is always worth a read and has a lot of links too. Michaela’s behaviour policy can be found here. 

I’ve seen a couple of pieces recently looking at a behaviour system called “ready to learn” which strikes me as a really interesting, effective and streamlined policy. Read here for Sarah Barker’s wonderfully written digest.

This article laments the lack of appropriate behaviour training in Australian ITT and has links to other research into evidence based behaviour management. This book is also supposed to be good.

I really enjoyed Tom Sherrington’s piece about behaviour here as he sensibly discusses the actions teachers can take on behaviour without blaming them for unruly students. There are still those (many?) who come perilously close to straight up blaming teachers for poor behaviour.


The most important thing about engagement is Coe’s simple maxim: “engagement is not a proxy for learning.” Just because students are engaged doesnt mean they are actually learning anything.

*Hendrick quotes Nuthall (2007) and essentially argues that if students are engaged it’s probably because the work is too easy.

For those who think that learning is the ends and motivation is the means then there is a further debate about which way round it goes. Are students “good” at a subject because they enjoy it or do they enjoy it because they are “good” at it? This experiment indicated the latter. Ashman’s summary is: “It found that the level of motivation in Grade 2 did not affect achievement in Grade 4. However it did find that the level of achievement in Grade 2 positively affected Motivation in Grade 4.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12458/full. This piece also has shedloads of further reading on motivation. Of course, this is just one study and it is likely that the relationship is more complicated. 

This OECD paper has a lot of interesting findings. Page 120 shows that there are a lot of countries where students like maths, but don’t do well and the reverse.

A major psychological theory is that of “self determination.” A summary can be found here as well as the Ryan and Deci (2000) article on the topic.

This academic piece investigates affect and problem solving and concludes that if students are not given enough guidance when solving problems they will have a negative affect towards them


I don’t really know much about ed tech; it doesn’t particularly interest me.

Teacher training

The link for the “what makes great teaching” piece above has a lot of information about teacher expertise and judging it accurately and reliably. See also here here for lots of stats on teacher impact.

Rob Coe’s work on lesson observations is seminal and should be read by anyone observing other people’s lessons (so anyone)

*Deans for impact wrote a great piece with Anders Ericsson about how this should work for schools and teacher education, dwelling on the concept of deliberate practice 

*Dan Willingham wrote a piece here where he reviews Ericsson’s Peak and wonders if it is even possible to apply deliberate practice in the field of teacher improvement. In it he also talks about the mindset and genetics thing. 

*Really interesting article from Kris Boulton about the three major parts of teacher training: craft, pedagogical content knowledge and mindset (values). 

This article brings all the heat on graded lesson observations and has a lot of links to research.

This piece involving Rob Coe discusses what makes effective CPDL.

Educational research

This is still surprisingly a burgeoning field. We are riddled and plagued by snake oil salesmen. Gary’s blog is a great place to start on the scientific method and whether it applies to education 

This piece by Kirschner and friends illustrates the intellectual weakness of the field 

They link to this really important piece about how professions become evidence based (or “mature”) and what we need to do in education to ditch dogma and embrace evidence 

This piece by Ashman really could fit in multiple places here but it is about how you assess soft skills like grit and resilience. Contains a killer comment from Dylan Williams

This is a cool guide for educators about the different types of evidential claims and how to assess them.

School Inspection

New section here sparked by Becky Allen’s marvellous piece here about reliability of inspections. David Didau wrote a good follow-up here. I definitely saw a graph depicting the unreliability of inspections on twitter somewhere as well as an article about how being a head at a school in a socially deprived area is career suicide but can’t find either or them.

Ofsted did an investigation into their reliability which came back with good results. They only looked at 22 inspections though and I reckon if an inspector knew they were part of a reliability investigation they would play it as safe as possible. Who knows. The always interesting Colin Richards wrote a response to it here.


New section here. This is a really broad and deep area and one in which I am conflicted about. Anthony Radice wrote a very challenging piece here which raises a lot of questions about provision.

Learning scientists have a good collection here as well.


New section following Ofsted’s renewed focus on curriculum.

HMCI Spielman’s speech is here

Sean Harford’s take can be found here

Schoolsweek wrote a very interesting discussion piece on this development here

Martin Robinson has long been pushing for a focus on curriculum and he wrote about Spielman’s speech here

I recently read Tim Oates’s piece on the new science curriculum here which is very interesting and well worth a read

Stuart Lock’s excellent long read on the topic is here

Curriculum is definitely all the rage at the moment and every week I read another blog published on it. Here is Summer Turner’s piece and here is a recent speech from A Spielman on the topic.

Crispin Weston has written a monster blog challenging a lot of the big names around at the moment. I haven’t quite managed to finish it yet but have thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve read so far (even if I don’t always agree).pup