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
Meta-Syntheses and Policy
Pupil Premium and Closing the gap
Do teachers make a difference?
Data and progress
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. There are a bunch of articles about implementing Rosenshine now floating around (my own is here) and Mark Enser’s is pretty spiffy here.
*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
Is your brain like a computer? Fascinating long read on how we describe though and memory.
Efrat Furst’s writings on this are great, and this article is a wonderful introduction.
Peps Mcrea has a great introduction to all the above as well, which you can find here.
Desirable difficulties is an important concept which addresses how hard work should be. There was a very interesting paper on this published recently here discussing how it depends on the nature of the task.
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.
Technical paper here about what exactly is happening when a person’s working memory becomes overburdened
I’ve seen quite a few articles popping up about how to prepare presentations with CLT theory in mind, this is a good start.
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. There is a pretty smart challenge to the paper here, I didn’t follow all of it and will need some time to digest but I appreciate the call for nuance.
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. There are dissenting voices though, and this article gives a number of a different version and discussion of CT.
Tom Bennett’s piece here is aimed at the common classroom folk wisdom that factual recall is somehow unimportant or “lower level”
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”
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.
Nice recent article here about far transfer – does learning music or chess lead to cognitive benefits in unrelated fields? No.
“Transfer” is a really important concept: “application” in old money. It’s incredibly difficult to achieve. This is a very good paper on the topic and I suspect I will keep coming back to it.
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.
The Midland Knowledge Hub is a really cool new organisation and they have a great blog, with an introduction here.
I really enjoyed Doug Lemov’s piece here on different types of knowledge.
In the States the Knowledge is Power schools have been subjected to rigorous analysis and found to have positive effect 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. The analysis of TIMSS data shows a slightly different picture, with a more complex relationship.
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.
There is a nice history here discussing direct instruction and the child-centred educational movement.
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 (with some more technical stuff here).
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
Retrieval practice has also been shown to mitigate effects of high stress environments like exams RP and high stakes exams
Bunch of further reading on the spacing effect here
New (and a little under-developed) section here as I’ve recently been reading a bit more about assessment theory.
I recently discovered this very interesting guide to setting whole school assessment policies. Includes a very important discussion of validity and reliability
Cool mythbusting piece here by Ben Wilbrink about assessment generally
The assessment community can snipe at each other pretty hard. Here’s an interesting article where a researcher takes aim at Koretz, one of the leading figures in the community. Article is mostly about stakes in 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
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. Kirschner blog recently published a very good piece on this too.
Whether or not learning is taking place is incredibly difficult to judge. This is a great article by Graham Nuthall on the topic.
Daisy Christodoulou’s speech here was recommended over on Twitter. Not had the chance to watch yet but presumably excellent.
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.
A lot of the below is about effect sizes. To understand more about that, see here.
*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
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 and 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. Slavin has also written about publication bias and small-study bias here and if you are interested in the topic you really should check it out.
Here is another article critical of the idea of effect sizes for guiding policy.
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 EEF toolkit
The “London Effect” is an interesting one as academics hotly debate why it is the case that London’s schools seem more effective than others across the country
Tom Bennett on Sir Ken Robinson and other junk policies.
Very nice digest of articles focusing on international comparisons with high performing systems.
Bill Gates and his buddies in Silicon Valley have been busy experimenting with public education, with not particularly impressive results.
Pupil premium and closing the gap
Lots of important statistics from Mary Bousted arguing that problems which belong at home cannot be solely addressed by school.
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 performance.
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. Many of his works make this point and this is a good introduction introduction
In a more hands-on sense, I’ve really enjoyed Keven Bartle’s posts on this issue.
*Must-read new series from Becky Allen here. Just read it. All of it. Now.
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… 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
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
See also three star learning’s take on grit– full of references.
Student Welfare and mental health
School health and education survey 2015 – you can request further data and publications from them.
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) and the NHS has written about it and specifically how it is covered in the press here
More data on how young people nowadays are smoking less drinking less etc.
Fascinating and disturbing piece by Cracked here about the pro-ana community.
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.
For a challenging read from the “other side” of the debate, check out this which discusses the fine lines and careful language involved.
I was directed to this glorious list of publications with lots of super interesting looking peer review articles on the topic (that I have not yet had a chance to look at).
This is a really worrying report looking at rewards for attendance which can actually end up being counterproductive. Every school I know rewards attendance, so this is pretty important.
Carol Dweck’s seminal work Mindset is a whole book but she summarises her key findings here
One noted problem with the theory has been termed “false growth mindset” and has been acknowledged by Dweck and discussed here in terms of falsifiability
(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
There is an interesting interview with Hattie where he argues that we haven’t really understood mindset properly
Here is yet another article urging caution – deals with brain training, grit, deliberate practice too.
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 written with respect to things like growth mindset is here
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. A monster meta-analysis by Stuart Ritchie discusses the effect of education on IQ here.
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.
This is an excellent long-read on exactly why people have a problem talking about genetics and education and how we can sensibly talk about it in education. In a similar vein, this is a fascinating study where they actually looked at correlations between particular political leanings with willingness to attribute characteristics to genetics.
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.
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 report. He 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.
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.
CBT is pretty popular at the moment. I saw this recently documented unanticipated side effects.
Mega interesting article on seating plans and how they can affect behaviour. When doing individual tasks, rows are the best and normally poorly behaved students benefit the most.
Very thought provoking recent article on the topic of “unmet needs”
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.” The 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. A recent publication found very similar results, so not just “one study” at this point. Would still like more evidence. There is, however, plenty of evidence for the other direction too so my hunch is that it is complicated, and I won’t pin my colours to the mast too strongly.
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. A few people have asked me to start collecting stuff so I will slowly pop stuff here as and when.
Does powerpoint improve teaching? No.
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). There is a similar piece in the Tes here about the difficulty of actually knowing who is a good teacher.
*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.
Ofsted have been researching different observational strategies, and a very thoughtful write-up can be found here.
This piece involving Rob Coe discusses what makes effective CPDL.
*I keep coming back to this article by D Willingham about the psychological concepts that, in his opinion, teachers do or do not need to know. Must read. This is a kind of lite version of the above article.
Evidence based education have a nice framework that they outline here for effective CPD.
Do teachers make a difference?
What is the size of the effect that teachers can have on student outcomes? Estimates range, with Hattie here putting it around 30%. This study puts it at quite a bit lower, but their conclusion is a bit odd (that we should therefore just do personalised learning).
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.
Really worrying article here claiming that most research findings (not just education) are probably false.
I don’t know much about the “reading wars” but this is a case in point in terms of how ideologically charged the evidence can become.
How are you supposed to become an evidence informed teacher? Nice article on the topic here.
In the UK we now have a bunch of research schools which seem to be doing good things. As ever, they are not without their critics and this is a very interesting and wide ranging article on the topic.
Ben Goldacre has been massively influential in the area of medicine, and here he writes about how evidence can and should affect education.
This is an important piece about the use and validity of RCTs in education research.
Publication bias is a massive problem across academia. Here is a very interesting paper looking at how it applies to education research.
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.
There was a recent fracas about a supposed bias in Ofsted against the white working class. Stephen Tierney kicked it off here. The FFT develop and outline the whole story in more detail here – make sure to read all the links.
Ben Newmark has written a good “coal face” critique of Ofsted here too.
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.
There is a good introduction to school-wide issues from the EEF here with lots of links to further reading. A one-stop shop!
Learning scientists have a good collection here as well.
I have noticed recently a number of articles on Theory of Mind which is a vital concept within the study of Autism criticising the idea.
There are notable problems with our current culture of labeling students with SEN that could be extremely counter productive, as speculated in this article.
There are a ton of misconceptions around dyslexia, with a common one being about how it relates to visual processing. This leads to different coloured paper, lenses, fonts etc. Read about this here.
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
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).
Christine Counsell is acknowledged as a total expert on all matters curriculum and has been pushing for its relevance for a long time. She wrote a series aimed at senior leaders starting here.
Data and progress
Data is everywhere in schools and is a major contributor to workload. See here for the government report into the topic.
Crucially important piece for all school leaders to read here.
The FFT Education Datalab have always been pretty hot on data and predictions and the like, you can find some good stuff here.
Ben Newmark has written extensively about the folly of target grades here.
Ofsted have recently been getting involved with this and Spielman has some very colourful phrases here which are worth a read!
MC is a pretty big deal at the moment, with the EEF having recently released some big papers. The most important bits in my opinion are the “misconception” sections as no doubt many schools will be falling prey to these.
Interesting article on self regulation and cognitive load theory.
I added in this section recently just to help myself find my stuff every time I get in a fight with someone on Facebook. Would appreciate anyone with more articles to add please.
Recruitment and retention
I saw this super good policy paper from the Education Policy Institute that I thought was worth adding here, so I made a new section.