James Murphy

Director, School Partnerships, Thinking Reading
Speaking at


Six kinds of behaviour problems in lessons and how to deal with them

Classifying behaviour problems by their motivations and consequences enables teachers to deal with them efficiently, calmly, and with minimal impact on other students’ learning. The tactics discussed in this session are derived from applied behaviour analysis.


James Murphy is a former English teacher, head of English and senior leader with experience in New Zealand and England. He has a background in special education, education research and literacy. With Dianne Murphy he leads Thinking Reading, a high-impact reading intervention which enables struggling readers at secondary school to catch up completely. He is co-author of Thinking Reading: what every secondary teacher needs to know about reading, published by John Catt Education. He is a regular speaker at educational conferences, an occasional media contributor, and blogger.


Reading failure: causes, consequences and solutions

Although large numbers of students in many countries leave school with poor reading and writing skills, there is also a general acceptance that this problem is inevitable. The consequences for society are immense. This session will show, from empirical research, that illiteracy is a product of the way we educate children, not an attribute of the children themselves, and that cost-effective, powerful solutions are available to rectify the situation – both in the earlier years and also in secondary and adult education.

Five ways to use visual feedback to improve learning and motivation

Derived from the science of Applied Behaviour Analysis, the single subject design has yielded enormous learning for researchers and classroom practitioners alike. A key element of the single subject design is the graphic representation of learning through tracking carefully described objectives. This session will examine the utility of this tool, and then discuss five classroom adaptations that enable teachers and students to track learning and adjust teaching.

Direct Instruction in classrooms – What it is and how to use it

This session focuses on ‘big DI’ techniques, the research base for DI and examples of teacher-designed instructional presentations and practice activities. The session will also identify some published DI programmes which teachers may find useful in the classroom.

Research designs you can use in the classroom

This session challenges myths about the need for large-scale experimental studies, or even control groups, in order to know whether what we are doing is effective. We will consider how single-subject ‘quasi-experimental’ designs enable teachers to evaluate their impact, combining replication and intelligent use of research literature to interpret their findings.