The one thing you need to read
For teachers or educators who want to get more evidence-informed, one of the most daunting things can simply be knowing where to start. No one ever said teachers were meant to be researchers, and it’s a big field to grapple with. So we asked some people who know something about the landscape what one thing they would recommend other educators should read – and why.
Harry Fletcher-Wood, Associate Dean, Institute for Teaching
Why? This offers a clear, succinct summary of what we do and don’t know about learning, alongside guidance which would allow teachers in any subject and age group to use it tomorrow. The paper combines deceptively simple observations – like ‘Practice is essential to learning new facts, but not all practice is equivalent’ – with ideas about how we can use them – like ‘Teachers can interleave (i.e., alternate) practice of different types of content.’ It’s six pages and can be read in 15 minutes, yet perfecting an approach to applying these ideas in the classroom is a lifetime’s work.
Joe Nutt, Education Consultant, researcher and author
Why? Because it’s one of the only credible pieces of research about excellent teaching I’ve ever read, and too many teachers – and, more significantly, their leaders – spent their entire careers in schools where they never see excellent teaching.
Mark Enser, Head of Geography at Heathfield Community College
Why? An understanding of these concepts is very important when planning a curriculum – it ensures that content is taught in a way that supports a deeper conceptual understanding.
Naureen Khalid, Governor
Why? This book looks at various common beliefs and then what research has to say about them. It can be a valuable reference text for teachers (and governors).
Greg Ashman. Teacher, blogger, and PhD candidate, Australia
Why? Before I read this paper, I felt that I was ‘doing teaching wrong’. I believed that it was better for students to figure concepts out for themselves than to have these concepts explained to them. However, I had never had much success at enabling students to figure physics or maths ideas out for themselves so I had developed more of an expository teaching style and I felt guilty about this. Reading this paper was a liberation because I realised that cognitive science was actually on my side and that I had been doing the right thing. It freed me to work on improving what I was doing in a way I had not been able to do before.
Laura McInerney, Education Journalist and co-founder of Teacher Tapp
Why? In 1984 this was a pioneering book bringing together psychological research and philosophy about the way humans learn. The research has moved on and many educationists would argue this work is now outdated and lacks rigorous, scientific insights. But if one is to understand where evidence-based research is at now, then it’s worth looking back at other forms of evidence that have been influential, even if only to understand how times change and to understand how theories maligned today were explained in the past.
Carl Hendrick, English teacher and Director of Research, Wellington College
‘Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques’, article in Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14 (1) by Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J. and Willingham, D.
Why? There is a huge amount of focus on what teachers should be doing and precious little on what students should be doing. In addition, this evidence suggests that most students simply don’t know how to study effectively and it also informs what teachers should be doing in the classroom in terms of curriculum and instructional design.
Daniel Muijs, Head of research, Ofsted
Why? This paper gives an accessible overview of convergent findings from cognitive science and effective teaching research. The paper clearly shows how findings from the two fields overlap and is a good introduction to the historic work of Rosenshine in effective teaching.