Welcome to The Learning Spy
In 2011, frustrated by the current state of education I began to blog. Since then I have expressed the constraints and irritations of ordinary teachers, detailed the successes and failures of my classroom and synthesised my 15 years of teaching experienced through the lens of education research and cognitive psychology. The Learning Spy is widely recognised as one of the most influential education blogs in the UK and has won a number of awards. In March 2015, I celebrated my millionth visitor.
So, what have I done with all this influence? Well, Ofsted started listening. In 2014 I consulted on the Inspection Handbook and made a commitment to common sense and practical humanity which has resulted in lesson observation grades being scrapped and inspectors asked to ‘look at’ classroom practice and ask questions, rather than ‘look for’ preferred methodologies.
I’ve also spent a lot of time working in schools to improve the way teachers approach students’ literacy. The Secret of Literacy, urged teachers to ‘make the implicit explicit’. Teachers are highly literate but often have little idea how they are able to do what they do. Often teachers just assume students can do what they can do. Breaking down and codifying what teachers are able to do, allows them to teach reading and writing more effectively.
My new book, What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology is out shortly.
What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong? explores the idea that much of what happens in schools is based on unexamined assumptions. My most important insight is, contrary to our intuitions, learning is invisible. All we can see is what students can do and from that we infer what they might have learned. But students’ performance turns out to be a very poor proxy for predicting long-term retention and the ability to transfer skills and concepts between different contexts. This simple observation is well supported by research evidence and classroom observations, but widely ignored in education. If true, many of the sacred cows of teaching are in doubt. The ways teachers teach, curriculums are organised and teachers held to account might all rest on a misapprehension of how learning happens. In the book, I suggest how we might go about rethinking education in order to realign schools with how children actually.
As well as working as a freelance writer, speaker and trainer, David is currently employed by Swindon Academy as an internal consultant advising on curriculum design, teaching and literacy.
This is my new favourite book on education. I read it from cover to cover before writing this preface, and I plan to revisit it regularly. If I was still running a PGCE programme, it would be required reading for my students, and I can think of no better choice for a book-study for experienced teachers. Anyone seriously interested in education should read this book.
Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Education
This is a truly remarkable book. No other book that I know of manages to integrate an in-the-trenches classroom-teaching perspective with an accessible coverage of critical findings from cognitive-science research.
Robert A. Bjork, Distinguished Research Professor, UCLA
Almost everyone will find something to disagree with in this book, something to upset you, challenge your beliefs and either make you angry or make you think. However well-informed you are, Didau finds a crack, a weak point from which to infect you with doubt. Nothing is sacred: formative assessment, effect size and growth mindset all come under attack. But there is wisdom on every page, worthy of more detailed thought and study. Didau is at heart a teacher; he understands teachers, classrooms and schools. But he understands research too and blends these elements into a coherent whole. There is a canon of about a dozen books that I recommend to teachers most of which are cited in this one. My essential reading list has a new entry.
Professor Robert Coe, PhD , Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), Durham University
The title indicates that Didau is ready to smash idols. Fortunately for us, he creates more than he destroys, deftly assembling findings from the learning sciences to build a path toward more effective classroom learning.
David Didau`s book is everything a book about the work of teaching should be: clear-eyed, lively, wise, and funny. Written by a front-line practitioner of the craft.
Doug Lemov, Managing Director, Teach Like a Champion Team
The Secret of Literacy is an essential book for all teachers and school leaders. It is not just another literacy book. David Didau provides a crystal clear rationale for all teachers taking responsibility for developing literacy in their specialist areas, with lots of very practical ideas, drawing on a range of sources from blogs and the latest literature on the issue. Anyone familiar with David`s own superb Learning Spy blog will immediately recognise some of his most powerful ideas and his inimitable style: it is witty and accessible, grounded in the reality of everyday classrooms, but also conveys a sense of urgency. This is a serious business and, as David highlights, too much of what we do in the name of literacy, isn`t literacy at all. The book is challenging us to do better and shows us how. ‘Making the implicit explicit’ captures the key message, but Secrets of Literacy is more than a set of tools; it is a call to arms!
Tom Sherrington, Head Teacher, King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford
My first book, The Perfect English Lesson, is also available.
In an age when there`s a tendency to clutch after ready-made gimmicks for every lesson, there’s something hugely invigorating about David Didau’s book. He reminds us that great English lessons are about relationships as well as content, but that they need to demonstrate our students’ progress. He provides a range of ideas and approaches which can be customised to our own personalities and style to help us to teach lessons that aren’t just outstanding against some Ofsted tick list, but genuinely outstanding. Recommended.
Geoff Barton, Headteacher, King Edward VI School