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 February 2017, I recorded 2.5 million visitors to the site.

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.

My most recent book, What Every Teacher Needs To Know About Psychology, co-written with Nick Rose, does exactly what the title suggests – discussing the classroom implications of the psychological principles most useful in an educational context.

As well as being a freelance writer, speaker and trainer, I am also running the English Studies modules as part of BPP University’s PGCE course. If you’d like to book me to deliver training or speak at a conference, please email me or contact me via Twitter @DavidDidau. For specific events at which I will be speaking, click here.

And if you’d like to know a little more about me, these two posts will give you a flavour: This is who I am and This is what I think.

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.

Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. […] David Didau writes a specific post about why so many teachers are leaving teaching. He throws around some very jaw dropping statistics, like 50% of teachers end up choosing a different profession. This post is from last February but I don’t think that the percentage could have changed that dramatically over the past 7 months. He talks about the reason for teachers leaving being potential burn outs or dissatisfaction with the profession. He also ponders if these losses in teachers are really a bad thing or if, in my words, this is just a weeding out of the “bad eggs.” I believe that as shocking as these statistics he shares are, they put some of my mind at ease. I say this because I have seen a lot of potential teachers roll through an education class or two and it is obvious that this isn’t the profession for them. I have heard multiple instructors say that they can’t teach us how to be an excellent teacher, but it has to come from within ourselves. This is totally true and even though these statistics are disheartening, I believe that the cold, hard, truth is that they are necessary. […]

  2. […] David Didau’s blog post, Making Data Meaningful: Pen Portraits, he explains how most of what makes classrooms […]

  3. […] presentations on English learning so you do not have to always read the blogs, you can also watch videos on the English-language and how to become more effective. One of the most effective thing about the […]

  4. […] not because they sound so similar, but because grammar is, well, anything but glamorous. The author states that “grammar originally meant the study of everything written but, as reading must […]

  5. English Learning Games March 15, 2014 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Really informative video. Appreciate your work. A must read article!

  6. […] and for those who are about to enter into the field of education. I found a good article written by David Didau. Mr. Didau gives his own beliefs and opinions on classroom management. He even challenges a […]

  7. Andy October 24, 2014 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Great blog. So gad you’re doing what you’re doing! What you stand for is really important right now.

    On another note think you may enjoy this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWwFBGOBAQI

  8. […] Indeed: https://www.learningspy.co.uk/about-2/ See The Secret Literacy: Making the Implicit Explicit and ideas on Threshold Concepts – […]

  9. letourkidsbekids March 29, 2016 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Brilliant article which we have linked to from every page of our new web site where we are a group of parents fighting back via https://letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com trying to organise one day of national action to SUPPORT schools and teachers.

  10. […] of Deans for Impact, who will talk about how teachers can improve their classrooms using research; David Didau from the UK will explore the haunting question ‘What if everything you knew about education was […]

  11. lesleycoweygmailcom December 11, 2016 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Really enjoying reading ‘What if everything…’. However, I think one additional reason that SLT jumps on bandwagons without convincing evidence has nothing to do with the various cognitive failures you describe. It’s to do with project management, and the complete lack of it in education. If ‘All year 11 achieving at least a C grade in maths by June 2017’ were a planned project, like an IT project, with tasks, estimated person-hours for tasks, costs per person-hour etc, then the demand to, for example, triple-mark, or do a practice paper every 2 weeks would require hard questions to be asked. Can we afford the person-hours? Is the project team large enough? Can we do some other process smarter to gain the time needed? Can we put the deadline back? What other task is it more important than? None of this happens. There is no obvious cost to SLT of increasing the workload of teachers and no project management mechanism to trigger these important questions.
    A colleague of mine returned from a period of stress-related illness and said that he now met all suggestions for additional tasks with the response, “Good idea – what would you like me to do it instead of?” We all need to feel we can ask this! and our heads of department should be asking it on our behalf.

  12. […] typical lessons, instead of aiming to teach 21st century skills discretely. This was also echoed by David Didau, who argued that we need to focus on the acquisition of knowledge first, as students cannot apply […]

  13. […] Guest Blog by David Didau […]

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