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.

Schools and parents alike invest so much energy in teaching children and yet often understand relatively little about what exactly it is they are trying to achieve. In Making Kids Cleverer David Didau reviews everything we know from cognitive science on how to enhance children’s learning, and delivers a powerful argument that we can – and must – help all children succeed at school.

Rebecca Allen, Professor of Education, University College London Institute of Education

David Didau has done it again! Making Kids Cleverer is an engaging, highly readable analysis of the latest research on how we learn and what we can do to improve the achievement of our pupils. Anyone involved in the care and education of children and young people would gain a huge amount from reading this book.

Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment, University College London

Making Kids Cleverer is a truly magnificent manifesto. Everything David Didau says chimes deeply with what I know to be true and what I am trying to accomplish in our schools. It is an absolute joy to read, and an incredibly timely tour de force that can, and should, have a national impact. A must-read for everyone in education, from trainee teachers to inspectors and policy makers.

Lady Caroline Nash, Director, Future Academies

In Making Kids Cleverer David Didau provides us with a brilliant and accessible account of why knowledge is opportunity, and of how we can increase children’s knowledge through a thoughtful and scientific approach to schooling.

David C. Geary, Curators' Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri

I have not read another education book that brims with as much insight and stimulating thought as this one: every page serves up a new surprise or gentle provocation.

Andy Tharby, teacher, co-author of Making Every Lesson Count, and author of How to Explain Absolutely Anything to Absolutely Anyone

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