David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 894 blog entries.

Using grammar to make meaning

2021-01-19T11:21:19+00:00January 19th, 2021|English, writing|

As a writer I know that I must select studiously the nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, etcetera, and by a careful syntactical arrangement make readers laugh, reflect or riot. Maya Angelou, Conversations with Maya Angelou Every human culture has developed a spoken language and, by inference, a system of grammar. No one ever sits us down and teaches us how to speak, we just soak it up from our environment. All children, regardless of their culture, seem to go through very predictable phases of language acquisition: first they learn nouns, then they start to pick up verbs and then start to combine [...]

The best 3 sentences in education?

2020-12-14T11:12:08+00:00December 10th, 2020|Featured|

I slide I used in a presentation on the ideas in my book, Making Kids Cleverer has been getting a bit of love on Twitter, with New Zealand school principal referring to it as containing what might be "the three best sentences in education". This could be the three best sentences in education. Thanks ⁦@DavidDidau⁩ pic.twitter.com/cXn37GTeZG — John Young (@JohnYoung18) December 9, 2020 Apart from the missing apostrophe in the second statement, this is obviously very gratifying, and I thought it would be useful to add some context and clarification. The most advantaged will succeed despite what schools do. This is [...]

Curriculum related expectations: the specificity problem

2020-11-22T09:44:54+00:00November 21st, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

If we are going to use the curriculum as a progression model, it's useful to build in checkpoints to ensure students are meeting curriculum related expectations. So far I written about replacing age related expectations with curriculum related expectations, and another on replacing grades more generally with curriculum related expectations. But how specific do these expectations have to be in order to be useful? If they're too specific we risk generating endless tick box checklists, but if they're too broad there's the risk they become meaninglessly bland and tell us nothing about how students are progressing. It seems tempting to suggest [...]

High jump vs hurdles: Replacing grades with curriculum related expectations

2020-11-18T18:40:59+00:00November 18th, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

I've recently argued that one way to ensure schools are explicitly using the curriculum as a progression model is to assess children against curriculum related expectations. Briefly, this means that if your curriculum specifies that students have been taught x, they are then assessed as to whether they have met a minimum threshold in their understanding of x. So, for instance, if I've taught you about, say, the differents of metrical feet and their effects, are you now able to demonstrate this knowledge? If you can then you have met a curriculum related expectation; if you cannot then they haven't. In [...]

The problem with grades: Are they worth keeping?

2020-11-15T21:19:35+00:00November 15th, 2020|myths|

Grades are so much a part of the educational landscape that it's hard to imagine what schools would be like without them. In the debate over whether or not we should retain exams this year, no one is suggesting we should do away with 1-9 GCSE grades. But what if we did? Clearly, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, but maybe it's worth conducting something of a thought experiment. In 10 Things Schools Get Wrong, Jared Cooney Horvath and David Botts, propose that grades are one of the things schools are currently getting wrong. They make the point that grades are [...]

Making analogies in English

2020-11-14T14:02:18+00:00November 14th, 2020|English|

… languages recognized, not as the means of contemporary communication but as investments in thought and records of perceptions and analogical understandings; literatures recognized as the contemplative exploration of beliefs, emotions, human characters and relationships in imagined situations, liberated from the confused, cliché ridden, generalized conditions of commonplace life and constituting a world of ideal human expressions inviting neither approval nor disapproval but the exact attention and understanding of those who read … Michael Oakeshott, ‘The Voice of Liberal Learning,’ p. 23. Last month I wrote about 'creative reading' and the art of noticing what is read. This post focusses on [...]


2020-11-07T09:15:57+00:00November 7th, 2020|leadership|

The following is a summary of Chapter 4 of my new book, Intelligent Accountability. What stops us from taking the risk and trusting teachers is, in part, the very real fear that some will cut corners, take shortcuts and slack off. But it is also a product of the deficit model: misguided approaches to enforcing ‘best practice’ and the perceived need to hold teachers and schools to account for meeting key performance indicators. To mediate against these pressures, we put accountability systems in place. The point of accountability is to increase trust: the more information we have on what teachers are [...]


2020-11-03T13:45:38+00:00November 3rd, 2020|leadership|

The following is taken from chapter 3 of my new book, Intelligent Accountability. Confucius believed that three things were needed for a ruler to govern: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler is unable to hold on to all of these he should give up the weapons first, followed by the food. Trust, he thought, should be guarded to the last. This is true for everyone and every institution. It may be difficult to govern without a standing army to enforce your will or when people are hungry, but if there’s no trust, there’s no hope at all. In the context [...]

The surplus model of school improvement

2020-11-02T13:04:52+00:00November 2nd, 2020|leadership|

In chapter 2 of Intelligent Accountability I suggest that schools can operate either a surplus or deficit model of school improvement. Schools often seem to be run on a deficit model whereby any deficiencies or failings are attributed to a lack of understanding, information, effort or good will. The efforts of ‘experts’ (school leaders, inspectors, consultants, senior teachers, etc.) who understand what needs to be done are stymied by the actions (or inaction) of non-experts (classroom teachers) who do not. In a deficit model, failings are attributed to the inability of non-experts to understand or enact “realistic budgets, plans and targets”. [...]

Why we need to embrace ignorance and learn to love uncertainty

2020-11-01T15:13:43+00:00November 1st, 2020|leadership|

The opening chapter of my book Intelligent Accountability is an attempt to clear the way of objections and obstacles in order to create the conditions for teachers to thrive. As such, I argue that schools are incredibly complex institutions where it is impossible for school leaders to have certain knowledge of the best courses of action or the results of the decisions they make. This being the case, I suggest that the only reasonable alternative is to act with tentativity and humility. For all school leaders, one of the following option will be true: You believe you know everything you need [...]

Curriculum related expectations: using the curriculum as a progression model

2020-10-27T11:08:23+00:00October 27th, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

One of the barriers to using the curriculum as a progression model is that there is too little understanding of what this might mean. It sounds great but a bit mysterious. I've spoken to a number of people who are happy to agree that the curriculum provides a map of the quality of education a school provides and even approvingly use the phrase 'curriculum as a a progression model' who never the less continue to attempt measuring progress using 'age related expectations' or some other meaningless confection. Let's first deal with why age related expectations are unhelpful. First, they are guesswork. [...]

Intelligent Accountability: An overview

2020-11-07T12:23:08+00:00October 24th, 2020|leadership|

My new book, Intelligent Accountability: Creating the conditions for teachers to thrive is out now. The argument I make is that while accountability is wholly necessary for teachers to thrive it is too often applied unintelligently and so backfires. I discuss a set of principles designed to get the best out of teachers, thereby getting the best from your students. And when I say ‘best’, I categorically do not mean piling stress onto teachers in the hope of gaming exam results. By creating the conditions for teachers to thrive, we are likely to get much more of what we want: better exam [...]