David Didau

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About David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 838 blog entries.

Should we scrap SATs? Cautiously, yes

2019-04-20T11:11:05+00:00April 20th, 2019|assessment|

Earlier this week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned up at the NEU annual conference with some crowd pleasing ideas. The most eye-catching of these was that he would, if elected, scrap SATs, saying, "We need to prepare children for life, not just exams". Cue rapturous applause from the assembled trade unionists. None of this is particularly surprising, but what does intrigue me is why Corbyn and the NEU want to get rid of SATs. For Corbyn's part, he says, "SATs and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears."Of course, this [...]

Three animated films about learning

2019-04-15T15:50:09+00:00April 9th, 2019|Featured|

Back in December I gave a lecture to the staff of BBC Bitesize about how learning works and how they might go about making more effective learning materials. This talk has been turned into a series of three short animated films by the production company Mosaic. I think they're pretty good. Film 1: How learning works: A quick guide to how we store and retrieve information Film 2: The myth of multitasking and other modern misconceptions about how we learn Film 3: Cognitive Load Theory: How to make effective learning content I hope you enjoy them. NB If you're outside the [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 4: Instruction

2019-04-07T20:13:21+00:00April 7th, 2019|assessment|

This is the final post in a series looking at how we can be sure that students are making progress through the curriculum. The whole purpose of knowing whether students are making progress is to be able to design appropriate instructional sequences. We may believe children are motoring through our wonderfully constructed curriculum but if empirical data reveals this not to be the case, we need to know. If my last post I discussed the importance of being able to glean meaningful data on item difficulty by seeing how well students do on particular assessment tasks. If all students are getting [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 3: Assessment

2019-03-27T14:12:23+00:00March 26th, 2019|assessment|

In Part 1 of this series I set out the problems with making predictions about students’ progress by drawing a ‘flight path’ between KS2 and KS4, then, in Part 2, I explained how thinking about the curriculum as a progression model is essential in making judgments about whether students are making progress. In this post we will turn our attention to issues of assessment. NB. This might feel a bit technical at times, but please know that I'm trying hard to explain complex ideas as simply as I'm able.  It's important to note that assessment can have a range of purposes. You [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 2: The curriculum

2019-03-27T13:01:32+00:00March 24th, 2019|curriculum|

In my last post, I set out the problems with making predictions about students' progress by drawing a 'flight path' between KS2 and KS4. Instead, I will argue, we should address three interlinked aspects; curriculum, assessment and instruction. In order to make a meaningful statement about where students are right now and what they need to do next, we need to be very clear about where we are hoping they'll end up. This post will focus on issues of curriculum. One of the first things to acknowledge when planning a curriculum is the tension between breadth and focus. Of course students [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 1: The madness of flight paths

2019-04-07T20:14:38+00:00March 23rd, 2019|assessment, curriculum|

Schools are desperate to find ways to predict students' progress from year to year and between key stages. Seemingly, the most common approach to solving this problem is to produce some sort of 'flight path'. The internet is full of such misguided attempts to do the impossible. Predicting a students' progress is a mug's game. It can't be done. At the level of nationally representative population sample we can estimate the likelihood of someone who is measured at performing at one level attaining another level, but this is meaningless at the level of individuals. It should therefore be obvious that using [...]

If you tolerate this then your children will be next

2019-04-19T21:32:35+00:00March 16th, 2019|behaviour|

What kinds of poor behaviour should we tolerate? How much should we tolerate? There's a wellspring of opinion that zero tolerance is too much, that we ought to tolerate some poor behaviour, but how much? I don't think anyone would be prepared to argue that we should tolerate 100%, so is 50% OK? 25%? 10%? Clearly, having a discussion about the percentage of poor behaviour which we ought to tolerate is absurd. Maybe we'd be better off debating whether some kinds of poor behaviour are just 'high spirits'? The trouble with this is that it's devilishly difficult to distinguish between good-humoured [...]

Ofsted and deeper learning: it’s like learning, but deeper

2019-03-13T17:40:43+00:00March 13th, 2019|Featured|

Recently, I was contacted by a school who wanted some help working on 'deeper learning'. I asked them what they meant to which they replied, "Oh, we were hoping you'd tell us!" According to the school's last Ofsted report, the school is not outstanding because, "Teaching is not consistently of the highest quality because deeper learning is not promoted across the curriculum". In order to improve, the report offers the following advice: "Improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment across the curriculum by leaders and managers ensuring that effective strategies are in place to enhance deeper learning across the curriculum". Now, [...]

What do students think about marking?

2019-03-05T15:03:29+00:00March 3rd, 2019|Featured|

Over the past year or so, I've been doing some very informal research into students' attitudes and opinions with some of the schools I work with on an ongoing basis. Two years ago I wrote 2 posts summarising the problems with marking and suggesting an alternative way forward: Marking is an act of folly Less marking, more feedback: A challenge and a proposal Since then I've been recommending that one of the ways schools can seek to reduce teachers' work load is to move away from the expectation that teachers must write extended comments in response to children's written work and [...]

How do children learn to speak?

2019-02-08T07:39:29+00:00February 8th, 2019|language|

In chapter 2 of my book, Making Kids Cleverer, I discuss, David Geary's theory of biologically primary and secondary knowledge. Human beings seem to have various universal behaviours and characteristics in common regardless of the specific culture into which they're born. Geary's theory suggests that such species-wide traits must have some root in evolution and he argues that the capacity to learn 'folk knowledge' is a biologically primary evolutionary adaption. This means that we tend to pick up the knowledge of how to interact with our environments quickly and easily through mimicry without the need for instruction. When considering what should [...]

The Epistemology of English

2019-02-07T15:53:11+00:00February 7th, 2019|English|

For some time now I've been thinking about how epistemology* - how knowledge is accumulated and divvied up - in English as an academic discipline. While I'm not at all sure that I've accomplished anything particularly profound or useful, I've identified four distinct areas which I'm calling metaphor, story, argument and pattern. These concepts underlie an understanding of what knowledge is in English. They are, broadly speaking, the lenses through which literature and language can be viewed and by which meaning is made. Metaphor Arguably, most if not all thought is metaphorical. Whenever we substitute a concrete meaning to shed light [...]

What’s wrong with Ofsted’s definition of learning?

2019-02-05T20:42:51+00:00February 4th, 2019|Featured|

As everyone already knows, Ofsted have published a draft of the new Inspection Framework which is currently undergoing a process of consultation. Amazingly, one of the most contentious aspects of the document is definition given to learning: Learning can be defined as an alteration in long-term memory. If nothing has altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. However, transfer to long-term memory depends on the rich processes described above.[1] In order to develop understanding, pupils connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. Pupils also need to develop fluency and unconsciously apply their knowledge as skills. This must not be reduced to, [...]