David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 924 blog entries.

In defence of accountability

2023-04-06T09:18:45+01:00March 19th, 2023|leadership|

This weekend saw Joe Kirby publish a thoughtful blog in which he calls for an end to Quality Assurance. I agree with Joe's analysis of the causes of poor accountability - or QA - but not his suggested solutions. In his blog, Joe says that "QA warps time, trust, thinking, teaching, leadership and learning." There's no doubt that this can  sometimes be true, but it runs the risk of becoming a straw man argument in which poor QA is attacked in order to justify getting rid of all QA. In order to see if Joe's arguments are true, we ought [...]

OAT English curriculum project

2023-02-26T15:49:39+00:00February 26th, 2023|English|

Since January 2020 I've been working for Omiston Academies Trust as their Senior Lead for English. Over that time I and the amazing team of lead practitioners I lead have created what we think is a fantastic English curriculum. Not only have we been working on a book which will explain the entire process from intent, to implementation to impact, we've just launched a website - OAT English - to host all of the resources and training materials we've created. All the materials are covered under a Creative Commons license so that - as long as you don't try to [...]

When retrieval practice goes wrong (and how to get it right)

2023-02-27T23:44:45+00:00January 28th, 2023|English|

Whenever a practice becomes mandated there seems to be a tendency for it to lethally mutate. When I first started writing about retrieval practice (or the testing effect as we used to call it) many people were surprised by the finding that attempting to dredge something up from memory was a more effective way to learn it than simply restudying it. Today, this has become something new teachers are routinely told as part of their initial training and has been accepted as incontestable. The result is that teachers are told that lessons must contain retrieval practice and schools often specify [...]

Should we seek to balance teacher-led and student-led lesson activities?

2023-11-25T11:17:48+00:00October 29th, 2022|Featured|

For as long as I've been writing about education, many commentators have argued that teaching should seek to balance teacher-led and student-led activities. Although this is often presented as self-evidently obvious, it rather begs the question. What's so great about balance? Should we seek balance for its own sake, because it's intrinsically valuable, or should we consider what we want to balance? Despite balance sounding - well - balanced, no one would argue that we should seek to achieve a balance between effective and ineffective activities so to argue that teaching should include both teacher-led and student-led activities we really [...]

Gapless instruction vs ‘teaching to the top’

2022-10-16T07:03:31+01:00October 15th, 2022|Featured|

Over the years I’ve recommended that teachers ‘teach to the top’ on too many occasions to count. For the most part, I’ve caveated this by included the need to ‘scaffold down,’ but, honestly, I’ve come to believe that the phrase ‘teaching to the top’ has the capacity to do more harm than good. I spoke at a conference recently where I asked participants to discuss what they understood by the term. After a brief chat, I asked them to respond on their mini whiteboards to the following question: What is the best definition of the term ‘teaching to the top’? A) [...]

Using mini whiteboards in English

2023-03-31T16:34:52+01:00October 9th, 2022|English|

According to TeacherTapp, 72% primary and 45% secondary teachers use mini whiteboards (MWBs.) There are big variations between different subjects in secondaries with 69% of MFL and 57% science teachers claiming to use them but just 28% of English teachers. Why might this be? Are MFL and science lessons just better suited to using MWBs? Are English lesson much more concerned with the kind of extended writing that best lends itself to exercise books? Judging from the poll responses above, primary teachers appear to be more concerned with checking students' understanding during lessons. Charitably, we might claim that in secondaries [...]

Implementing English: five useful teaching strategies

2022-10-09T13:57:32+01:00October 9th, 2022|English|

Working across 43 schools means I get to see a lot of English lessons and talk to a fair number of English teachers. In oder to support our teachers we've been working on identifying what we think are high impact, low effort approaches to teaching English that any teacher could adopt or adapt. I've learned from every single one of our schools and, working with my colleagues in the English lead practitioner team, have been working to combine and refine many of the great ideas and approaches I've experienced to a set of  simple teaching strategies we can use to train [...]

Flat packed curriculum

2022-10-09T08:28:58+01:00September 25th, 2022|curriculum, English|

“It is so easy to be wrong – and to persist in being wrong – when the costs of being wrong are paid by others.” Thomas Sowell Why do we buy so much flat pack furniture? First, it's many times more affordable than bespoke hand-made furniture, and second, it also saves us the not inconsiderable cost of having to make it ourselves from scratch. It also allows to replace outdated, unfashionable old pieces handed down from our grandparents and apply our own taste to the homes we live in. In implementing the KS3 English curriculum we've developed at Ormiston Academies Trust [...]

Embedding reading fluency in the KS3 English curriculum

2022-05-30T17:00:30+01:00May 29th, 2022|English, reading|

Last year I wrote about 'echo reading': ...last week I ... watched English teacher Rhys Williams do something I’d never seen before. He was teaching The Tempest to a low prior attaining Year 8 class and was focussing on the moment in Act 3 scene 1 where Ferdinand and Miranda first begin flirting. What he did was to allocate lines to different members of the class that they would read aloud after listening to him reading them first, attempting to emulate his tone, emphasis and pronunciation. While I was watching I wasn’t sure whether it was working. The students were reading aloud with impressive [...]

The case against Power Point as means of implementing curriculum

2022-03-21T11:19:15+00:00March 13th, 2022|curriculum|

First things first: I have nothing against PowerPoint. As means for displaying visual information it definitely has its merits. I have no issues with teachers using slides to share pictures, diagrams or moving images with student (although I do have a few reservations about using it to share text.) My argument here is focussed on the widespread practice of using PowerPoint (or any other similar product) as a means of implementing the curriculum. When I began teaching the idea of displaying slides in classrooms was a distant dream. My first classroom didn’t even have a modern whiteboard and I made do [...]

Assessing English at KS3

2022-03-05T17:53:30+00:00March 5th, 2022|assessment, English|

Throughout my career, the de facto approach to assessing English at KS3 has been to use extended writing. After all, this is what students will be faced with in their GCSEs so it kinda made sense that this was what we should get them used to as early as possible. In order to take this approach, we need a markscheme. Most markschemes attempt to identify the different skills areas students should be demonstrating and then award marks based on well well these skills are demonstrated. The weakness of using markschemes - or rubrics, if you prefer - is that it comes [...]

Come work with me…

2022-03-06T16:44:48+00:00March 4th, 2022|English|

Since January 2021 I've been working for Ormiston Academies Trust as Senior Lead Practitioner for English. I had no idea when I started how much I'd love working for OAT or how much I'd relish the role of supporting English and literacy across a national network of 43 schools stretching from Grimsby to Cowes, from Runcorn to Chichester, and from Walsall to Ipswich.As you can imagine this is way too big a job for one person and I was incredibly fortunate to inherit a team of 4 extraordinarily gifted regional lead practitioners who basically do all the work and make me [...]

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