David Didau

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About David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 844 blog entries.

In praise of uncertainty

2019-10-07T13:20:36+01:00October 7th, 2019|Featured|

I want you to conjure up the spirit of one of your primitive ancestors. Picture yourself hunting for food on the savannah or in a primordial forest. Imagine, if you will, that you catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of your eye. Is it a snake? Although you can't be sure, the only sensible option is to act with certainty, assume that there is a snake and takes immediate steps to avoid it. We're primed to act with certainty on minimal information. This incredibly useful survival instinct has served the species well for countless millennia. If [...]

Is reading comprehension even a thing?

2019-10-06T11:39:32+01:00October 5th, 2019|reading|

Most of the schools I visit are unsurprisingly keen to explore ideas to narrow the gap between their most and least advantaged students. Whilst there are also sorts of complex chains of causation which go some way to explaining why children from wealthier backgrounds outperform their less fortunate peers, one particularly vexed question that I'm frequently asked about is that of reading. The case I'm making here is that reading comprehension should be more properly thought of as language comprehension. Once word recognition has been mastered (phonological awareness, decoding and sight recognition of familiar words) children's ability to understand what they [...]

The curriculum: Intent, implementation and impact

2019-07-24T18:07:15+01:00July 23rd, 2019|Featured|

This article first appeared in the marvellous free periodical, Teach Secondary. Do pop over and subscribe.  Most teachers will be aware that Ofsted is launching a new inspection framework this September. The big shift in focus is away from inspectors attempting to judge the quality of teaching and learning by observing lessons and towards attempting to judge the quality of education a school provides by, at least in part, interrogating the curriculum a school has in place. In an effort to assist schools in assessing the quality of their curriculum, Ofsted has divided matters into three baskets: intent, implementation and impact. [...]

Why ‘just reading’ might make more of a difference than teaching reading

2019-10-01T14:01:02+01:00June 22nd, 2019|Featured, reading|

Few people would disagree that improving children's reading ability would make a good thing. Not only would it open up greater opportunities in life, it would boost their cognitive development and increase the likelihood of them being able to access an academic curriculum. One barrier to children being able to comprehend what they read is the finding that an estimated 20% of children leave primary phase each year unable to decode with sufficient fluency to read the kinds of texts they will encounter at secondary school. Essentially, the more slowly you read, the more working memory capacity is taken up by [...]

A few thoughts about teaching poetry

2019-06-04T19:36:15+01:00June 3rd, 2019|Featured|

It is, I hope, uncontroversial to say that poetry is not a popular art form. While it's wonderful to hear the sales of poetry rose by 12% in 2018, with over 1.3 million volumes sold, that's dwarfed by the 190.9 million books sold in the UK in the same year, and is still a lot less than the 3.4 million copies of Michelle Obama's autobiography, Becoming. Why is it that so few people read poetry? I'm sure there are a whole host of complex reasons but I suspect it has a lot to do with our prior experience of the form. [...]

What’s the big deal with Big Questions?

2019-05-31T10:48:32+01:00May 31st, 2019|Featured|

You might know them as Fertile Questions, Enquiry Questions, or plain old, Big Questions, but the idea that the curriculum ought to be organised around broad, disciplinary, substantive enquires is a popular one. It seems to be an especially popular approach with the history teaching community. Christine Counsell goes so far as to say that such questions are "vital in history because without [them] you can't learn how the second-order concepts of the discipline work." As an example she goes that a question such as 'Why did Russian Revolution happen in 1917?' are required for students to get a feel for [...]

Do detentions work?

2019-04-29T16:00:38+01:00April 29th, 2019|behaviour|

When I was a student I was given a lot of detentions. After some particularly appalling behaviour on a French exchange trip I was given two months of 1 hour after school detentions. This was a big deal as I lived about 15 miles away from my school and needed to get two buses home. Because I wasn't able to catch the school bus, I had to walk to the nearest train station, wait for the hourly train shuttle to a larger town and then get my bus to within walking distance of my home. What began as a 1 hour [...]

Should we scrap SATs? Cautiously, yes

2019-04-20T11:11:05+01:00April 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

2019-05-03T08:34:42+01:00April 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. Here they are. 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 [...]

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

2019-04-07T20:13:21+01:00April 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+01:00March 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+01:00March 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 [...]