Do children succeed despite or because of what we do?

One of the most beguiling assumptions in teaching is that children succeed in school because of what schools and teachers do. We feel this to be true because we're acutely aware of all the things we've done; all the hours of teaching, marking, planning, pastoral support and everything else we do. We know these things are what make the difference to young people's lives. But how do we know? It [...]

By |December 3rd, 2018|Categories: curriculum|1 Comment

Breadth trumps depth

According to Teacher Tapp, 56% of teachers reckon their schools start GCSE courses at some point during Year 9. Part of the justification for this approach is that Key Stage 3 has sometimes had a reputation for being a bit of an intellectual wasteland. In 2015, Ofsted publish a report entitled Key Stage 3: The wasted years? which argued that "in too many schools the quality of teaching and the rate [...]

By |December 2nd, 2018|Categories: curriculum|3 Comments

A tribute to my best teacher

There's little doubt in my mind that my English teacher, Roy Birch was the best teacher I had at school.He became my teacher in what is now known as Year 10. I was part of the first ever cohort to take the GCSE and none of us really knew what to expect of the course but I do remember dreading having Birch as a teacher. He was a physically imposing man [...]

By |November 26th, 2018|Categories: Featured|1 Comment

“It’s all about relationships”

Every now and then I come across the argument that the success or failure of a teacher is due to the quality of their relationships with students. Poor behaviour? Ineffective lessons? "It's all about relationships."* Most people are incapable of maintaining much more than 50 relationships and the number of people we actively care about tends to be far fewer. Most of the people we encounter we know slightly if at [...]

By |November 11th, 2018|Categories: behaviour|Tags: , |3 Comments

How to explain… structured discussion

Over the years I have become increasingly convinced that there is something particularly cognitively 'sticky' about speech. We are more likely to remember that which we have said than that which we have merely read or heard. One of the big problems teachers regularly encounter is that children who are able to articulate interesting opinions and make useful connections orally will often struggle to record these observations in writing. All [...]

By |November 9th, 2018|Categories: literacy|Tags: , |1 Comment

How to explain… schema

I've spent a fair bit of time trying to explain various psychological concepts in a way that is easily grasped by busy teachers and have come to the conclusion that some of my explanations might be worth recording on the blog. First up is a simple explanation of what a schema is, how it is formed and why this is worth knowing. Because we have no capacity to introspect our [...]

By |October 31st, 2018|Categories: Featured|5 Comments

An argument for order

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that entropy within a system will always increase over time. What starts off as order descends, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but always inexorably into chaos. In simple words: everything deteriorates over time. Fending off chaos and bolstering order always requires continual effort and careful maintenance. Whatever else it is, a school is a system. The orderly running of schools is something most people [...]

By |October 24th, 2018|Categories: behaviour|3 Comments

Garbage in, garbage out

This is my latest article for the rather wonderful Teach Secondary magazine. Schools are awash with data but do we know any more about how children are performing, how likely they are to achieve particular targets or what’s preventing them from making progress? All too often the answer is no. The problem can be simply summer up as data ≠ knowledge. There’s a lovely video on the internet of celebrity [...]

By |October 16th, 2018|Categories: assessment|Tags: , , |1 Comment

Survivorship bias and the enduring appeal of bad ideas

Survivorship bias occurs when we draw conclusions from examples which have passed some selection criteria and systematically discount those which have not. During World War II, British bombers were suffering a fairly awful attrition rate and the RAF were understandably keen to try to improve their survivability. Most of the bombers that limped back to base showed signs of heavy damage around the cockpit and wing tips and so the [...]

By |October 9th, 2018|Categories: Featured|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Modelling and observation: a low threat model for teacher development

For some years now I've been of the opinion that while lesson observations can be useful learning opportunities the person doing the observation learns far more than the person being observed. This is a bit of a problem as, in the main, the people who observe the most teach the least. This means many schools end up with a class of teachers who know an incredible amount about teaching but [...]

By |October 7th, 2018|Categories: training|Tags: , |4 Comments

A measurement checklist

Campbell's Law: The more any quantitive social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to measure. Goodhart's Law: Any measure used for control is unreliable. Metrics can be great. We can be so preoccupied at seeing only what’s right in front of us that it’s [...]

By |October 3rd, 2018|Categories: Featured|1 Comment

Read the latest Learning Spy newsletter here.

If you like what you see, subscribe here:



The Secret of Literacy

The Perfect English Lesson

Recent Posts

Tag thingy


Enter your email to subscribe to The Learning Spy. You will receive notifications of new posts by magic.

Join Over 10,000 Subscribers Learning from David Didau

Become Part of David Didau’s Network and Further Your Teaching Career.