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 - well over 6 and a half foot tall, with a spade beard and size 13 Dr Marten shoes. He was widely considered terrifying and there were rumours that one 1st [...]

A tribute to my best teacher2018-11-27T17:50:56+00:00

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 long-term memories no one has any idea what actually happens in there. We know we must have a long-term memory because we can think about something, stop thinking about it and [...]

How to explain… schema2018-10-31T20:39:37+00:00

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 prevailing opinion was that if these sections of the aircraft were reinforced more planes would survive. Then, along came statistician, Abraham Wald who pointed out that engineers were only considering the [...]

Survivorship bias and the enduring appeal of bad ideas2018-10-09T13:19:52+00:00

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 all too easy to miss anything peripheral. It’s hard to argue that metrics haven’t led to major improvements in education from when I started teaching in the late 90s. Back in [...]

A measurement checklist2018-10-03T20:44:47+00:00

What’s the best (and easiest) way to teach?


I thought I'd said all I ever wanted to say about group until, responding to a tweet from an education professor exhorting all teachers to add group work to their teaching repertoires, I unwisely suggested that maybe that wasn't such great advice. Unless you teach PE, drama, or some other subject where outcomes require cooperation this may not be good advice. Instead think very carefully about what the purpose of asking children to work in groups might be. All too often it adds little and costs much. https://t.co/psx985tnSS — David Didau (@DavidDidau) September 23, 2018 In all honesty, I really don't [...]

What’s the best (and easiest) way to teach?2018-09-25T13:25:50+00:00

What if everything you knew about mindsets and resilience was wrong?


Here are the slides I use for my talk at researchED Malmö: What if everything you know about mindsets and resilience is wrong? from David Didau The following is the English text of an article I wrote for Pedagogiska magasinet on which the presentation was, in part, based. What leads to success? Obviously, as teachers, we should be interested in children’s academic test scores, but what else is important? Are there certain skills, qualities of dispositions that the successful possess and everyone else lacks? If there is, can we identify these magic ingredients and teach them to our students? An exciting range [...]

What if everything you knew about mindsets and resilience was wrong?2018-09-24T17:04:50+00:00

Born stupid


If I've learned anything over the last year or so it's that intelligence - whatever we believe that to be[1] - is not innate. Whilst it seems hard to deny that some of our potential for becoming intelligent is genetically endowed, it ought to be obvious that our ability to reason is entirely dependent on our environment.[2] If you doubt this, try to reason about something of which you know absolutely nothing. The impossibility of such an act ought to make it clear that the faculty of reason is dependent on knowledge. Were someone to raise a child in complete isolation [...]

Born stupid2018-09-16T01:32:21+00:00

A manifesto for closing the advantage gap: my slides from researchED18


The talk I gave a this year's researchED national conference was, I'm afraid to say, shameless promotion for my new book, Making Kids Cleverer. Each of the slides represents an incredibly brief potted summary of the book's ten chapters. The book will be published some time in the coming months and, as the release date approaches, I'll write a series of posts that expands on each chapter. For now I hope this sufficiently whets your appetite to pre-order a copy. Making Kids Cleverer - ResearchED 2018 from David Didau

A manifesto for closing the advantage gap: my slides from researchED182018-09-09T11:45:41+00:00

What’s your ambition for children?


Today I listened to Paul Smith, CEO of Future Academies, talk about his ambition for the young people who attend the schools in his Trust. He said he wanted them to be able to go to a 'nice' restaurant, feel confident about ordering and be able to have a 90 minutes conversation about current affairs. This might seem a pretty modest wish, but I have taught very many children who may never have this kind of experience. I never really thought about my ambition for children in quite this way before. I'm not sure that going to a restaurant is exactly [...]

What’s your ambition for children?2018-09-07T18:08:20+00:00

Is love the most important thing?


Yesterday, I wrote a post explaining that important as the quality of teaching in a school is, there are other, more important things on which to concentrate. In response, Katharine Birbalsingh, head mistress of Michaela School tweeted this: I agree with lots of this but @DavidDidau misses a, if not THE most important thing: kids need to love their teacher. They need to be inspired. When a kid loves their teacher, they’ll work & work for them both inside & outside the classroom. And hard work is what counts. https://t.co/5g4qivJxvc — Katharine Birbalsingh (@Miss_Snuffy) July 8, 2018 Did I miss a [...]

Is love the most important thing?2018-07-09T11:07:59+00:00

Teaching matters, but there are more important things to get right


As John Tomsett says in his latest blog, "It is generally accepted that the quality of teaching is the most influential factor in determining the rate at which pupils make progress in their learning – broadly speaking, the better the teaching, the more progress pupils make over time." Here, I want to argue that teaching, important as it is, only comes third (or maybe fourth) on the list of things I think make the most difference "in determining the rate at which children make progress in their learning." A bold claim? Let's see. My contention is that the single most important [...]

Teaching matters, but there are more important things to get right2018-07-08T12:33:42+00:00

When “balance” goes bad


Balance is an obviously good thing, isn't it? After all, who wants to be unbalanced? "What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution, in a demonstration?" asked the mathematician Henri Poincaré. "It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details." Lovely.  A lack of balance implies disunity, disharmony and, maybe, disorder. But is balance always good? In education, those who are made uncomfortable [...]

When “balance” goes bad2018-06-28T15:41:10+00:00