Robert Coe, Director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University burst into my consciousness two years ago with his vigorous critique of the lack of evidence underpinning lesson observation. I’m sure he needs no introduction, but his papers Improving Education: a triumph of hope over experience and What Makes Great Teaching? are essentially reading for anyone interested in education beyond own narrow sphere of opinion. In short, he’s an academic I greatly respect and whose good opinion matters. So I’m thrilled that he’s written this brief review of my forthcoming book.
This is a great book. Read it. David Didau has done exactly what anyone who knows his work will expect: to write convincingly, knowledgeably, engagingly and provocatively about the interface between research and teaching. Almost everyone will find something to disagree with in this book, something to upset you, challenge your beliefs and either make you angry or make you think. However well-informed you are, Didau finds a crack, a weak point from which to infect you with doubt. Nothing is sacred: formative assessment, effect size and growth mindset all come under attack. But there is wisdom on every page, worthy of more detailed thought and study. If you can get beyond the feelings of uncertainty and challenge, you can learn a lot.
This book contains the most classroom-focused presentation I know of the importance of key findings from cognitive psychology, such as the need for teachers to understand forgetting, spacing, testing and desirable difficulties. Didau is at heart a teacher; he understands teachers, classrooms and schools. But he understands research too and blends these elements into a coherent whole.
Of course, I found a few things to quibble with: confusions over effect size and the difference between working and short-term memory, for example. But even those made me think again about things I thought I had resolved.
This is the kind of book you could read quickly, but probably shouldn’t. You could read it ten times and each time find something new. There is a canon of about a dozen books that I recommend to teachers – most of which are cited in this one. My essential reading list has a new entry.
Coe’s comments absolutely nail what I was hoping to achieve. I really don’t want anyone to just agree with me, I just want people to think again about what they believe is obviously right.