Teachers spend a lot of time thinking about difference. We break down data into sub-groups, plan lessons to support and extend, and consider what extra we might do for students falling behind.
But should we spend more time thinking about what students have in common? Might a rush to differentiate mean we spend less time than we should thinking about the fundamentals? Setting differences aside, what general assumptions about learners inform how we teach and plan? And, crucially, are these assumptions correct?
The last question is the focus of a new article by Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. In A Mental Model of the Learner, he asks which ideas about thinking, emotions and motivation are most useful for teachers, and argues that a tight set of these ideas should form a central part of teacher training.