Book title: What Does This Look Like In The Classroom? Bridging The Gap Between Research And Practice
Author: Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson
Publication date: 2017
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
This is an incredibly timely book. Interest from teachers in educational research has never been greater, but understanding how to apply it in the classroom can be a minefield. Organisations like the Chartered College of Teaching and ResearchEd are already going a long way to help teachers make that leap, but what we have needed for a long time is a book that clearly sets out what educational research suggests and what it means in practice for teachers. This is that book.
The structure of the book is excellent. Each chapter considers one aspect of teaching, such as feedback, misconceptions or motivation. This is introduced by the authors who put the issues in context and explain the debates surrounding it. They then hand over to two experts in the field who answer questions from teachers about applying their ideas in practice. This means you get questions on assessment answered by Dylan Wiliam and Daisy Christodoulou, behaviour by Jill Berry and Tom Bennett, and memory by Paul Kirschner and Yana Weinstein.
This all drawn together at the end to create a no-nonsense, streamlined approach to effective teaching. It is a book I’ll be returning to frequently over the next year as I seek to implement its many practical ideas.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
Almost all teachers will benefit from reading this book. Many of the experts answering questions have written their own books, blogs and papers. If you are familiar with their work you might find less to take away, but there is such a range of voices that this seems unlikely.
The book is especially useful for two groups of teachers – those who are new to the profession or those who are really experienced. For new teachers, this book will help you see through the enormous amount of misinformation out there about everything from how to give feedback to behaviour management. It also introduces ideas that are becoming a common language amongst teachers, such as ‘cognitive load’ and ‘retrieval practice’.
Those who have been in the classroom for a number of years and would like to refresh their knowledge of educational theory would also find the book useful. The business of teaching can leave little time for reading and reflection – this book provides a lot of information that is straightforward to apply in an easy-to-absorb format.
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
The quality of writing is high throughout the wide range of voices in the book. It is a very engaging read, enhanced by the question-and-answer format which enables an array of ideas to be discussed in a short space.
The clearly defined chapters make it very easy to dip in and out of, although the conclusion tying everything together means that it also works as a complete piece that you can read through.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence do the authors use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
Research is front and centre in this book: explaining what the research tells us about teaching practice is its primary purpose. This means you are introduced to a wide range of ideas from cognitive load theory to attribution theory and are shown how these ideas are relevant to our day-to-day work.
The research underpinning these discussions are fully referenced in footnotes and in an extensive bibliography.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
There is so much to take away from this book that it is very hard to isolate just a few points. The structure of the book – where specific questions from teachers are answered by experts – means that every page is full of things I would immediately want to look at.
One thing that stuck with me was a piece of advice from Dylan Wiliam: feedback shouldn’t be about changing the work, but about changing the student. This simple change in approach has huge ramifications in how teachers give, and pupils respond to, feedback. This has led to me look again at the type of feedback I give and consider whether it would just improve this piece of work or help the student to produce better answers in the future.
The section on memory also has some excellent advice on ensuring that pupils move from completing work and towards learning it. Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction (2012) is something I’ll return to throughout the year. As a result my explanations are becoming crisper and I am making better use of images to support what I am saying.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
On the problems with how educational research has been done to teachers: ‘In a very real sense, teachers have been given answers to questions they didn’t ask and solutions to problems that never existed.’
7. Please add any additional comments.
In summary, this is a book that will be a vital addition to every teacher’s CPD. It clearly sets out the background to what a teacher needs to know and then how to apply this knowledge to our practice. Despite relying on some rigorous academic research it is an easy and engaging read that will have an immediate impact on what happens in the classroom.