Book title: What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology
Authors: David Didau & Nick Rose
Publication date: 2016
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
What Every Teacher Needs To Know About Psychology is an excellent introduction to research-informed practice in education. More importantly, it is a very practical guide to implementing the ideas in your own teaching.
It is divided into two main sections: the first looking at aspects of learning and thinking; the second discussing motivation and behaviour. There is a short third section on some of the controversies around cognitive science in education which acknowledges the limitations surrounding the use of evidence-based research in the classroom.
I wish this book had been available when I first started teaching. The sections on how memory works and the implications of that for teaching would have been incredibly useful over the years, and it is a reminder of how this aspect of teaching has often been missed by CPD courses.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
This book contains much that would be benefit a teacher in any stage of their career. They will get an important primer in the ideas underpinning how we learn and the importance of memory, as well as the implications of this for how we teach. This ensures pupils don’t simply do the work, but learn what we intend them to learn.
The chapter on assessment gives an excellent overview of the principles of assessment design and ends with a discussion on comparative judgement which looks set to be influential in the years ahead.
The section on effective instruction is extremely useful and is an area often neglected by many books on teaching that seemingly take it as a given that teachers already know how to do this well. There is also a lot of practical advice on goal setting, behaviour management and motivation that often challenges assumptions made by schools.
It is also a very useful book for anyone involved in planning and running CPD within a school as it gives a deeper understanding of many principles of good practice in the classroom and of why things work or, in many cases, don’t.
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
The structure of the book is perhaps the best thing about it and sets it apart from other books tackling this subject matter. Each chapter is short and stands alone. It is possible to use it as a reference book to look up a particular area of interest, and this is certainly how I have been using it throughout the year.
Each chapter clearly and succinctly sets out the theory and science on the topic and then looks at the implications for the classroom. It ends with a summary of the key information to take away. Most chapters are under 10 pages long and work perfectly for a teacher who wants to improve a particular aspect of their practice.
David Didau’s previous book, What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?, is a fascinating read but, at over 400 very densely written pages, somewhat intimidating to someone just looking to improve what they do. I think this second book suits more teachers as there is more of an immediate and obvious take away from each section.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
This book puts research front and centre. In fact, the purpose of the book is to make research in the field of cognitive science accessible to teachers in the classroom. There are footnotes throughout and references at the end of each chapter.
The nature of the book is that it gives you a summary of the key ideas in numerous topics which then allows the reader to look into any particular area in more depth themselves.
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 are a number of key things I have taken away from this book and put into my practice. After reading the section on effective instruction I think much more carefully about how I use images to support what I am saying, ensuring they complement, rather than distract, from it. I have also looked more closely into how we assess learning as a department and what it actually means to do so. I have also become warier of always seeing immediate feedback as a desirable thing and have instead looked at the timing of different kinds of feedback and ways to build in self-regulation.
The book has also given me the language to express the rationale for what I am doing and to share the ideas with others and has been a useful in signposting other books and research to seek out.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
'Much of what we do in the classrooms is intuitive, steered by what ‘feels right’, but all too often intuition proves a poor, sometimes treacherous guide.'
7. Please add any additional comments.
In summary, this is a book that deserves a place in every school’s CPD library and should be required reading on teacher training courses. It provides a condensed introduction to key aspects of cognitive science and their implication for classroom practice and school policies.