The problem with ‘reading along’ | David Didau

It has become an unwritten law of teaching that when reading aloud to students, the teacher must ensure students are reading along in their own copy of the text. This is, I contend, a bad idea. To understand why we need to consider working memory in some detail.

It’s well know that the capacity of working memory is strictly limited – estimates range from anywhere between 4 to 9 items at any one time – but it’s less well-known that working memory is not a single edifice. Baddeley and Hitch‘s widely accepted working memory model contains four distinct components. The central executive (CE)…

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The consequences of freedom | David Didau

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

Mel Gibson

Freedom is one of the most popular tropes in modern thinking. We yearn for it and yet feel constantly thwarted. Like Macbeth we are “cabin’d, cribbed, confin’d, bound in to saucy doubts and fears.” Wouldn’t it be great to be free of all the constraints which…

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What do teachers believe? | David Didau

It’s well-established that various ‘myths’ about how students’ learn are remarkably persistent in the face of contradictory evidence. In 2014, Paul Howard-Jones’ article, Neuroscience and education: myths and messages revealed the extent of teachers’ faulty beliefs:

In the UK, 93% of teachers believe that matching instruction to students’ preferred learning style is a good idea, 88% believed in some form of Brain Gym, with 91% being convinced by the left-brain-right brain hypothesis.

He concludes with the following:

Neuromyths are misconceptions about the brain that flourish when…

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What’s so great about making mistakes? | David Didau

To err is human.

Alexander Pope

Making mistakes is an inevitable part of life. We’re all wrong about something at some point. Obviously contending with failure, learning to drag ourselves up by the bootstraps when we fall down and persist in the face of setbacks is part and parcel of human existence. But is making mistakes some to aim for? Should failure be celebrated? Clearly, in some areas of human endeavour mistakes cannot be tolerated. We are much more tolerant of failure in education than in, say, aviation, because the stakes are so much lower. If we mess things up no one dies. It’s…

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What’s the point of school? | David Didau

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker argues that “education is a technology that tries to make up for what the human mind is innately bad at.” Schools have only ever existed in cultures where culturally specific knowledge has outpaced universal folk knowledge. What is universal – speech, recognising distinctions between the properties of inanimate objects and plants and animals, cooperating in groups, etc. –  is clearly the result of evolutionary adaptions; if it wasn’t it wouldn’t be universal. Children don’t have to go to school to learn how to walk, talk, recognise objects or remember the…

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Some videos of me saying stuff about education | David Didau

Recently, Swedish education magazine, Lärarnas Tidning interviewed me about my views on various aspects of education. For those interested in seeing me do a very poor Stewart Lee impersonation, they’ve posted a few short clips on their YouTube channel. Here they are:

1. The importance of explicit instruction


2. Why ‘grit’ doesn’t make much sense


3. Professionalism


4. Why teachers need to have high expectations of children’s behaviour


5. How evidence can change minds


6. The appeal of gimmicks

The post Some videos of me saying stuff about…

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Do we want ‘deeper learning’ classrooms? | David Didau

It’s very easy to present a false dichotomy to make our own beliefs and choices seem more desirable than the alternatives. Consider this infographic from the Hewlett Foundation which has been doing the rounds:

What’s being implied is that the ‘deeper learning’ classroom somehow better prepares children for being scientists in the ‘science lab’ than ‘traditional’ classrooms. Maybe we’re also supposed to assume that the ‘deeper learning’ classroom is a better preparation for all workplaces?

The superficial attempts made by the infographic’s designers to make the ‘traditional’ classroom’…

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