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Why you should read: What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology by David Didau and Nick Rose

Written By: Tom Sherrington
1 min read
A guide to the central ideas from psychology that have a direct bearing on how children learn.

It contains clear guidance from classroom practice and some surprising, often counterintuitive insights from psychology about how learning happens.

What is it about?

The book explores two main themes: Learning and Thinking (part 1), and Motivation and Behaviour (part 2). There is also a third part that explores some controversies.

The book covers many topics with chapters on cognitive load, practice and expertise, feedback, instruction, expectations, goal setting, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, restorative practice, self-regulation – and plenty more.

Chapter 8 provides one of the best summaries of the key principles of effective feedback you will find, while chapter 9 is a superb overview of assessment theories, emphasising the difference between learning and performance, and exploring the issue of reliability. Chapter 15 on rewards and sanctions surveys the research and provides teachers with a very sound set of principles to work to.

Each chapter can be read on its own, or in order. They are packed with references for further reading and all have a pithy concluding summary.

What are the main messages for teachers?

The overarching message throughout the book is that psychology provides some surprising, often counterintuitive, insights about how learning happens.

There is a clear message urging teachers to question some entrenched ideas that are not supported by the science of learning. The section on professional scepticism captures this very well: we must be wary of cherry-picking research that supports our biases.

The book covers a range of psychology topics, but there are some recurring themes, including:

  • How learning forms around schema
  • The role of practice and ‘desirable difficulties’ – such as spaced and interleaved retrieval practice – in building fluency
  • The importance of instructional methods for novice learners
  • The need to pay attention to motivation to secure improvement.

Top Tip

From the chapter on motivation: students are likely to be better motivated to work hard if we satisfy their need to be valued, competent and in control. This means placing more emphasis on teaching them to know and understand better, not fostering motivation itself.

Want to know more?

Didau, D and Rose, N (2016): What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology. John Catt Ltd.

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