- Buy this product and stream 90 days of Amazon Music Unlimited for free. E-mail after purchase. Conditions apply. Learn more
What if everything you knew about education was wrong? Hardcover – 19 Jun. 2015
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
David Didau has written a truly remarkable book. No other book that I know of manages to integrate an in-the-trenches classroom-teaching perspective with an accessible coverage of critical findings from cognitive-science research. --Robert A. Bjork, Distinguished Research Professor, UCLA
This is a great book. Read it. David Didau has done exactly what anyone who knows his work will expect: to write convincingly, knowledgably, engagingly and provocatively about the interface between research and teaching. Almost everyone will find something to disagree with in this book, something to upset you, challenge your beliefs and either make you angry or make you think. However well-informed you are, Didau finds a crack, a weak point from which to infect you with doubt. Nothing is sacred: formative assessment, effect size and growth mindset all come under attack. But there is wisdom on every page, worthy of more detailed thought and study. If you can get beyond the feelings of uncertainty and challenge, you can learn a lot. This book contains the most classroom-focused presentation I know of the importance of key findings from cognitive psychology, such as the need for teachers to understand forgetting, spacing, testing and desirable difficulties. Didau is at heart a teacher; he understands teachers, classrooms and schools. But he understands research too and blends these elements into a coherent whole. Of course, I found a few things to quibble with: confusions over effect size and the difference between working and short-term memory, for example. But even those made me think again about things I thought I had resolved. This is the kind of book you could read quickly, but probably shouldn t. You could read it ten times and each time find something new. There is a canon of about a dozen books that I recommend to teachers most of which are cited in this one. My essential reading list has a new entry. --Professor Robert Coe, PhD , Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), Durham University
About the Author
David Didau is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker, trainer and author. He started his award-winning blog, The Learning Spy, in 2011 to express the constraints and irritations of ordinary teachers, detail the successes and failures within his own classroom, and synthesise his years of teaching experience through the lens of educational research and cognitive psychology. Since then he has spoken at various national conferences, has directly influenced Ofsted and has worked with the Department for Education to consider ways in which teachers workload could be reduced.
He is the author of the hugely successful titles 'The Secret of Literacy', in which he urges teachers to make the implicit explicit , and 'What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?', in which he turns his attention to the myriad unexamined assumptions that underlie education and explores how schools might realign their practices with how children actually learn.
Customers who bought this item also bought
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
1. The style. Even though it is very unnerving to have your beliefs challenged, the writer, through a mixture of wit, anecdote and a lively style manages to do so in a very entertaining manner.
2. The viewpoint. Unlike many other educational texts, this is not written by someone who writes from a position of asserting their own ‘correctness’. It’s both reassuring and refreshing to read an educational book where the author openly discusses times where they have also been wrong or mistaken.
3. The research. On almost every page there is a wealth of knowledge and research leaping off the page. Synthesising the sheer breadth of research, some of it on very complex topics, is a fantastic achievement.
4. The practical suggestions. Although the writer never claims to know the answer, the comprehensive review of the research does allow him to suggest practical ways for schools and teachers to improve their practise.
5. The possibilities. Yes, many of our ideas about education might be wrong. Ideas about marking, lesson observations, curriculum design and even our concept of learning rest on shaky ground. But once we acknowledge this, we can look to the future with renewed optimism. If we’re wrong about these things, then we can do better for our students, which is a exciting and uplifting message.
First, a disclaimer: this is not an easy read. Not because of the style of writing (David Didau’s style is clear and enjoyable to read) but because
1. it’s a big book (for an education book anyway)
2. for many teachers it will challenge an awful lot of what we believe/assume to be good teaching practice.
Didau starts off by explaining how the human brain is pretty bad at making rational, evidence based decisions due to significant cognitive bias: “we make decisions on emotional grounds and then justify and rationalise our choices after the fact“. I was aware of many of these psychological principles before reading this book, but Didau summarises them brilliantly. This is almost like tenderising a steak before cooking; knowing how bad our decision making can be is essential if we are to make it through the cognitive dissonance we are about to experience…
Didau then carefully dismantles large swathes of what is standard (and considered to be good or outstanding) practice in many classrooms across the country. I won’t/can’t go into more detail here, as I feel I wouldn’t do it justice, but it’s really quite an uncomfortable experience. As a teacher who has made a very successful career utilising a “progressive” teaching style, the amount of cognitive dissonance I experienced whilst reading this book was massive. It’s clear that Didau has been through the same process himself. He does, thankfully, offer plenty of ideas (backed up by evidence) for how to improve teaching and learning.
There have been a few education books I’ve been positively evangelical about throughout my teaching career, either because they’ve summarised my beliefs about education or they’ve been immensely useful. Inside The Black Box (Wiliam/Black), Essential Motivation In The Classroom (Gilbert), The Teacher’s Toolkit (Ginnis), How To Teach (Beadle), Visible Learning (Hattie) and Evidence Based Teaching (Petty) are all books that I’ve ended up buying for others, or raving about to schools and teachers, particularly those new to the profession. "What if everything…" joins that list (and at times, contradicts some of the content of the other books). However, it will be my more experienced colleagues to whom I’ll be recommending it most; we have the most cognitive dissonance to experience. This is essential reading for all who work in education (particularly school leaders). Providing a copy for staff and giving them two days inset to read (and act) on it would probably be the most effective CPD a school could do. Sadly I can’t see that happening in many schools, as those higher up in schools probably have the most dissonance to experience and the most to lose…
The challenge I now face is to take what I’ve learnt from this book and apply it to my day to day practice. I can already feel the “experienced teacher” part of me itching to start the term teaching in the way I find comfortable. The scientist/rational part of me needs to fight that. It won’t be easy (most of our education system encourages my old habits), but then (and this is a key theme of the book) learning should be hard.
In some senses reading this book is like having a conversation with a respected colleague in the staffroom. Didau was very recently a classroom teacher, and the issues he discusses are completely relevant to my teaching practice. However, he has read more, knows more, and has more insight than any teacher I have ever encountered. It is a brilliantly researched book, and he takes this erudition and writes paragraph after paragraph of well argued sense about teaching. It is a big book, and not a page is wasted, I have it on kindle and must have highlighted about have of it.
Often, I had to stop and think about what I had just read. Make no mistake, this is not a book to read to comfort you in your existing views, it looks to challenge every notion about education, to find the ideas that actually work, and to make one question one's most cherished beliefs. This book has had an immediate, beneficial effect on my teaching. I wish I had read it years ago.
Top international reviews
The title should be taken literally. Didau does not seem to be out to push a new framework or gimmick, but to make you think skeptically about anyone that does, and to make you realize that most of your teacher education was probably a stew of this rubbish.
This is not to say that Didau has no recommendations. He does! But you will be surprised at how tentative he is about some of them, by how shaken he has been left from his own experience of swallowing the metaphorical "red pill". Can we be absolutely certain of anything? Perhaps not. But some pedagogical assertions are absolutely better supported by science than others, and Didau gives you a fascinating tour of things you would be justified in trying in your classroom.
If you're like me, you've already been doing some of what he suggests under a cloud of baseless guilt. But you will find some other suggestions so shockingly counter-intuitive that you'll bleed out your highlighter and shake yourself dizzy doing double takes. You will pace the room thinking nervously about just how much your bosses trust you, and wonder whether you actually have the stomach to take these kinds of risks.
There are a pair of interesting appendices (bonus chapters, really) by Didau's collaborators at the end. As an American, I can't speak much to Jack Markwood's look at the (lack of) value in the data collected by England's educational system. But I will commend Andrew Sabisky's "Five myths about intelligence" for its clarity and courage. IQ is, as he acknowledges, an "impolite" subject.
If you're looking for catchy acronyms and feel-good fluff, look elsewhere. This isn't that kind of book. It is very readable, with a conversational semi-scholarly style. But it is not *easy*.
If Didau is right, this is absolutely for the best.
In short this book taught me a lot, made me argue with it occasionally, and presented information I'd previously been familiar with in fresh, exceedingly clever ways. If you love reading about education and are passionate to learn more about what can work and why, I can't recommend many single titles more highly than this one.