Over the holidays I have enjoyed a roadtrip with family across Canada and the US of A; my reading list has (as usual!) seen me read several pedagogical books that say the same thing – that there is a difference between a learner and a doer.

Headstrong – Lessons from Leadership

Great, self-published book by a head on the logistics of running a school. Whilst undoubtedly edited for purpose, it exposes high expectations that must have been challenging (!) to establish. A great, clear and honest read.

Making Poetry Happen

A series of case studies on teaching poetry in the classroom. Talks about teaching concepts and the conceptualisation of language, so clearly I like it.

Progressively Worse: The burden of bad ideas in British schools
Robert Peal

Falls away in places in its polemic, but still essential reading for the most part. Just read with a critical mind! An interesting introduction to this invariable battleground.

The Secret of Literacy: Making the implicit explicit
David Didau

Useful read with tangible ideas written in a typically bombastic and refreshingly reflective delivery.

Seven Myths About Education
Daisy Christodoulou

I read several issue with this book and, along with Didau and Bennett, the same issues arise time and time again. More conceptualised than practical (Daisy taught for three years before going back to university to study an English MA), this is nevertheless rigorous and worthwhile, especially when read with the other two books on the same matters.

Teach Now! English: Becoming a Great English Teacher
Alex Quigley

Quigley runs an amazing blog that, like with Tomsett’s, presents the day to day business of a Head of Department in an aspirational manner. Like with Trevor Wright, I didn’t find myself rereading this book, but I find Quigley’s blog the best English teacher experience blog out there.

Teacher Proof: Why research in education doesn’t always mean what it claims, and what you can do about it
Tom Bennett

Bennett is brilliant. Out of the three anti-status quo books on here, his is the best read. His introduction to the scientific method was a pleasing refreshment. In his favour, he still teaches, and he responds to TES articles on a weekly basis. A necessary read.

Teaching English Literature 16-19: An essential guide (National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE))
Carol Atherton, Andrew Green, Gary Snapper

The methodology of this book is for any age group: I don’t know why it is only aiming at KS5. Top of the profession.

This much I know about love over fear…: Creating a culture for truly great teaching
John Tomsett

Many colleagues and friends taught under John with mixed reviews. In terms of his blog and his writing, I love the guy. He speaks openly about taking difficult decisions and about getting things wrong occasionally, which demonstrates a profound confidence and credibility. He even filmed a relatively mundane lesson and put it online. A real character.

What if everything you knew about education was wrong?
David Didau

I have referenced Didau much, and his reflections on his teaching have influenced me greatly. That he critiques his own best selling book takes some doing, and he emerges with more credibility than ever. I look forward to following him in the future.

So what have I learnt?

I am going to change my learning objectives from the previous Kristin Still inspired ‘learning verb; content; skill or concept; to Dweck’s ‘We are doing… so that… we can…’. This way I can focus on the expected knowledge that we are focussing upon while still concentrating on purpose or focus (which, for me, was the purpose of the content and learning verb of my existing objectives). I found that without a policy of learning objectives, the division of learning verbs left some gaps (i.e. you can complete more than one type of learning in a lesson, or you need to analyse before you can evaluate coherently).

I am also going to add an ‘expected knowledge’ section to my MTPs. While I received tremendous training in York University under Dr Nick McGuinn, I recognise that focussing on expected knowledge that the students needed to understand was slightly deprioritise. In other words, in the rush to scale Bloom’s Taxonomy, my classes would analyse and evaluate, and take the comprehension of the text somewhat for granted. The value added results I achieve (and again this year) mean that this focus has some merit – I always feel, though, that there is a more rigorous way to enable every student to succeed given time and support.

This focus could be in terms of making the knowledge I expect my students to attain (and again, this would be need to be personalised for each class) explicit. While other knowledge would be gained, the revisiting and consolidating of this knowledge (even for 5 minutes at a suitable time later) would be a more rigorous way of ensuring better analysis and evaluation.

I am going to take on an MA in the next fourteen months or so. As with all such things, I want to do this on something that will actually benefit my colleagues and my school. It is apparent that the character and ethos of a school determine the success of the methodology employed: I want to study and improve something that goes with the tide of expert teachers.

Finally, I want to read more books on the cognitive of teaching. I’ve started Dan Whittingham’s book on how the brain doesn’t naturally think (think ‘Reddit’ and the nature of commenting) and I want to read Carol Dweck, too. Alongside these, I want to read some literature of selling ideas, and apply some pragmatics of pitching to see if that might aid my teaching at some point soon, too.

So, salesmanship and cognitive science – the sweet and sour of 2015-16!