Making Every Lesson Count: Six principles to support great teaching and learning

Picture of Shaun Allison, Andy Tharby
Shaun Allison, Andy Tharby

Published by Crown House Publishing Limited, 2015

Written by Vlatka Butković

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6 Key Principles

If you want to improve your teaching practice and make the most of every lesson, this may just be the book for you. Connecting research with actual classroom practice, the authors are providing practical teaching strategies. They do not present them as ready- made answers for every dilemma you may face. Instead, they propose six evidence- informed pedagogical principles that “cut to the core of successful teaching: challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning.” The authors stress the importance of tailoring teaching methods to the needs of individual students, and provide strategies for differentiating instruction to support students at different levels of ability.

Each chapter of the book explores one of these principles in depth, providing practical advice, classroom examples, and research-based insights to help teachers implement them effectively.

Detailed analysis of each principle

“…challenge in education is the provision of difficult work that causes students to think deeply and engage in healthy struggle.” (p.14)

A teacher’s expectations on students can have profound effect both on how they interact with them but also on the students’ future achievement. The authors mention a study that found that teachers would interact differently with those students of whom they had higher expectations: they would be “warmer”, teach them more material, provide more positive praise etc. This subjective behaviour is not something we are always aware of, and the consequences can be devastating for students. Students want to meet our expectations.

Each principle is thoroughly explained in a separate chapter. One look at the questions the authors tackled only in the “Challenge” chapter gives you an insight on why this book is so valuable for any teacher:

  • How can I prepare lessons that challenge every student?

  • How do I gauge whether lesson content is challenging or not?

  • How can I improve my subject knowledge and ensure that students are thinking deeply about it?

  • How can I ensure that my classroom and school environment promote excellence and challenge?

  • How do I support students when they are struggling with challenging tasks?

  • What simple, practical strategies can be put in place to challenge students to produce better writing?

  • How do I ensure that challenge becomes the status quo in my sessions?

  • How do I embed challenge in the long run?

  • How do we ensure that we systematically build up student knowledge and skill?

  • How do I account for the fact that students will beed to be challenged at an individual level?

  • How do I challenge students to pursue our subjects beyond the classroom?

The importance of collaboration

One of the strengths of this book is its emphasis on collaboration and professional development. Teachers are encouraged to work together and share best practices, and provided guidance on how to establish effective professional learning communities within schools. The book was published in 2015, and we can only add that after the pandemic and adapting to online learning, the possibilities for collaboration and shared practices have become endless.

Relevant to teachers at all levels of experience

The book focuses on actionable strategies and techniques that teachers can apply in their own classrooms. The authors always keep the focus on practical applications for the classroom. This makes the book accessible and relevant to teachers at all levels of experience. It is supported by a wealth of classroom examples and research-based insights. It is written in such a language that it feels like we are having conversation with a fellow teacher, which makes it a perfect choice for your summer edu library.

“Making Every lesson Count” is Educational Book Award winner 2016. The Judges’ comments were: “A highly practical and interesting resource with loads of information and uses to support and inspire teachers of all levels of experience. An essential staffroom book.”

Additional resources

Follow Shaun Allison on Twitter.  

Visit Shaun’s Class Teaching website.

Follow Andy Tharby on Twitter.

Visit Andy’s blog.

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