What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology

Picture of David Didau, Nick Rose
David Didau, Nick Rose

Published by John Catt Educational, 2016

Written by Vlatka Butković

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Concise, informative, instructional

This book is a summary of the most important psychological principles for teaching and learning; a summary that may be overwhelming if read all at once, then again you have this feeling that not a chapter should be missed once you start reading it. You may have learned some of the content that is covered in this book elsewhere, but this book is well organised, written in the concise way and often provides practical tips on how to relate theory to practice. As Robert Coe said in the foreword, “To engage with the ideas deeply and avoid overloading working memory … most people should probably take it in small doses.”

“This generation of teachers, thanks to social media, is part of the global community of teachers who exchange ideas, knowledge, who research evidence and critically approach the content that is out there. This is the book that provides theory and comments on the practical performance of it.”

Teaching has to do with psychology and relationships as it does with the content itself. Much of what we do in the classroom is intuitive, or passed on as valuable approach by another teacher. Still, there is little justification for ignoring the research and playing “by ear” — if research can be used to inform our actions.

26 chapters divided in three broad headings

Part 1 – Learning and thinking

Evolutionary psychology, Prior learning misconceptions, Working memory, Cognitive load, Long-term memory and forgetting, Context and transfer, Practice and expertise, Feedback, Assessment, Effective instruction

Part 2 – Motivation and behaviour

Beliefs, Expectations, Gal setting, Mastery, Rewords and sanctions, Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, Self-regulation, Restorative practice, Social norms, In-group and out-group

Part 3 – Controversies – Professional scepticism

Cognitive development, Attachment, Stress and resilience, Neuroscience, Individual differences, Creativity

As you can see by the titles of the chapters, this book is not organised to be read from cover to cover, but rather offers clearly marked places for explaining and potentially solving a particular problem a teacher may have.

A book for every teacher’s bookshelf

This is a book for teachers who do not resist learning the theory behind the successful practices, and who trust the fact that there are now clear principles emerging about how we learn best (D.Wiliam). Those principles teach us how to make teaching more effective, help us understand the cognitive process our students go through and help us bridge the gaps that, in the past, were successful only when an intuitive teacher found a solution for a particular situation.

This is a book for sceptics, too, who think that only a person who works in the classroom can tell “what works,” especially if the advice given conflicts with their intuition.

“Students who are highly socially connected appear to have a disproportionate influence on the social norms of fellow students. Involving socially connected students in reinforcing pro-social normative message may help reduce disruptive behaviour in class.”

Clear guidance within each chapter

Every chapter has the Into the classroom segment. For example, in Chapter 4 about Cognitive load it is explained which teaching practices can be used to avoid an overload of working memory capacity, right after it is explained why such overload happens in the first place. Surprisingly, some of the practices, e.g., minimally guided activities that we know develop numerous skills as well as have students deeply engaged in the activity, are proven to crate cognitive overload much faster. Therefore, they should be combined with tasks that are put into the context of something we’ve evolved to do, the so called “biologically primary knowledge”.

There is an overview of every chapter at the end if it, which helps you remember key point made in it, and prepares you for the next one. One of the great examples of how easily this book can change your practice is the overview of Chapter 13: Goal setting, p.143, 144. Clear, concise, almost a checklist that should be printed and hung on a classroom wall as a daily reminder for the teachers.

Additional resources

Visit David Didau’s website The Learning Spy for the resources he generously shares, join his live webinars and read his Blog.

Subscribe to David Didau’s YouTube Channel.

Follow Dylan Wiliam on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

#daviddidau #nickrose #edupsychology #CEESAbookclub #CEESAconnects

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