By Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby - Reviewed by Keren Gunn
What is the book about?
The book is a reminder about 6 first principles; the things as an effective teacher you probably do by instinct, or used to do. It’s about the basics but so much more than that; there are some great tweaks and tactics that allow you to reflect on how you do the routine things you do - as well as why. Split into 6 key sections: Challenge; Explanation; Modelling; Practice; Feedback and Questioning the book is underpinned by robust evidence as well as being very practical.
Who is the book aimed or and who might find it useful?
At any stage of your career I think it is really useful to stop and reflect so you don’t stagnate. This book is as useful to the NQT or trainee, but equally for someone who’s been teaching for over twenty years like me, who is looking for a refresher and a reminder. It is also a validation that what we think, and know works, does work and what matters for our students are the things that really work. No gimmicks, just high impact.
How did the book inform your practice?
It reminded me about the essentials but the chapter that really struck a chord as I read it was on the lost art of explanation - but with this proviso; “We believe…that high quality teacher talk is the first step in creating a classroom ethos of excellence and growth.”
Let us be very clear, they are not advocating a return to a dull lecture style delivery and no-one wants that. But they remind us of the fact that “humble explanation” is an essential skill and that as Hattie (Visible Learning 09) reported “direct teacher instruction and instructional quality have two of the top three effect sizes along with feedback”.
As more and more of us move to linear assessment with almost no controlled assessment; a mastery curriculum and a greater emphasis on knowledge in new examination curriculums, the importance of finding different ways to “make knowledge stick” becomes essential. The 14 practical strategies to achieve this, across subject areas, is a chapter I would really recommend.
Is there anything the book is missing?
The book reflects the specialisms of the writers so does not always have examples for every subject - but on the whole it is one of the most cross-subject friendly guides to classroom teaching I have read in a long time.
Would you recommend this book to your department or colleagues in the teaching school?