David Didau and the discipline of cognitive psychology
David Didau is one of a small but growing band of practising teachers who promote the importance of research informed practice.
His popular blog The Learning Spy seeks to identify the most interesting and practically oriented research on teaching and learning that can support classroom practice.
Didau is never afraid to challenge well embedded myths - sometimes still taught in Initial Teacher Training - with the latest evidence or to acknowledge his past mistakes. These myths are long established approaches to teaching that are based more on faulty intuition than sound science. For those interested in 'myth busting', take a look at his book published last year, entitled: What if everything you knew about education was wrong.
If one had to choose just one theme that really gets Didau going more than any other, it is how we learn. He looks at the most recent evidence available from cognitive psychology. Intuitively, what teachers suppose about the process of learning is often flatly contradicted by cognitive science. He addresses this, and related issues, in What every teacher needs to know about psychology which provides an overview of robust research that lies behind effective classroom interventions.
Cognitive psychology has grown exponentially as a discipline in the last few years and is beginning to significantly influence thinking on how to improve teaching interventions - taking into account how children actually learn, how they retain knowledge and how they develop deeper understanding.
One of the most respected figures in this field is Professor Dan Willingham. He helps us understand the difference between good and bad science and his recent work in conjunction with the Deans of Impact, The Science of Learning, comes highly recommended by Didau:
"Loyal readers [of The Learning Spy] may remember my attempts to wade through the Top 20 Principles of Psychology for Teaching and Learning report from the APA. If you haven't already read it, don't bother. This remarkably concise digest, produced by Deans of Impact does the job much better. Well-informed readers probably won't learn anything new, but I've not come across another document which presents the evidence so clearly and gives such unambiguous advice to teachers.
"Basically, a group of American independent school heads, ably supported by Daniel Willingham and Paul Bruno, have summarised pretty much everything a busy teacher ought to know about how children learn, remember, solve problems, transfer to new contexts. It also covers motivation and quickly torpedos the most common misconceptions with laudable brevity."