I don’t know if you have noticed, but in the last couple of years there seems to have been a huge increase in the number of newly-published books related to curriculum, pedagogy and school leadership. This should come as no surprise to those of you plugged into #EduTwitter or who are responsible for leading CPD in your school, as the authors of these books are also prolific bloggers, both on their own platforms and on others such as TES. This surge in publications coincides with the recent growth of ResearchED, which seeks to promote research-informed practices, to replace the now-discredited edu-fads of yesteryear (remember VAK?).
In practical terms, this presents an enormous opportunity for teachers to take control of their own professional development. No longer do you need to wait for a consultant to turn up to a twilight CPD session at your school, to dispense their expertise, only for you to wonder why on earth they think their strategies would work for you in your classroom.
You can now select from an impressive range of books, that are easily accessible, that approach topics around teaching and learning, leadership, pastoral support and cognitive science from both a research-informed and classroom experience background. Not only that, but more often than not, these books aren’t trying to sell you a £1000 product off the back of it. Refreshing, eh? The authors provide enough value in the books, that you don’t need to look any further than the strategies they explain, to improve your practice.
Here are five of the best books I’ve read and applied to my own teaching, over the past year:
The CRAFT of Assessment by Michael Chiles
In this book, Michael Chiles takes the reader through what he calls the CRAFT of Assessment, modelling simple, yet effective methods, to design our processes, in order to maximise learning. The interwoven strands that make our teaching so complex are picked apart and reassembled, to give clear and essential guidance for teachers and especially for subject leaders.
Retrieval Practice by Kate Jones
Kate Jones takes what could be a repetitive and unimaginative topic, “memorising” and lends her flair and creativity, to produce a masterpiece in formative assessment strategies. If you want your students to remember more, to lighten their cognitive load, so they can generate more complex and impressive answers, then read this book.
The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence by Mary Myatt
Mary Myatt takes the subject of Curriculum and sets out exactly why it should be prioritised ahead of so many other things in education, which in the past, have been put front and centre. She explains in the clearest of terms how the curriculum should be designed and gives a myriad of practical suggestions, including many subject-specific ones towards the end of the book. A must-read for anyone in need of redesigning their schemes of work.
Education Exposed by Samuel Strickland
This is the clearest book on school leadership I have ever read (and I’ve read a few). Samuel Strickland sets out his vision for leadership and gives the reader an no-nonsense appraisal of how leadership in schools can be improved upon. He touches on teaching and learning, behaviour, staff morale, Ofsted and teacher workload, among others. This book is essential for anyone planning on becoming a school Senior Leader, regardless of phase.
Rosenshine’s Principles in Action by Tom Sherrington
If you still haven’t heard of Rosenshine, then you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years. This book by Tom Sherrington, however, is not only the perfect introduction to Rosenshine’s Principles, it’s also probably all you will ever need to read on them too. Tom writes with precision and with a keen eye on the day-to-day practicalities that teachers face. Rosenshine’s Principles, when used in the classroom, yield amazing results in terms of boosting attainment. But they also reduce teacher workload, as you will spend less time doing things that are ineffective. If you read only one book on teaching over the next year, make this it. If I was you, I’d buy the paperback. You’ll want to annotate it with all the way’s you’ll adapt your own practice!
These five books are by no means an exhaustive list. They are just a brief sample, covering the essentials of teaching, assessment, curriculum and school leadership.
Each one of them is based on solid research and is grounded in the experiences of classroom teachers. This makes the strategies that they suggest, very easy to implement. As a result, you can very quickly improve the quality of your own teaching and school leadership, without wasting time on irrelevant or misleading information.
If you really want to get into the weeds though, each book is well-referenced and can point you in the direction of the original research and in many cases, the researchers themselves. You can then make up your own mind about the effectiveness of the strategies and the validity of the research data. I’ll save you some time though. Trust these books. They have changed my teaching and leadership for the better in a very short space of time. They aren’t the “final word” on teaching, nor is any book.
But if you read them, you’ll not only be impressed, you’ll be improved too.