Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Coming soon…What every teacher needs to know about psychology

Over the past few months, Nick Rose and I have been working together on a new book which sets out what, in our admittedly biased opinion, every teacher ought to know from the field of psychology. Luckily, Nick is a psychology teacher and has post-graduate degrees in psychology, so at least one of us knows what we’re talking about.

We think the book is important because over the past few decades, psychological research has increasingly made strides into understanding how we learn, but it’s only in the last few years that those working in education have started to become aware of these insights. Part of the problem is a tendency amongst teachers to resist being told ‘what works’ if it conflicts with intuition. What ‘feels right’ tends to trump research evidence. All too often though, our intuition can prove a poor, sometimes treacherous, guide. Whilst we cannot and should not relinquish professional judgement in the face of outlandish claims, we should at least be aware of what scientists have discovered about learning, thinking, motivation, behaviour and assessment.

This though is easier said than done. Every year thousands of research papers are published, many of which seem to contradict each other. How can busy teachers know which research is worth investing time in reading and understanding and which is distracting garbage?

In the book, we attempt to lay out the evidence and theoretical perspectives on a range of psychological principles of which teacher ought to be aware and then allow readers to make up their own minds about what’s useful and important.Some of what we present may be surprising, some dubious, and some in danger of being dismissed as ‘blindingly obvious’.

The book includes chapters include:

  • Beliefs, attitudes and mindsets
  • The role of prior learning
  • Cognitive development
  • Context
  • Practice
  • Feedback
  • Self-regulation
  • Attachment theory
  • Behaviourism
  • Cognitive load theory
  • Effective instruction
  • Group dynamics
  • Memory
  • Rewards and sanctions
  • Social norms
  • Restorative practices
  • Psychometrics

There’s also a seemingly obligatory summary of the stuff we think probably doesn’t work.

Of course the book won’t contain everything teachers might ever need or want to know about psychology – there’s no way it could – it is merely a primer. It should though equip you with enough information to interrogate the evidence and think carefully about the advice we offer.

While nothing works everywhere and everything might work somewhere, this is a guide to what we consider the best bets from the realm of psychology. We hope you like it.

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