You won’t find this summer reading list in WHSmith

28th July 2017 at 00:00
The next few weeks present a rare opportunity to read up on research that can challenge your thinking and practices

Summer is a time to switch off from the classroom. But it’s also a chance to reflect on our practice and challenge our thinking through research. To diversify your holiday literature, here are my recommended reads on three often underestimated challenges in education.

1. The curriculum

Curee’s 2016 research into school improvement for Teach First pointed strongly to the importance of a curriculum that connects pupils’ learning experiences in school with their lives beyond it. Meanwhile, Ofsted’s new inspection framework will rightly focus on strategic curriculum leadership. But most curriculum research disappointingly coalesces around assessment and uses individual lessons as the units of analysis. To understand the bigger curriculum picture, I suggest reading Curee’s national-curriculum evaluation to help us learn from the past (

2. Resilience

Most schools we are working with see it as a top priority to ensure that every pupil has a chance to persist through, and recover from, setbacks. Recent research looks more helpful here. This summer, my priority is to understand ideas about “desirable difficulty” in more depth. I will therefore be delving into Making Things Hard on Yourself, But in a Good Way by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork (

3. Metacognition

A big challenge – one made more urgent by the age of social media and alternative facts – is developing thinking skills and metacognition, particularly for vulnerable learners. Many approaches depend on explicitly teaching talking skills before tackling thinking skills. I’m going back to the research reviews about metacognition to look at the role of talk, especially for disadvantaged pupils. The strongest evidence I’ve found is a meta-analysis by Abrami, P et al [1]. Stick with the headlines, though – this is a great report, but a technical one. As an antidote to the abstraction, try Edutopia’s analysis of the wonderful teaching of talk at School 21 (

And to make sure we don’t forget who we are doing it all for, here’s one more for your holiday holdall: The Hidden Lives of Learners by Graham Nuthall.

So there it is: an ambitious reading list driven by what’s needed. Enjoy.

[1] Abrami, PC, Bernard, RM, Borokhovski, E et al (2015) “Strategies for teaching students to think critically: a meta-analysis”, Review of Educational Research, 85/2: 275-314.

Philippa Cordingley is CEO of Curee

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