UKEdMag: Book Shelf – By @LearningSpy – What if everything you knew about education was wrong?

Book Review....originally published in the August 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine

Didau’s book has created quite a storm on social media, gaining both a hashtag and a Twitter account of its very own. The publicity surrounding its launch and the forewords from Dylan William and Robert Bjork have cemented its academic credentials before one begins reading. As a teacher, I initially looked at David’s book with interest but felt it too ‘meaty’ to engage with; at 408 pages long with every page pressing the reader to think, challenge ideas and find a riposte to those that David presents, the book demands time to be read to its potential. If you are able to put aside that time, it is well worth the investment.

This book review was first published in the August 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine. Alternatively, you can freely read the magazine online by clicking here.

Despite the somewhat cocky yet catchy title, it is clear from the onset that Didau is not aiming to talk down to his readers. His opening line of “this is a book about teaching, but it is not a manual on how to teach” sums up the next 400 pages perfectly; the book wants to critically examine ideas and plays devil’s advocate by facing the fact that there is potential for us as educators to hold incorrect beliefs, whatever our reasons. This is an uncomfortable thought. If any of my beliefs about education are fallible, what does this say about me as a teacher? Have I been letting my learners down?

The style of the text is rather yin and yang. This is a text about the good, the bad and the unknown, which together make up the any educational landscape. David invites you to preserve your own ideas if they can stand critical examination and to engage with his if you cannot find fault with them. I think what makes this a hard-hitting book is the acceptance that there are commonly established practices such as the way we currently do lesson observation or the way we measure progress that could be giving false impressions. These practices are so integral and ingrained within the profession to conceive that they may be frail inevitably has repercussions. He also discusses some of the most topical issues around education at the moment such as grit, creativity, motivation and praise, offering insightful analyses supported by clear, rational thinking. The reasoning is presented so effectively that in places, it is easy to allow yourself to be led by Didau instead of critically engaging which ironically is not what the writer sets out to do. A main aim of the book, in Didau’s words, is to raise our awareness of “concepts and ideas that we accept so unquestioningly that we’ve stopped thinking about them because we think with them”. As readers, the responsibility lays with us to remain on point and think about what David is discussing, not simply agree with his view without due consideration.

When reading this tome, it is hard not to take the unwavering focus on validating your own ideas personally, even though the author invites you reciprocate with his own views; as readers we bring our identities to the pages and without realising offer one of the most personal parts of ourselves to the author’s narrative; our psyche. With this in mind, it is easier to see why Didau’s book could cause annoyance, despite the fact it shouldn’t. Nobody likes to have their values questioned do they?

Although there is a fair smattering of psychological principles throughout the text and several studies discussed, it is dubious whether this can be considered a criticism. Teaching in the current climate is requiring a variety of roles such as counsellor, social worker and healthcare assistant to name but a few. Knowledge of psychology and how our own psychology influences our practice ought to contribute to us becoming better teachers, regardless of whether we agree with them or not the fact is we will be informed enough to know which ideas are relevant to us and which ones aren’t.

Personally, I found this a challenging yet necessary read. Although it is of an academic disposition, I recommend anyone who has been involved with education for two or more years reads it. It is for educators who are comfortable with being uncomfortable and open to remoulding their stance should they find their views melt under the heat of David’s fire.

Without realising, our beliefs and values can start to bed in a little from this time; based on previous experiences we become more self-assured about the jobs we do and how we do them, our classrooms have our ‘stamp’ on them and routines in our educational lives are more established. These reasons are precisely why this book is a worthy read! Our professional identities require stimulation. If we do not take the time to consider what we think and why, what does that say about us as educators?

What if everything you knew about education was wrong? by David Didau is published by Crown House Publishing, and is available from Amazon in paperback (£23.75*) and Kindle (£15.19*).

Book Review written by Kieran Dhunna Halliwell @Ezzy_Moon

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