Three ‘must reads’ in 2013

Here are three books/pamphlets that I read during 2012 that I reckon should be read and, as importantly, applied during 2013.

The first is for teachers. It’s John Hattie’s Visible learning for teachers (published by Routledge). If you have never come across the great man, his lifetime’s work has been to review and synthesize hundreds of evidence-based research studies on what actually works in schools to improve learning. In this easy-to-read book Hattie explains how to apply the principles of Visible Learning to the classroom.  His great mantra is for teachers to ‘Know thy impact’ – in terms of understanding and reviewing the impact of  their teaching on students. Hattie then goes on to explain in very practical terms how to use the lessons from research in preparing and delivering lessons in the classroom. I challenge any teacher to read the book and find that their practice does not change in some way or other.

The second publication is also applicable to teachers but headteachers will find it particularly useful. Helping schools to use evidence on Joint Practice Development (JPD) to improve their practice is a short guide written by Judy Sebba, Phillip Kent and Jo Tregenza of Sussex University. The guide is backed up with five school-based case studies.

For those who are not familiar with the term ‘JPD’ it can best be described as teachers working together in a way that moves beyond just imparting  knowledge, best practice or skills from one teacher to another. JPD involves groups of staff working together to test, assess and evolve more effective approaches to teaching and learning.

The guide is published by the National College for School Leadership and to access the full version and the case studies you have to be a National College member. But that is worth doing and membership is free to individuals in England who have a professional interest in school and early years leadership. You can join here

However, I have uploaded the 10 key messages for using JPD effectively – helping-schools-to-use-evidence-on-jpd-to-improve-their-practice-short. Again I would maintain that any school that takes JPD seriously over the next year will find that it will be a deeper and more effective learning community by the end of 2013.

My third must-read is System-wide improvement in education, a booklet primarily for policy makers, written by Professor Ben Levin and published by UNESCO.  In the booklet Ben Levin summarises what has been learned over the last 20 years about effective, large-scale improvement in the quality of school systems. He highlights eight building blocks:

  • Goals and targets
  • A positive stance on improving all schools and success for all students
  • Capacity building
  • Multi-level engagement and strong leadership
  • Continuous learning through innovation and effective use of research and data
  • A focus on key strategies while also managing other interests and issues
  • Effective use of resources
  • A strong implementation effort

Intriguingly the booklet also has an Appendix on the Characteristics of effective ministries of education. The template Ben Leven sets out might just provide useful material for a future blog!

The booklet can be found at



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