Reading for CPD: a starting point.

via @GapingVoid

One of the pitfalls of my PGCE course was that I was not encouraged to read much beyond ‘101 ICT starters’. It was not part of the culture of the course. It was not a habit widely encouraged either during the course of in the schools within which I trained.

Since then (mainly through my PLN on Twitter) I have read a number of books that have challenged and made me think about the the way I teach and the strategies I use inside and outside of my classroom (see my reading list). I also have an Amazon wishlist the size of a phone directory! PGCE’s may have changed a bit in the 5 years since I completed mine

I always encourage all teachers I connect with, whether new to the profession or not to read widely. Getting advice and preferences from colleagues within your school is a good starting point, but can be dangerous if you accept it as the status quo without exploring further. If a friend recommended a restaurant to you as ‘the best in town’, you’d probably go and experience it for yourself. And this wouldn’t stop you from trying other restaurants in the area and further afield. Until you extend your network and explore other options it would be impossible to say whether the original recommended restaurant was the best in town.

Teaching can be a bit like this – you get recommended other peoples preferences for doing things which may or may not work for you. The great teachers out there are restless. They have a commitment to exploring their pedagogy. They want to be challenged. They want to be made to think and reflect on what they are doing.

The aim of this post is to provide a starting point for new and experienced teachers to start reading more widely.

I recently posed this question to Twitter…

Reading for CPD.

What came out of the responses was a list of books that seem to be quite popular amongst teachers because they have challenged a way of thinking about teaching and provided enough food for thought for further exploration. In no particular order here are some titles to get you started…

Reading for CPD: A starting point.

Teach like a champion by Doug Lemov (@Doug_Lemov)

Full on learning by Zoe Elder (@FullOnLearning)

Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie (@VisibleLearning)

An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger (@RonBergerEL)

Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T Willingham (@DTWillingham)

Seven Myths About Education by Daisy Christodoulou (@daisychristo)

The Restless School by Roy Blatchford (@NatEdTrust)

How to teach by Phil Beadle (@PhilBeadle)

Oops! Helping children learn accidentally by Hywel Roberts (@HYWEL_ROBERTS)

The Secret of Literacy: Making the implicit explicit by David Didau (@LearningSpy)

There are undoubtedly many more titles out there to explore. This list serves merely as a starting point. Please feel free to recommend more titles in the comments section below. I’d also really appreciate your views on the titles recommended above.

Stay restless!




  1. kpulleyn

    Cracking list! I can feel my wish list getting longer! Your point about wanting to challenge ourselves is really important. Thanks for sharing.

  2. galinskyspeak

    A letter I sent out to our new staff along with one book from the reading list. Many similarities to your own list!

    Dear ____________ ,

    Whilst there is hopefully a restful and/or exciting summer break ahead, I wanted to write to you in advance of September to welcome you to the teaching and learning community of Oakham School.

    Oakham, as you will know through the interview process, is focussing on developing excellent classroom practice. In particular, we are considering how we can teach subjects effectively, whilst also encouraging the formation of desirable learning habits in our students. There is nothing dogmatic in our approach, and there is genuine openness to the sharing of ideas from across the common room. We are particularly keen for new members of staff to bring their own fresh perspectives, ideas and good practice, which will all be valued.

    We certainly believe that reading and reflection about educational practice is key to remaining open to new ideas: whether this is following practitioners on Twitter, or undertaking postgraduate research degrees, the consideration of new – and often old – ideas, is a professional habit we strive to cultivate at Oakham.

    So, welcome to our professional community, and please find enclosed a book that is hopefully of some interest. A list of all the titles sent out to new colleagues in this way is also included and please do trade when you have finished the first one sent (or, indeed, suggest others). Being wary of “confirmation bias”, these are certainly not all books that directly support our stated ethos, but are all recent texts on education that will enrich practice, challenge ideas, stimulate thinking, or hopefully all of the above.

    I will very much look forward to welcoming you in person during induction.

    Kind regards,
    Ritchie Gale
    Staff Summer Reading: Text Synopses

    Why Don’t Students Like School? – Dan Willingham (2009)
    Willingham is a cognitive scientist who applies his knowledge of the brain to classroom learning. One key thesis is that truly independent thought requires a large store of knowledge in the long-term memory and is a crucial one to engage with as we develop practice.

    Teacher – Tom Bennett (2012)
    An excellent read from TES, Twitter and ResearchED celebrity Tom Bennett, who takes the reader on a historical tour of schooling, and explores the common virtues and vices of teachers.

    7 Myths in Education – Daisy Christodolou (2014)
    This is thought provoking for anyone who advocates an independent learning ethos. Christodolou argues the case that unstructured independent learning can be disastrous, and raises important questions about the emphasis that should be placed on a core body of knowledge.

    An Ethic of Excellence – Ron Berger (2003)
    This has provoked lots of interesting innovation at Oakham already. The central idea of approaching learning in the same way that a master craftsman strives for excellence through conscious improvement is an essential one for those students who may otherwise give up at the first attempt.

    Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential – Carol Dweck (2012)
    This is the seminal work on “Fixed and Growth Mindsets”. The idea has been used already in some assemblies at Oakham and might prove to be an important ethos to develop amongst staff, students and parents.

    Essential Motivation in The Classroom, 2nd Ed, – Ian Gilbert (2012)
    Many will certainly disagree with some of Gilbert’s bold assertions, but the central messages of the book remain pleasingly challenging. Those who have put these ideas into action at Oakham have found them to be successful in motivating our students.

    Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn – John Hattie and Gregory Yates (2013)
    This possibly counts as key reading for teachers. Even if it is possible to criticise Hattie’s methodology, his synthesis of so much research gives some weight to his findings.

    The Hidden Lives of Learners – Graham Nuttall (2007)
    This book provides stimulating material about how our own perception of what is happening in a classroom may be very different to the perception of students.

    Thinking Allowed on Schooling – Mick Waters (2013)
    An insightful read on the future of schooling from someone who is experienced and intelligent enough to provide thought-provoking ideas, whether one agrees with them or not.

    Creating Outstanding Classrooms – Oliver Knight and David Benson (2013)
    This is intended to be a practical framework for whole-school development. Its value is perhaps to suggest that what we choose to develop in our classroom will benefit from also participating in a whole-school vision.

    Full On Learning – Zoe Elder (2012)
    This is very in-tune with the LHO (Learning Habits at Oakham) ethos that we are developing. It is full of excellent ideas and conveys a genuine passion about consciously designing powerful learning experiences.

    Leaders of Their Own Learning – Ron Berger (2013)
    This book may suggest that whilst arguments about the primacy of knowledge in a curriculum are compelling, the way in which a child acquires that knowledge has a profound impact on their future characteristics as a learner.

    Twitter and the Blogosphere

    As perhaps the best development in CPD in recent years, the possibility of developing your own PLN (Personal Learning Network) of leading practitioners, subject specialists and commentators on educational issues, these tools are highly recommended. Training can certainly be provided when you arrive at Oakham as to how to develop this, but in the meantime, some of our favourite writers are:

    Tom Sherrington’s Blog:

    Zoe Elder’s Blog:

    David Didau’s “Learning Spy” Blog:

    Alex Quigley’s Blog:


    How often do we have the sense that our students do not read widely enough? Again, we must model what we want to see, and alongside subject specific material, professional development texts ought to have visibility and active use around any school that espouses a learning philosophy.

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