There is lots to know about the brilliantly complex act of teaching and learning. Here is my list of 10 things to know in the plainest terms possible:

1. Pupils knowing stuff helps them to learn more stuff (background knowledge).

2. It is effective and efficient to explicitly teach pupils the stuff (explicit instruction).

3. Pupils cannot learn lots of new stuff at any one time (working memory limitations).

4. We need to teach with pupils’ limited working memory in mind (cognitive load theory).

5. We need to make helpful connections between the complex stuff (schema building).

6. Plan to revisit the stuff with careful timing to secure remembering (spacing and retrieval).

7. Reading strategically is also vital to understanding complex stuff (reading comprehension strategies).

8. Pupils need to build confidence in their ability to learn and know stuff (self-efficacy).

9. Pupils need to exercise their attention and control their emotions to learn stuff (self-regulation).

10. Pupils need to pick the right strategies to learn the stuff successfully (metacognition).

Find out much more here…

If you want to dig a little deeper, the following reading list should offer a wealth of handy, freely-accessible online resources: 

  1. To find out more about the important role of background knowledge read:

Dan Willingham’s AFT article on ‘How Knowledge helps’

Reading Rockets article on ‘Building Background Knowledge’

Lapp, Frey & Fisher article on ‘Building and Activating Students’ Background Knowledge’

2. To find out more on the value of explicit instruction read: 

Rosenshine’s AFT article on his ‘Principles of Instruction’

Archer & Hughes chapter extract on ‘Explicit Instruction: Effective & Efficient Teaching’

Anita Archer ERRR Podcast on ‘Explicit Instruction’

3. To find out more on the importance of working memory read:

Gathercole & Alloway’s booklet on ‘Understanding Working Memory’

Marc Smith on ‘Chunking to Improve your Memory’

Watch Dr Joni Holmes YouTube presentation on ‘Working Memory and Classroom Learning’.

4. To find out more about teaching with cognitive load theory in mind read:

NSW Government report on ‘Cognitive Load Theory: Research that Teachers Really Need to Understand’

Blake Harvard article on ‘Cognitive Load Theory & Applications in the Classroom’.

Oliver Lovell podcast on ‘Cognitive Load Theory in Action’

5. To find out more about schema building read: 

Jeff Pankin has outlined the long history of schema theory

My article on ‘Schema Building and Academic Vocabulary.

Tom Sherrington on ‘Schema Building: A Blend of Experiences…’

6. To find out more about spacing and retrieval read: 

The EEF review of cognitive science in the classroom offers a helpful explainer. has produced a guide to using spaced retrieval

Learning Scientists podcast on ‘How Students Can Use Spacing & Retrieval Practice’.

7. To find out more about the role of reading comprehension strategies read:

Professor Tim Shanahan on ‘Comprehension Skills or Strategies?’

Caroline Bilton on ‘Getting to Grips with Reading Comprehension Strategies’

Chloe Woodhouse YouTube explainer of ‘Reciprocal Reading’ in her school

8. To find out more about the value of self-efficacy read: 

Dylan Wiliam explaining self-efficacy.

The Education Hub on ‘6 Strategies for Promoting Students’ Self-efficacy in Your Teaching’.  

My blog on ‘The Power of Teacher Expectations’

9. To find out more about self-regulation read:

Robert Bjork and Nate Kornell on ‘Self-regulated Learning: Beliefs, Techniques and Illusions’

East London Research School YouTube series on ‘Self-regulation in the Early Years’

Harry Fletcher-Wood on ‘Why Self-regulation is the Wrong Goal’

10. To find out more about the importance of metacognition read: 

Education Endowment Foundation guidance report on ‘Metacognition & Self-regulation’.

John Dunlosky on ‘Strengthening the Student Toolbox: Study Strategies to Boost Learning’

Sadie Thompson explaining metacognition in her school and MFL classroom.

I am certain there are debates to be had, glaring omissions, and more, but these 10 things are a start!