Top 5 Reads for Evidence-Informed Teachers

In Uncategorized by Alex Quigley8 Comments


There is so little time spare for busy teachers that the thought of reflecting upon our practice and learning by reading evidence feels like a distinct luxury. No doubt, we need to be better supported and treated as academic professionals who need time to reflect, think and engage with what the best evidence can tell us, but sometimes we have to get on and do what we can. Given our unchanging poverty of time, we need to cut away the chaff and get straight to the wheat.

With this in mind, we can put our subscriptions to research journals on hold, we can avoid troubling the librarian and instead we can find on the web the best research evidence for teachers. Here is my attempt at a quick fire selection of my top 5 must-read research evidence summaries freely available for busy teachers and school leaders:

  1. ‘What Makes Great teaching?, by Rob Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major, really is a superb synthesis of the best research on teaching and learning. This should sit atop the reading lists of ITE courses and it should prove an important touchstone for teachers.
  2. ‘Principles of Instruction’, by Barak Rosenshine is truly a seminal piece of educational research. I have never read a more cogent guide to the business of teaching and learning in the classroom than this. The seeming simplicity of the principles belies their true complexity and it is a reminder that teaching and learning has core fundamentals that we should focus on. There are no shiny new things here – only time-honoured wisdom for teachers.
  3. ‘The Science of Learning’, by the Deans for Impact group in America, is a recent and very welcome addition to the educational research canon. It a concise, clear and damn fine distillation of the research from cognitive science that can really help teachers in the classroom. It is a short, accessible must-read, with great references  for those of us who like to get lost on the internet in a fit of productive procrastination!
  4. ‘Top 20 Principles from Psychology for Teaching and Learning’, by the American Psychological Association, is a highly readable summary of the psychological principles that drive learning – what it says on the tin really. The ‘relevance for teachers’ sections are handy and usable.
  5. ‘Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology’, by Dunlosky et al., may have a lengthy title and prove a slightly trickier read given it is a proper research paper, but this study really gets you evaluating some of the core practice that we undertake in our classroom. Drop your highlighter, stop re-reading your notes, pick this up and give it 30 minutes of your precious time. Take a look at this short article version which is easier to read and just as effective – see here.

Maybe you will wait to the weekend, or the Easter holiday, but find some time, read one or two of the studies and reflect on your teaching. It can provide a refreshing distance from endless data inputting and marking and provide you with some reflection to cool the white heat of the daily goings on in our classrooms.




  1. You there are a few repeated or incorrect links to the documents that you might want to fix. That said, a very useful article!

  2. Pingback: Why aren’t curriculum standards research-based? – Ask Ms. K.

  3. Pingback: Just for JM…Research based practice | The Burgate Blog

  4. Great stuff, Alex – will have a read prior to doing some work with on-the-job teacher trainees again this summer.

    When I was a senior leader and then a head I used to try to read one educational book in each of the three long school holidays – just couldn’t manage it in term time. If I was really impressed with it I’d circulate it among the SLT when school resumed. If I were still a head I’d do it differently now. Thinking about Dylan Wiliam’s comment about how we should work AS a team rather than just IN a team, it would be great to divide these different resources between us, each read one and then, if we feel this is a good use of time, plan an SLT meeting where whoever has read the post/article/book leads a discussion of what they learnt and how it could be applied/adapted to their specific school context.

    Time is our most precious resource – finding ways of using it to best effect is crucial, I think!

    Thanks again – really appreciate how you use YOUR time to benefit others – within your school and beyond it!

    1. Author

      Thanks Jill. I’m well up for as many ways to maximize our time and collaborative reading is certainly a good approach.

  5. This list is very heavily biased towards cognitive psychology which though immensely useful does not do experiments in real classrooms. What about effect size studies summarised by Robert Marzano and John Hattie?
    Ideally to be evidence based I think you need to ‘triangulate’ like journalists try to three sources of evidence:
    cognitive psychology
    effect size studies or ‘quantitative’ studies in classrooms
    research on what the best teachers do.
    I explain this here: The uses and abuses of evidence in education –

    I have no trouble with the references you have suggested they are helpful, but would add Bransford et al “How People learn’ which was a massive project to summarise cogntive psychology.
    Modesty prevents me from mentioning my own book Evidence Based Teaching where I take my own advice and triangulate.

    1. Author

      Hi Geoff, Good recommendations all. My criteria was founded on them being concise and readily available online, which is what differentiates them from Marzano etc. I own books of those and I have recommended John Hattie before and I also think your work and website is excellent. By all means, keep linking and sharing.

Leave a Reply