At long last, my new book, Making Kids Cleverer: A manifesto for closing the advantage gap, is out in the world. The argument is divided into 10 chapters and a conclusion and, over the coming days and weeks, I will elaborate on what each of the chapters contains.
Chapter 1 The purpose of education – In which we examine the various claims made about the purpose of education and conclude that if we aim to make all children cleverer we are most likely to achieve whatever else we value.
Chapter 2 Built by culture – In which we discuss the ways our brains have been shaped to learn and think and suggest that schools are a technological innovation for teaching what we find hard to learn.
Chapter 3 Is intelligence the answer? In which we unpick various myths and misconceptions about what intelligence is and is not and demonstrate that making children cleverer is also likely to make them happier, healthier and safer.
Chapter 4 Nature via nurture – In which we cut through the knotted nature vs nurture debate and make the claim that our environments are shaped by and shape our natures and, small as it might be, we only have the power to change our environments and can do very little about our genes.
Chapter 5 Can we get cleverer? – In which we examine strategies and techniques we might employ to increase our store of intelligence and conclude that the only way we stand any chance of doing so it to increase our store of knowledge.
Chapter 6 How memory works – In which we discuss what is known about human capacity for memory and show that by increasing the store of knowledge in our memories we can overcome many of the limits of cognition.
Chapter 7 You are what you know – In which we skim through various thoughts about what knowledge is and demonstrate how knowledge – in all its glorious forms – not only makes thought possible, but makes us better able to think critically and creatively.
Chapter 8 What knowledge? – In which we chew over the thorny problem of precisely what sort of knowledge children ought to know and decide that not all knowledge is equally valuable and so hard choices must be made when deciding what to teach.
Chapter 9 Practice makes permanent – In which we grapple with the differences between experts and novices and consider how to put children on the path to becoming increasingly expert.
Chapter 10 Struggle and Success – In which we get to grips with some of the practices and approaches which are most likely to narrow the gap between the most and least advantaged.
Conclusion: Shifting the bell curve – In which all threads are drawn neatly together and the arguments of those who believe raising children’s intelligence is unworkable, impossible or inadvisable are addressed.
If you want more, here’s a link to Craig Barton’s podcast in which we talk about some of the ideas in the book.
In case you’re interested, here is what some kind reviewers have said:
David Didau has done it again! Making Kids Cleverer is an engaging, highly readable analysis of the latest research on how we learn and what we can do to improve the achievement of our pupils. Like his previous books, David’s latest offering contains may strong claims. Your initial reaction, like mine, may be that he has made these claims for effect, but he sticks so closely to the research evidence that you have to take his arguments seriously. Anyone involved in the care and education of children and young people would gain a huge amount from reading this book. Highly recommended.
Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment, University College London
“With Making Kids Cleverer, Didau provides us with a brilliant and accessible account of why knowledge is opportunity, and how we can increase children’s knowledge with a thoughtful and scientific approach to schooling. More than ever, children need a core set of ideas, facts, procedures and other forms of knowledge to help them navigate the ever-changing work environment and to fully participate in the many opportunities afforded by the modern world. Didau provides an incisive argument for the importance of knowledge and a framework for how to improve the knowledge base of all children. Making Kids Cleverer will be an invaluable resource for parents, teachers, and policy makers.
David C. Geary, Curators’ Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri
What a truly magnificent manifesto. Everything David Didau says chimes deeply with what I know to be true and what I am trying to accomplish in our schools. He writes with great precision and clarity, with a good dash of humility and humour too, which makes the book a joy to read. Some of this stuff I have had knocking around in my head in rather a jumbled way for quite a long time (without a proper schema to hang it on!), but in recent years, since I started writing curriculum materials, I have thought much more deeply about what makes a good curriculum and why, particularly in History and Geography. Didau elaborates so clearly the academic rationales for many of the thoughts and decisions I have made along the way, which, I had mostly put down to common sense and experience of life. This book is incredibly timely. It is a must read for everyone in education, from trainee teachers, to all Ofsted inspectors, to everyone in the DfE. It was an absolute joy to read and I am of course cleverer now than I was before reading it. Making Kids Cleverer can and should have a national impact. It is a tour de force.
Lady Caroline Nash, Director, Future Academies
David Didau’s latest edu-blockbuster is a compelling and endlessly fascinating read. Weaving together a wealth of evidence and ideas, from the practical to the philosophical, Making Kids Cleverer confronts the taboo topic of intelligence head on. Didau shows us that by teaching children powerful, biologically secondary knowledge we not only increase their intelligence but also prepare them for the prospects of happiness, health, wealth and anything that adult life can throw at them. I have not read another education book that brims with as much insight and stimulating thought as this one: every page serves up a new surprise or gentle provocation. Thoroughly recommended.
Andy Tharby, author of How to Explain Absolutely Anything to Absolutely Anyone
Schools and parent alike invest so much energy in teaching children and yet often understand relatively little about what exactly it is they are trying to achieve. In Making Kids Cleverer, David Didau reviews everything we know from cognitive science on how to enhance children’s learning and delivers a powerful argument that we can – and should – help all children succeed at school.
Rebecca Allen, Professor of Education, University College London, Institute of Education
I must confess that reading this book has made me really jealous! David Didau has essentially written the book that I, myself, would have loved to write! This is a book that can and will provide teachers – and anyone else interested in the project of education – with most if not all of the background knowledge they need to under-stand how kids learn and how to make them cleverer. As such, it can and will play an important role in closing the advantage gap. In my opinion, the book you have in your hands will help teachers graduate from knocking out reheated meals in a second-rate diner, to becoming competent chefs turning out delicious, nutritious meals. Reading this book could help make more teachers become the equivalent of top quality chefs in Michelin starred restaurants.
From the Foreword to Making Kids Cleverer by Paul A. Kirschner, Professor of Educational Psychology and Distinguished University Professor on the Open Universiteit, The Netherlands