Book Review: The Truth About Teaching by Greg Ashman

May 15, 2021

The Truth about Teaching: An evidence-informed guide for new teachers by Greg Ashman. Sage Publishing. £17.28 on Amazon.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to read more books. I intend to review those that are relevant to education. Two warnings though. 1) Any links to Amazon will be “associate” links potentially earning me a few pennies. 2) A lot of these books have been sent to me by people I know, so I’m completely biased. 

This book is aimed at new teachers, not those of us who have been in the job for a while, but I still loved it. It’s exactly the book I could have done with 20 years ago. A guide to teaching with a twist. The twist is that the content is true and useful. There are no claims that engaging lessons will solve behaviour problems. There are no claims that group work and chatting in class will mean better learning. There’s no Bloom’s Taxonomy, brain gym or attachment theory. There’s no chapter on SEN that pretends that being on a list makes everything different. There’s just how to teach, based on the evidence.

The best part though is that the whole book is framed around the actual history, debate and research in education. There is no claim to be above it all, and no assumption that nowadays all disputes have all been resolved in favour of progressivism. Alternative ideas about education are presented and an evidence based case is made for what actually works. Explanations are given for what is effective and how we know it’s effective, alongside practical advice, and some exploration of current controversies such as phonics, and the use of technology.

Greg is based in Australia, but he worked in schools in England (at their worst) for years, so the book is somewhat generic in what it shares. It’s not a guide to teaching in a particular country, just a guide to teaching. But that is probably the reason it gets its priorities right. I think it’s the first book of it’s type that I’ve seen which puts the chapter on classroom management before the chapters on learning, motivating students, teaching, planning and assessment.

The case is made for explicit teaching: actually telling kids the stuff they need to know and making sure they learn it. This is accompanied by advice on how best to do it, and the limitations of the alternatives. The references are thorough enough that it would also serve as a good guide to further reading about the ideas in the text.

I don’t imagine a book like this will be appearing on too many PGCE reading lists any time soon. Even if ideas about explicit teaching weren’t anathema to the ideology of many university education departments, the idea that teachers should be uncovering “the truth”, by use of reason and evidence, would be. I can, however, imagine teachers recommending it to their new colleagues. It’s a useful place to start your reading about teaching if you’re just starting out, and a good recap if you’re not.

One comment

  1. I follow Greg Ashman and always read what he writes. He is a great corrective to my more wooly tendencies!

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