Hello. My name is James, and it has been several years since I last blogged.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. It’s just I’ve been writing a book – co-authoring, to be precise – and had I not suspended blogging, I sincerely doubt whether the book would ever have seen the light of day. As it was, it took a global pandemic and a prolonged period of enforced lockdown to get the thing finished. But finish it we did, and it gives me enormous pleasure – and not a little shudder of trepidation – to announce that Fear is the Mind Killer will hit the bookshelves in the Autumn term. Should you wish to acquire a copy, details of a 35% discount code will be included at the end of this post.
The book is about Learning to Learn, a topic that was all the rage just a few short years ago – both in the UK and internationally – but which has all but disappeared from view in recent years, as the educational zeitgeist has shifted its collective gaze toward such things as cognitive load theory, retrieval practice and the ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’.
Fear is the Mind Killer tells the story of Learning Skills, a new approach to Learning to Learn that Kate and I have been working on, alongside many colleagues and young people, for much of the last 15 years. Essentially, Learning Skills is an attempt to rethink Learning to Learn from first principles – to examine previous initiatives in close detail and see whether we might be able to salvage the best bits, ditch a few dodgy ingredients, add one or two sprinkles of our own – and stick it all back together again to create a ‘complex intervention’ that is greater than the sum of its parts.
I carried out an eight-year evaluation of Learning Skills for my PhD. It took eight years because we followed four cohorts of students from Year 7 through to Year 11 – one control cohort, and three Learning Skills cohorts. This evaluation that found that Learning Skills led to significant gains in subject learning across the curriculum, with accelerated gains among children from disadvantaged backgrounds (see infographic and references, below). The book provides practical guidance for any teachers and school leaders who may wish to replicate – and potentially to improve upon – these findings in new and diverse settings.
In writing the book, we sent the manuscript to a large number of reviewers from across the educational diaspora – teachers and researchers, NQTs and retired headteachers, trads and not-so-trads. As well as being hugely constructive – the book is in far better shape as a consequence – the feedback we have received to date has been overwhelmingly encouraging. Which is rather a relief, what with it having taken so long to come to fruition. So, by way of an uplifting return to the blogosphere, the remainder of this post consists of kind things people have said about the book. In the coming weeks and months, I will share one or two choice excerpts from the book on these pages. I also hope to use the blog as a testing ground for material for my next three books – one on implementation science, one on practitioner inquiry, and one on oracy. On all of these fronts, I look forward to hearing your thoughts, dear reader.
35% discount code
Should you wish to secure a copy, you can get a 35% discount by entering the code FEAR35 on the John Catt website.
Mannion, J. & Mercer, N. (2016) Learning to learn: improving attainment, closing the gap at Key Stage 3. Curriculum Journal, 27(2), 246-271.
Mannion, J., McAllister, K., Mercer, N. (2018) The Learning Skills curriculum: raising the bar, closing the gap at GCSE. Impact, the Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, Sept 2018.