Great Explanation


At the core of a great teacher’s skill-set is the ability to explain the concepts, theories and techniques that make up their subject.  These can seem simple to the expert teacher, but to the novice learner, these complexities can be completely alien to them. There is no doubt that teachers who explain things well, making the complex simple, allow for novice learners to learn in depth, gaining inspiration and a passion for the subject.

Tom Sherrington states:

‘As teachers, for high quality explanations to be habitual, we need to know our subjects, taking time to develop our own capacity to explain the key concepts simply.  I think departmental CPD time would be well spent with colleagues rehearsing the ways they explain the more difficult material.  Too often we assume we can do this but, over the years, I’ve found this is a key area for improvement and experimentation, for me personally and for others.’

At FHES, we have subject planning and development sessions, to take the time to think through explanations thoroughly, sharing ideas/methods to improve our explanations. Explanation that isn’t well planned is likely to become muddled, and provide a lack of explanation, the opposite of what great teaching is trying to achieve. You can find out more on how SPDS work, from their original source, Durrington Research, here.

The literature and blog posts below show how good explanation is planned for, not just thought up on the spot.

Literature to read: (available in the CPD library)

  • How to explain absolutely anything to anyone – the art and and science of explanation – Andy Tharby
  • Why Don’t Students Like School? – Daniel Willingham – is an outstanding book that grounds effective explanations in scientific evidence.
  • Making Every Lesson Count – Chapter 2 – ‘explanation’ – Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby
  • Teach Now! English: Becoming a Great English Teacher – Chapter on explanation and teacher talk – Alex Quigley
  • The Confident Teacher – Chapter 11 ‘Exemplary explanations’ – Alex Quigley

Blog posts to read:



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