5 Academic papers all teachers need to read

Five academic papers all teachers need to read

This blog post is a quick summary of five of the academic papers that have most influenced me in my development as a teacher, and I would heartily recommend all five to other teachers. I do not always agree with every single thing written in these papers (although I generally do agree with the overall thrust of their argument), but I have found these papers useful springboards to further thought, and, for those of you who read my blog regularly, you will no doubt see how my posts resonate with the ideas in these five papers.

All of these papers are behind pay-walls, but most (if not all) can be found for free online with a little searching.

(1) P. Hirst, ‘What is teaching?’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 3.1, (1971)


I like this paper for its clarity, setting out on a conceptual analysis of the term ‘teaching’. It is a particularly useful article for determining what makes teaching different from other forms of activity.

(2) S. Bailin, R. Case, J.R. Coombs & L.B. Daniels, ‘Common misconceptions of critical thinking’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31.3, (1999)


I cite this paper a lot, not least because it takes a hatchet to common definitions of ‘critical thinking’.

(3) P.A. Kirschner, J. Sweller & R.E. Clark, ‘Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching’, Educational Psychologist, 41.2, (2006)


What is most impressive about this paper is its sheer scope and the clarity of its conclusions. There are those who agree and disagree strongly with those conclusions, but that tells us that – unlike a great many papers written about education – this one is propositional and forthright.

(4) E. Rata, ‘The politics of knowledge in education’, British Educational Research Journal, 38.1, (2012)


This is a good example of the importance of maintaining a distinction between everyday experience and theoretical knowledge. It captures nicely the current ‘social realist’ movement in the sociology of education.

(5) H. McEwan and B. Bull, ‘The pedagogical nature of subject matter knowledge’, American Educational Research Journal, 28.2, (1991)


This paper is perhaps a little leftfield, and I do not agree with every part of it, but I like its emphasis on the deep relationship scholarship and teaching.

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