It’s nothing new! …and thank goodness for that.

One of the responses to teacher chat, twitter exchanges and CPD inputs that often stops me in my tracks is the complaint that ‘it’s nothing new’. Usually in the spirit of ‘it’s nothing new, GIANT GRUMPY EYEROLL’

  • Retrieval practice… nothing new!
  • Whiteboards – nothing new!
  • Visualisers.. ? Nothing new!
  • Rhetoric? – Nothing new!
  • Knowledge-rich?! Nothing new!
  • Modelling and Scaffolding? Nothing new!
  • Dual coding? Nothing new!
  • Rosenshine’s Principles? Nothing new!
  • Metacognition.. you mean explaining your thinking? Nothing new!
  • Worked examples and backward fading? Nothing new!
  • Guided practise? Nothing new!
  • Reading aloud? Nothing new!
  • Flipped Learning.. like ‘read this chapter before next lesson’? Nothing new!

Why does this bother people?

Is it because they think the person introducing the idea is saying ‘hey guys, look, there’s this new thing… retrieval practice?‘ That’s a possibility but I think that’s very rare – and actually it’s the person saying ‘nothing new’ that is imposing that on the situation.

Sometimes, they are reacting like someone who is irritated when their favourite band or holiday destination suddenly becomes popular or discovered by someone for the first time. Well, you should have seen Koh Samui in the ’76. Well, I saw New Order at Heaven before they’d released their first single... you know the type. Grumpy eye-rollers of doom.

Sometimes they are reacting as if it’s offensive to be asked to discuss things they regard as obvious or basic. Teaching grandmothers to suck eggs… (whatever that means!). In my experience it is rare to find a teacher who has nailed teaching to the point they have no need to discuss basics.. just as pianists practise their scales and footballers practise basic passing moves.

My perspective is that basic common ideas are always worth discussing – because these are the things that make a difference. Isn’t it just great that good sensible, old as the hills, tried and tested ideas continue to be discussed so that teachers can use them well -rather than teaching being a constant fad-fest? Rosenshine’s principles, for example, is a list of things effective teachers do when instructing.. now and always. It’s explicitly nothing new. Hallelujah!


  1. It’s interesting to note your Baker’s dozen of normal things chimes with so many day to day actions that teachers undertake. I get the same rolling of eyes when I ask departments to run through their planning tasks, including timetabling for the New year and curriculum design activities that keep content fresh and on the money. I remember 20 years ago a HoD looking at me after the January Inset day, tears streaming down his fsce; ” I am sorry James, I’ve just realised I’ve got it all to do again next year!”
    Indeed he did, and for 10 more years too!


  2. I agree with this Tom in every way. One of the first things I say in all my teacher training events is, “None of this is new.” For example, the earliest records of working memory date back to 5BC. The first academic reference to retrieval practice is from 1895.

    It’s about idea-spreading, reflection and discussion. We crave new ideas, when in fact all of us can benefit for refining the ones we already use.

    Liked by 1 person

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