#192 Tools and Tips for Teachers: Episode 13 (with Ollie Lovell)

Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAnchorPodbeanStitcherPocketCasts

Episode details

Ollie Lovell is a maths and science teacher from Australia, an author, and my longtime, bitter podcasting rival. We have decided to get together once a month to share three things we have each learned and get the other’s take on it.


  1. Tell teachers what they need to hear (08:01)
  2. Breaking things down is the most important thing (13:03)
  3. Choose the level of struggle (24:56)
  4. What should we spend finite CPD time on (30:35)
    1. https://birminghamteacher.wordpress.com/2024/05/29/navigating-trade-offs-can-we-leave-curriculum-behind/ by Clare Stoneman
    2. https://www.ollielovell.com/its-the-curriculum-stupid/ by Ollie!
  5. Dinner table chat (51:44)
  6. Circle Theorems discovery lesson (59:27)

Episode summary

In this conversation, Craig and Ollie discuss various topics, including their health, their rankings as education influencers, and the importance of breaking down concepts into smaller atoms for effective teaching. They also explore the idea of sharing what students need to hear rather than showing off one’s knowledge, and the challenges of atomization in teaching. Ollie shares his experience working with a school and the importance of focusing on specific areas for improvement. Craig highlights the value of breaking down routines and processes in teaching and the need to assess or teach each atom separately. They also discuss the curse of knowledge and the benefits of pairing experienced and less experienced teachers. The conversation explores the idea of productive struggle in education and the importance of curriculum resources. It discusses the benefits of students struggling with tasks and the role of teachers in helping them struggle at a higher level. The conversation also delves into the relationship between curriculum and pedagogy, highlighting the need for both to be addressed in teaching and learning. The importance of shared and prescriptive curriculum resources is emphasized, as well as the need for teachers to see themselves as curriculum designers. The conversation concludes with a discussion on gratitude and the power of storytelling. In this conversation, Craig Barton and Ollie discuss the benefits and drawbacks of discovery-based learning in mathematics. Craig shares his experience observing a teacher who used a discovery approach to teach geometry theorems, which initially made him skeptical. However, he found that the students were engaged and able to explain the theorems effectively. They discuss the importance of efficiency and strategic use of discovery activities in the curriculum. Ollie shares his love for teaching in ways that allow students to make connections on their own.


  • Breaking down concepts into smaller atoms is a game changer in teaching and allows for focused instruction and assessment.
  • Sharing what students need to hear rather than showing off one’s knowledge is crucial in effective teaching and coaching.
  • Experienced teachers may struggle with atomization due to the curse of knowledge, while less experienced teachers can bring a beginner’s mind to the task.
  • Pairing experienced and less experienced teachers can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of content and effective instruction.
  • Prioritizing specific areas for improvement and focusing on the learning intention can lead to more impactful teaching and coaching. Students benefit from struggling with tasks, as it mentally prepares them for better subsequent learning.
  • Teachers should aim to help students struggle at a higher level through explicit instruction and effective atomization.
  • Curriculum resources play a crucial role in systematic improvement and provide a baseline for teachers to build upon.
  • The power of storytelling and good curriculum design can enhance student learning and retention.
  • Practicing gratitude and having meaningful conversations around the dinner table can foster a sense of appreciation and community. Discovery-based learning can be effective in engaging students and helping them make connections.
  • Efficiency should be considered when deciding when and how to incorporate discovery activities in the curriculum.
  • Tools such as Geogebra, Desmos, visualizers, and auto-marker apps can enhance teaching and learning in mathematics.
  • Teachers should have an open mind and be willing to learn from and adapt their teaching methods based on observations and experiences.

Ollie’s stuff

  • Sign up for Ollie’s newsletter here: edthreads.ollielovell.com
  • On Twitter, Ollie is @ollie_lovell
  • Ollie’s website is ollielovell.com 
  • You can check out Ollie’s podcast, The Education Research Reading Room here
  • Ollie’s first book, Cognitive Load Theory in Action, is available from Amazon
  • Ollie’s second book, Tools for Teachers, is available from Amazon

My usual plugs

Leave a Reply