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TEACH Brilliantly

Small Shifts That Lead to Big Gains in Student Learning

The latest & most comprehensive book by James Nottingham

Highlights include how to:
  • Boost engagement
  • Provide optimum challenge
  • Ensure students use feedback brilliantly
  • Lift expectations
  • Ensure all students make excellent progress
  • Make confident use of empirical data

The latest & most comprehensive book by James Nottingham

Highlights include how to:

  • Boost engagement

  • Provide optimum challenge

  • Ensure students use feedback brilliantly

  • Lift expectations

  • Ensure all students make excellent progress

  • Make confident use of empirical data

Reviews of TEACH Brilliantly

“Just when you thought the work of James Nottingham couldn’t get better, he has gone and done it again. Teach Brilliantly, is chock full of practical, user-friendly, I-can-use-this-tomorrow ideas and strategies that you can’t wait to try and will leave you wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that already?!”

Heather Lyon, Assistant Superintendent and Author, NY, USA

This is a book that analyses deeply the intensely complex and human world of the classroom. It offers teachers insights that will help them to improve their success in teaching children methodically and magically. It’s a book for every staffroom.

Professor Mick Waters, former Director of Curriculum for the UK’s Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA)

“What more can a teacher want or wish for! It is rare to find a book that is so clear and so brilliantly matched to all the everyday needs of teachers—a truly comprehensive educational tour de force!”

Marcelo Staricoff, Lecturer in Education, University of Sussex, UK

“Teach Brilliantly is a superb practical summary of how to help young people to learn both skillfully and enjoyably.  James Nottingham uses research evidence with insight and care, selected the most powerful learning aspects to focus on, and provides a goldmine of practical examples for all age groups.  For novices and experienced colleagues alike, this is an invaluable treasure trove.”

Will Ord, director, Thinking Education Ltd, UK

“As a coach who works across a network of schools in Asia and Africa, I feel like I have just found a transformative tool, filled with actionable takeaways for anyone who wants to teach brilliantly! It strikes a perfect balance between practical strategies supported by solid research and clear guidance on effective application, complemented by relatable examples, anecdotes, practical templates, and multimedia resources.”

Natasha Haque, Teacher Coach, Aga Khan Academies, Kenya

“James Nottingham’s journey through education has provided him with the professional and personal experience to clearly identify, and succinctly express, strategies to make teaching and, more importantly, learning successful. Save yourself thirty-five years, read Teach Brilliantly and start making small shifts toward big gains today.

Frazer Westmorland, Headteacher, Kent, UK

“In James Nottingham’s Teach Brilliantly, he skillfully merges real-world learning scenarios with pedagogical theory, offering readers a rich and engaging exploration of the learning process. Whether you’re an educator or someone keen on unraveling the secrets of student engagement, James’ insights are both relevant and profound. I enthusiastically endorse this book and trust that others will find it as enlightening and enjoyable as I did.”

Morten Fahlvik, Pedagogical Expert, Sanoma Learning, Norway

Teach Brilliantly is written in James Nottingham’s easy to listen to easy-to-read style, full of evidence informed strategies that can be immediately applied to any classroom, while still providing the reader with the research behind these strategies. A great resource for any teacher or professional learning team looking to effect change that really has the potential to impact positively on student learning.

Catherine Kimmorley, Education Officer, Toowoomba Catholic Schools, Australia

The best book I´ve read about teaching and learning. I love that James refers to research throughout the book. A must read!”

Johan Lindström, Education Manager, Advania Skolpartner, Sweden

“James Nottingham always has engaged me in a thoughtful conversation through his writing and Teach Brilliantly is no different! I appreciate the easy-to-navigate chapters and practical next steps as an educator, and always look forward to reflecting on my own practice through James’s books.”

Nancy Shi, Instructional Leader, SeaTac, Washington, USA

“In Teach Brilliantly, James Nottingham encourages us to break through the complexity of teaching and provides us with a strategy for success by focusing on the small tweaks to teaching that can make big impacts to student learning.”

Jennifer Pleszkoch, Senior Learning Architect, International Baccalaureate

“At once deeply intuitive and tenaciously evidence-based, James Nottingham’s Teach Brilliantly is a tour de force for anyone with a passion for teaching. In this highly nuanced and, at times, personal work, he offers both a breadth and depth of practical knowledge that will support any teacher or group of teachers trying to be better at what they do.”

Brendan Spillane, Leadership Consultant, Perth, Australia

“Teach Brilliantly offers essential and actionable wisdom for the practical development of classroom practice. Small-scale, evidence-informed approaches strategically support progression for all students, which makes them both powerful and manageable.”

Pippa Leslie, Senior Lecturer, University of Cumbria, UK

“This book will greatly help teachers determine the best tools and strategies that lead to appropriate levels of classroom rigor and increase student achievement.”

Julie Dutko, Cherokee County, Georgia, USA

“Teach Brilliantly provides educators with the resources to challenge and engage their learners by making small tweaks to their practice. This book will undoubtedly become a staple on my shelf, dog-eared and lovingly littered with sticky notes.”

Julia Scrimshaw, Head of Academics, Learning and Innovation, RJAS, NSW, Australia

Teach Brilliantly provides a clear path for teachers to high-quality instruction by providing a wealth of practical strategies as well as the research that supports their use. In this must-read book, James Nottingham provides everything teachers need to create more challenging, focused, and meaningful experiences for all learners.

Greg Wolcott, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Woodridge, IL, USA

“Teach Brilliantly highlights small things all educators can do that lead to big impact. It masterfully connects through an equity lens the approaches that teachers can easily incorporate into their day-to-day instruction to ensure all students have access to high-quality, rich learning and teaching experiences.”

Jennifer Yonkers, Senior Director, NYC Public Schools, USA

A must-read for school leaders and educators who are committed to improving the quality of teaching and learning in their schools. Teachers will love the plethora of easy-to-implement tweaks that research proves will make a big difference to practice. Leaders will love the comprehensive strategies they can share and embed with all staff.”

Becky Carlzon, Founder of the professional learning community

“An illuminating masterpiece! James Nottingham brilliantly shines a light on what teachers can do to transform student learning. Offering invaluable insights and clarity into optimal approaches, Teach Brilliantly is an inspiring read and an absolute game-changer for cultivating a profound understanding of learning.”

Jacqui O’Donnell, Principal, WA, Australia

“This book is Nottingham’s masterpiece: a wonderful distillation of his decades spent immersed in the science, art and craft of education. I have no doubt that teachers who put just a fraction of the ideas contained in this work into classroom practice will add immense value to their students’ learning as well as enjoy a great sense of vocational satisfaction.”

Barry Hymer, Emeritus Professor of Psychology in Education

“Teach Brilliantly brings together so much of James Nottingham’s vast knowledge, skills, and experience with in-depth analysis of education. At its core is how to successfully engage students so they make significant progress, grow, develop, and thrive.”

Judy Martyn, Devon Schools Leadership Services, U.K.

“As I was reading Teach Brilliantly, I felt like I was sitting in the room talking with James Nottingham listening to his insights.  The book is jam-packed with great learning examples connected to authentic stories from classrooms.  Without a doubt, teachers will find something they can use to enhance their lessons the very next day!  I loved it!”

Dr Jeanette Westfall, Assistant Superintendent | Instructional Design, Liberty, MO, USA

James Nottingham has managed to, once again, energise and revitalise the elements of what it means to teach brilliantly as well as what good learning looks like. He gives us new insights into key areas of effective practice, such as questioning, challenge and growth mindset. A pleasure to read, as always.”

Abigail Furey, Deputy Director Academic, International School of Monaco

“James Nottingham distills his immense passion and knowledge for improving education into easy to action strategies and advice. This book will enhance your impact and student engagement and I could not recommend it enough.”

Barry Dunn, Head of Studies, Seaham High School, UK

Introduction & Overview of TEACH Brilliantly

We only have a short space of time with our students (despite the sense that some lessons will never end!). So, we must be discerning. We must pick the approaches that work best not just the ones that work but the ones that work. Take the inputs we are given—students, resources, curriculum, time—pick some approaches, work our magic, and hey presto create some fabulous learning outcomes. Oh, how easy that sounds!

It’s not easy though, is it? It’s so complex that it is almost impossible to capture accurately. It’s what professors Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (1998) called the black box:

  • [educational] policies . . . seem to treat the classroom as a black box. Certain inputs from the outside– pupils, teachers, other resources, management rules and requirements, parental anxieties, standards, tests with high stakes and so on–are fed into the box. Some outputs are supposed to follow: pupils who are more knowledgeable and competent, better test results, teachers who are reasonably satisfied and so on.
  • But what is happening inside the box? How can anyone be sure that a particular set of new inputs will produce better outputs if we don’t at least study what happens inside?
  • The answer usually given is that it is up to teachers: they have to make the inside work better. This answer is not good enough, for two reasons. First, it is at least possible that some changes in the inputs may be counterproductive and make it harder for teachers to raise standards. Second, it seems strange, even unfair, to leave the most difficult piece of the standards-raising puzzle entirely to teachers. If there are ways in which policy makers and others can give direct help and support to the everyday classroom task of achieving better learning, then surely these ways ought to be pursued vigorously. (p. 2)

Inside the Black Box (Black & Wiliam, 1998b) was published just a few years into my teaching career. The effect it had on my thinking still reverberates today. Back then, I wanted to know how to make the actions inside the black box as effective as possible. Today, I still want to know. With thirty years of teaching and consulting under my belt, I think I have a better idea.

A decade of speaking tours alongside professors Carol Dweck (expert on growth mindset) and John Hattie (creator of visible learning), as well as countless keynotes and workshops with other educational luminaries, have also afforded me a rare depth of insight as to what is likely to work best.

My first book, Challenging Learning (Nottingham, 2010), gave the Top Ten FACTS about Feedback, Application, Challenge, Thinking skills, and Self-esteem. This was also the first time I shared my concept of the Learning Pit®. Since then, I have written ten more books, each one giving an in-depth analysis of a single area of pedagogy.

Now, it’s time to return to the beginning by sharing the most significant insights on a range of important topics. Each one stands separately. Together, they are more than the sum of their parts. They form a significant part of what ought to be taking place inside the black box.

Questions still abound, of course, but this book shares much of what I have learned.

Chapter 1

When You Adjust Your TEACHING, It Transforms Students’ LEARNING

As a teacher, the way you think, and the decisions you make, lead to the biggest difference in your students’ learning. This chapter shares some criteria you could use to help make those decisions wisely.

Chapter 2

When You ENGAGE Your Students, Their Learning Gains PURPOSE

Student engagement has always been a concern, perhaps even more so now. How do you recognize it when you see it though, and perhaps more importantly, how do you improve it so that all students are ready to learn? The chapter also includes ways to use questioning and dialogue as ways to boost participation.

Chapter 3

When CHALLENGE Is Just Right, Students’ Abilities IMPROVE

Learning begins when students go beyond their current abilities. Unfortunately, many students actively avoid taking on challenges for fear of failure or ridicule. This chapter shows how to make levels of challenge ‘just right’ so that students more willingly step out of their comfort zone. It also includes Learning Pit approaches.

Chapter 4

When FEEEBDACK Is Used Brilliantly, It Adds Significant VALUE

Feedback is already one of the most powerful effects on student learning, so why write more about it? Well, firstly – its quality is so variable that one third of studies show negative effects! Secondly, too many school and faculty policies focus on how to give feedback whereas the ways in which students use it matters much more. And thirdly, timing is critical – give it too soon and you’ll stop students from learning but give it too late and it will rarely be used. This chapter shows how to put all this right – and more.

Chapter 5


Every single student is capable of growing and improving. They won’t all achieve top grades, but they can all make excellent progress – so long as our expectations are high, and we teach them with this prediction in mind. What does that mean for classroom practice and interactions? This chapter explains all!

Chapter 6

When There is EQUITY, There is FAIRNESS

Digging ever deeper into the meta-analyses I used to create this book, I noticed how time and again, the outcomes for every strategy I recommend is even more impressive for at-risk students. They work for everyone – I wouldn’t have shared them if they didn’t – but they are even more effective in creating equity in the classroom This chapters tells you how – and why.


Consultant, Author, Keynote Speaker

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