April Author of the Month: Alex Quigley

We are very pleased to announce that our Routledge Education April Author of the Month is Alex Quigley! Alex is the Director of Huntington Research School in York and is also a Research School Developer for the Education Endowment Foundation. 

Closing the Vocabulary Gap, is his most recently published book. In our exclusive Q&A we ask Alex about the history of this book and what inspired him to write it. Take a look at the Q&A below!

I am Director of Huntington Research School, York. I am also a Research School Developer for the Education Endowment Foundation, supporting research schools in the north of England.

When I am not doing research school work, I can be found teaching English, as well as writing edubooks and articles for TES and Teach Secondary magazine. I have published three books for Routledge, including ‘Teach Now! English’, ‘The Confident Teacher’, and my new book, ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap’. I am also a regular blogger at www.theconfidentteacher.com, and as part of my work with the EEF I am co-author of an upcoming ‘Metacognition and Self-regulation Guidance Report’.

A primary interest of mine is supporting teachers to engage with research evidence. To support this, I am also a ResearchED Trustee & a member of the Chartered College of Teaching Impact Journal board.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of this book and what inspired you to write it?

Having been a teacher for over 15 years, I'd always experienced pupils struggling to be a success when faced with the academic curriculum. With the changes to curriculum and assessment in recent years, the challenge has been greater than ever. This spurred me on to seek out solutions for students. After exploring literacy and the 'academic code' of school, exploring vocabulary offered an accessible and powerful solution for school teachers - 50,000 small but potentially powerful solutions. 

Why is improving vocabulary for ‘word poor’ students so important ?

To be a success at school and beyond you simply must have a broad and deep vocabulary. When faced with a typical text in pretty much any classroom, a child needs a minimum of 95% word knowledge to access the text (higher in some cases, potentially a little lower in others). Put simply, if you cannot access the vocabulary you cannot comprehend what you read. We know that for many disadvantaged children, they enter primary school 'word poor' and continually struggle to access the school curriculum. Vocabulary then is pretty much a proxy for a lot of the necessary general and subject specific knowledge of school, but for many 'word poor' children, the word gap proves a real barrier to hopes of school success. Crucially, there are solutions for 'word poor' children and they prove essential knowledge for all teachers in my view.

You’ve worked as a teacher and researcher for a number of years, what sparked your original interest in this area?

As a subject leader of English in a large secondary comprehensive in York, I was continually on the end of significant curriculum and assessment changes. Not only that, the support and resources always felt to be always a step too late, and there simply was too little guidance out there for busy teachers. Unconsciously, my search for better 'answers' and support meant that I engaged in social media - Twitter primarily - which then exposed me to a rich vein of knowledge and networks. Quickly, I was talking to experts in education and researchers in all aspects of English and teaching more generally. Over the past years, I have emerged into a 'broker' role, connecting up teachers, school leaders, with researchers and research evidence.

What do you hope teachers will take away from the book?

I hope that teachers get a better understanding of how vocabulary and language is at the beating heart of all learning. It may at times prove a barrier to be overcome, but if we understand it and tackle it, vocabulary can prove a potent solution for countless children in our schools. Once this aspect of learning is better understood, it offers a wealth of practical insights into how to support children to grow their vocabulary and flourish in school and beyond.

Can you sum up the book in one sentence?

An accessible guide to vocabulary: offering a wealth of solutions to growing the vocabulary of all of our students.

Featured Books

  • Closing the Vocabulary Gap

    By Alex Quigley

    As teachers grapple with the challenge of a new, bigger and more challenging school curriculum, at every key stage and phase, success can feel beyond our reach. But what if there were 50,000 small solutions to help us bridge that gap? In Closing the Vocabulary Gap, Alex Quigley explores the…

    Paperback – 2018-04-11
    Routledge

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