Teach Like Nobody's Watching

The essential guide to effective and efficient teaching

By: Mark Enser


Or purchase digital products from our partners:


Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 222 x 182mm
Pages : 192
ISBN : 9781785833991
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2019

In Teach Like Nobody’s Watching: The essential guide to effective and efficient teaching, Mark Enser sets out a time-efficient approach to teaching that will reduce teachers’ workload and enhance their pupils’ levels of engagement and attainment.

At a time when schools are crying out for more autonomy and trust, teacher and bestselling author Mark Enser asks educators the critical question “How would you teach if nobody were watching?” and empowers them with the tools and confidence to do just that.

Mark argues that a quality education is rooted in simplicity. In this book he convincingly strips away the layers of contradictory pedagogical advice that teachers have received over the years and lends weight to the three key pillars that underpin effective, efficient teaching: the lesson, the curriculum and the school’s support structure.

Teach Like Nobody’s Watching explores these three core elements in detail, and presents teachers with a range of practical, time-efficient approaches to help them reclaim their professional agency and ensure that their pupils get the excellent education they deserve.

Part I considers the individual lesson and explores how lessons can be built around four simple elements: recap, input, application and feedback. Each chapter considers one aspect of the lesson in turn and discusses its importance – with a particular focus on how educational research can be applied to it in the classroom, how it might look in different subjects, and the potential pitfalls to avoid.

Part II recognises that lessons don’t happen in isolation but as part of a wider curriculum. This section tackles: the creation of a programme of study that takes pupils on a journey through your subject; the super-curriculum of what happens outside the classroom; the principles of assessment design; and how time in departments can be used to reduce workload and support a culture of excellence.

Finally, Part III looks at the role of the wider school in supporting teachers to teach like nobody’s watching and how leaders can help to set them free from some of the more burdensome pressures. In this section, Mark draws on the experience of school leaders in a range of different contexts to illustrate what they have done to support effective and efficient teaching in their schools.

Suitable for all teachers in both primary and secondary schools.

Picture for author Mark Enser

Mark Enser

Mark Enser has been teaching geography for the best part of two decades and is a head of department and research lead at Heathfield Community College, as well as a specialist leader of education (SLE) and evidence lead in education (ELE). He is a regular TES columnist and often speaks at education conferences. Mark has written several books and also writes a blog called Teaching It Real and tweets @EnserMark. He spends the rest of his time reading, drinking coffee and playing Dungeons & Dragons.

View Marks features on TES here.

Click here to read Mark Enser’s blog.


  1. In contrast to the idea that school improvement is driven by focusing on developing internal structures, Mark Enser emphasises that the key factor is the role of the teacher in the classroom.  Within an easily read text the author discusses at length what he considers each teacher can do to make a difference within their own classroom. He underlines that  key factors  which have impacted negatively upon teacher confidence and effectiveness is that they have been swamped by a range of conflicting ideas and other advice on “best practice” to please outside observers

    The author focuses on key issues to enable teachers to become more efficient by reducing workload, promoting a more balanced work/life balance and reducing burn out. He considers these strategies will improve effectiveness in seeking the opportunities to create “cultures of enthusiasm” within the classroom which have a positive impact on promoting more effective schools. Within this context, I enjoyed the emphasis on flexible lesson approaches to recap, input, application and feedback. This section will be particularly beneficial for teachers new to the classroom or those experiencing difficulties with “engagement” or behaviour for learning.  The author discusses  strategies to encourage the reader to extend their skills on a wide range of issues, including differentiation modelling, retrieval of learning, questioning,  recap throughout, and developing schemes.  

    As the author emphasises, if leaders expect teachers to promote effective learning strategies of recap, input, etc,  it is essential that they adopt and implement support systems and strategies which will promote positive behaviour within classrooms and around the school

    Overall this is a very pragmatic and effective text for classroom teachers and support staff based on three key pillars for success, the lesson, the curriculum and the school's support systems. Well worth reading.
  2. "Teach Like Nobody's Watching is a book based on a deceptively simple idea: that teachers need to do the right thing in the classroom for the students in front of them. Hardly revolutionary, one might think, yet Mark Enser unpicks its hidden complexities in an extremely readable and accessible way.

    Enser's style is undoubtedly engaging and I genuinely found reading the book enjoyable, thought-provoking and refreshing. It is split into three key sections: the lesson, the curriculum and the wider school. In each, he references key areas of recent research to drive his thoughts and discussion points. Each section ends with key points from the chapter and reflection questions - some of which I have already put to work in my school.

    In Part 1, Enser sets out the key concepts, with explanations and examples, affecting the thinking of school and teacher leaders around the country. The author is a geography teacher, so it is perhaps no surprise that his metaphor of rivers to bring the idea of schemas to life was particularly striking.

    Throughout, his clear writing makes it easy to grasp the differences between tricky concepts like interleaving and interweaving. When talking about behaviour, the simple questions he poses are a useful frame to make you think about the interplay between daily routines, the classroom environment and the school's goals. He speaks sensibly about “differentiating like nobody's watching”, and makes an incredibly pertinent point about plenaries existing only for the benefit of outside observers. Far be it from me to give away spoilers, but when is the best time to find out what students have or haven't learned from your teaching?

    In Part 2, Enser speaks insightfully about curriculum intent, implementation and impact - a gift to teachers and subject leaders facing Ofsted's new framework. His foci here are medium- and long-term planning from the starting point of a subject tabula rasa, building from there through the use of “fertile questions”. Clearly, geographic terminology is well suited to the task of mapping great teaching, and his brilliant example of teaching as a Sisyphean task to highlight the impact of cultural capital shows he's been listening to his humanities colleagues.

    The section on assessment was very thorough, drawing on plenty of research and again explained in a clear, concise and practical way. Rank order assessment, sometimes deemed controversial, is well demystified, and the section on department meetings not only lays out clear steps to high-quality curriculum design but makes a case for all team members being on board that is difficult to argue against.

    The final section on the wider school is an essential read for any SLT. Enser includes good case studies of effective whole-school implementation, reinforcing much of the book's previous content in practical context. Despite being the smallest section in the book, it is the one in my copy with the biggest number of index tabs stuck to the side of the pages, and it is more than I can do to do it justice here.

    Overall, I would recommend this book for teachers who want a good, easy read about current educational thinking and theory, as an introduction to research-led practice. It summarises key areas very comprehensively with clarity and simplicity. However, if you read a lot of educational literature, you won't find anything new or revolutionary here. There are many mentions of Rosenshine, Willingham and McInerney, for example.

    That is not to take away from the book's importance. The ongoing issues over workload, recruitment and retention alone are testament to the fact that the idea of teacher professionalism has perhaps not spread wide enough. That, or many have lacked the practical help to deliver on the revolution's promise.

    Either way, Teach Like Nobody's Watching is a powerful contribution. Teachers at my school will have access to it and we will use the phrase regularly from this point forward to ensure there's no rolling back from it where the revolution has taken hold."

    Click here to read the review on Schools Week's website.
  3. "Pros:

    -The largest chapter, and given the most attention focuses on the lesson, and how to structure them most effectively.

    - Acknowledges that teaching has become a Sisyphean task with an unmanageable workload. The book aims to help teachers overcome such obstacles that are weaved into daily life.

    - Offers a lesson structure that can ensure progress is being made, ensuring that students' develop in your classroom positively.

    - A smaller section, towards the end, encourages school leaders to consider their own behaviours and to empower teachers to do what they do best.

    - The book seeks to give teachers permission to teach as though they were not being judged - empowering with the tools and confidence to do just that."

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat's website.
  4. A useful addition to the books we use with, and recommend to students and trainee teachers. The case study and Key points sections are the particular stand out parts in this book.
  5. My reading viewpoint:

    I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Mark's book to review, from Crown House Publishers. I follow Mark on Twitter and enjoy reading what he has to say about education, so it follows that I'd want to read his book! As always, I read with a primary focus.


    What I found interesting about Mark's book is that I -˜knew' a lot of it - it summarises what I believe to be great teaching. Still, it is affirming, I found myself nodding and I still learned some things (see below). If you are a new teacher, a trainee, or stuck in a rut with teaching wondering if there is another way, then this book is for you. As Mark (via Prof. Daniel Mujis, of Ofsted) points out - we teachers will grab anything and try and make it work, like -˜ being instructed to eat soup with a fork -¦ The soup would get eaten, but at what cost?' (p.6). If this sounds like you - read the book.

    Mark's writing style is straightforward, no-nonsense and easy to understand, which makes the book easy to read. Case studies, points for reflection and summaries all lend themselves to ease of reading and the chapters, organised into areas including feedback and teacher input, mean you are able to dip in and out.

    The text is peppered with examples however many of these are secondary based, with some being a little lost on me where my own subject knowledge is not as deep. For me, this means that while I believe all teachers can read the book, secondary colleagues may find this easier to relate to. It's not a criticism of the ideas within the book, though!

    As I said, many of the ideas were not new to me - they summarised -˜just good teaching'. Similarly if, like me, you read widely, you may find some of the concepts in the book - retrieval practice, ideas around feedback and assessment - things you have already read about. However, I don't think this is a bad thing and as a summary of a number of these key ideas then Teach Like Nobody's Watching is a great place to start.

    My key takeaways:

    1. Make links between lessons, make them explicit and help pupils to learn. I am a huge advocate of making links between teaching, but Enser makes the point clear - we need to find ways to connect learning to other areas. While this is relatively easy in something like maths, I definitely want to think more deeply about connecting seemingly more disparate topics in areas such as History.

    2. Cornell note taking. This is a totally new-to-me concept and something I could see working in UKS2 onward. Essentially, it involves adapting a page of work to leave space for pupil-generated summary of learning and pupil-generated quiz-type questions. Retrieval, revision and questioning all rolled into one!

    3. Instruction/modelling is key, but teacher subject knowledge has to be there. Enser argues - quite rightly - that in order for teachers to model and explain something they need to have a really good understanding. How we achieve this in primary is tricky, but using shared explanations may help.

    I think you should read this book if:

    - You are a new teacher, particularly secondary, but primary practitioners would gain too.
    - You have worked in a culture of high stakes observations, triple marking and other non-negotiables and think -˜there must be another way'.

    Click here to read the review comments on Musings: Teaching for Mastery blog.
  6. Teach Like Nobody's Watching is a fabulous book. Practical, principled and inspiring, it exudes an authenticity that is all too rare. It's the voice of someone who actually walks the talk in the classroom every day - a popular and successful teacher with plenty of front-line wisdom to share. 

    As ever, Mark's message is grounded and practical as well as principled, and it's great to see the effusive enthusiasm and no-nonsense pragmatism of his conference presentations shine through in his writing. Mark covers everything from delivering lessons to planning a curriculum and designing assessments, all from the perspective of making it efficient for the teacher and effective for the students. His recap-input-application-feedback model is so brilliantly simple and clear, as are the excellent key points and reflections for each chapter. I love the chapter on the department meeting - this is territory so often neglected and, here, Mark sets out a manifesto for change that I'm sure will inspire many teachers and leaders.

    Finally, Mark's use of case studies from the likes of Stephen Adcock and Sam Gorse adds some interesting insights to the section on leadership. It is important to know that there are schools out there in which “teaching like nobody's watching” is already a reality - and after reading this book I'm certain that, as the word spreads, Mark will rally more teachers and leaders to follow this path.
  7. Backed by relevant research and filled with an abundance of invaluable and practical examples, Teach Like Nobody's Watching makes a compelling case for teaching to become more effective, more efficient, more simple. The book cuts through the unnecessary, and frankly overcomplicated, nonsense that has impeded the progress of our wonderful profession in recent times and gets to the heart of everyday practice that reduces workload and creates a culture of excellence in your classroom.

    Working with integrity is about doing the right thing even when no one is looking, and what Mark has successfully done in this book is outline how teachers can improve the efficacy of their practice by applying a straightforward and clutter-free approach to lesson design. However, unlike many books about teaching, this isn't a “tricks and tips” guide. It carefully, yet simply, describes where this efficient approach to teaching fits within the bigger picture of curriculum, assessment and school leadership, and sets out how teachers of all levels of experience can be rightfully trusted to teach with the knowledge and confidence that they are doing the right thing for their pupils.
  8. Teach Like Nobody's Watching is a refreshing read that provides beautiful clarity on educational debate. I am going to have all my staff read it!
  9. This book is about integrity. It's about teaching day in, day out in a manner that you believe is best for the children and young people in your care. Teachers must take responsibility for ensuring that this “best” gets a little bit better every day, and reading Teach Like Nobody's Watching will undoubtedly help.

Write your own review