The Power of Podcasts – Changing the Narrative

In a recent interview with Mark Anderson he asked me are really poignant question, “how have you taken control of your own professional development?” Initially, my answer mentioned blogs, podcasts, and MOOCs however I can’t believe I forgot all the great books that are out there; we are luckily in a time where the number of books published by educators is growing exponentially. Since our discussion I’ve reflected on all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had to take my own learning and professional development into my own hands and thought I’d write a little about the power of the podcast and how they may in fact change your own narrative.


Since I started teaching over 10 years ago, I believe that the profession has come on leaps and bounds with respect to the quality of readily available CPD; this comes in the form of literature, courses, podcasts, MOOCS and of course the powerhouse that is Twitter. My response to Mark’s question identified blogs and podcasts so I thought I would share with you why I think podcasts are a great PD tool.

There’s no doubt, despite the spats, that Twitter is a fantastic tool for learning given that you can engage in genuine dialogue with fellow educators, authors, researchers and more at the mere tap of a button. Engage in Twitter chats, use it as a soundboard for ideas, the generous nature of educators sharing resources with one another…..the list goes on! However it can be difficult to really delve deeply into content with a restriction on characters, or difficult to keep up with a thread during a Twitter chat, which is why I believe that podcasts are invaluable as a resource.

Every day we spend time commuting to work and quite often our time in the car can be listening to music while making a mental note of the hundreds of jobs we need to accomplish that day, week or term. I find this can lead to unnecessary thoughts, procrastination or even anxiety during busy parts of the year, so this year I have made a habit at least once a week on the journey to work to listen to a podcast as it is free PD tailored my needs and takes my mind off the day ahead (or the day that was) while also reinvigorating me at listening to someone else elaborating on their own experience(s).

Marie Hamer wrote a piece for the Chartered College of Teaching in June 2018, titled “Surviving and Thriving, how to make best use of your time,’ where she highlighted that we often strive to make large gains in our professional practice too quickly. We should ensure that we are managing our drive for improvement, sensibly she suggests breaking our goals down into bite-sized chunks so that we actually see the impact we are having while also making time for ourselves so that we don’t deplete our physical and psychological energy stores. Sage advice indeed, Trépanier et al., 2014 stated that “allocating time to completely switch off might seem like a luxury, but research shows that you will be a better teacher for it, and less likely to burn out or become disengaged from your work.”

How we all switch off varies from person to person, from playing sports, reading, relaxing with friends, cooking, spending time with our families, travelling, watching a film, listening to music; the list could go on and on. You could argue that listening to a podcast before or after a busy day in school is not in fact allowing yourself the cognitive down-time to replenish your emotional and cognitive faculties. However, on a personal level I find that it gives me time away from thinking of the day ahead/past and the chance to listen and learn from other educators, which I find a good distractor as I tend to naturally reflect on how the day went even when I do listen to music to try to recharge.

This image above, titled “Perceive Different” by Oli Cav, I feel demonstrates my own approach towards learning on-the-go while listening to podcasts. I do appreciate that we are all different so this approach may not work for everyone. While music may enable you to switch off cognitively, I find that while my mind is engaged and focused on school it helps me to put that to good use; listening to a podcast as I am still in teacher mode after all! So while the environment around me has changed, my mind is still focused on my prior environment (school) and thus I find it easier to place my attention towards the distraction of a podcast from which I will likely learn or change my own internal narrative while still in teacher mode.

Back to reaffirming the point, podcasts are fantastic! You can select, much like your social media timelines, who you’d like to listen to and tailor it to you needs at the time; behaviour, #cogsci, subject-specific, leadership, teaching & learning. There’s nothing more powerful than being able to choose your own professional development. My infographic above, hopefully, shows that listening to podcasts can inspire and get you thinking/reflecting (the lightbulb) in order to learn/action something new (the scholars hat). I made the infographic using Auto Draw (and then Adobe Spark to add my Twitter handle), you can read a blog post by Mark about it here

As Dylan Wiliam said “If we can create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.” So, why not give a podcast a go and take ownership of your own learning even further! Dylan also mentioned that the hardest part of changing and improving practice is not getting new ideas into someone’s head but rather getting the old ideas out, changing habits as opposed to adding knowledge; this is often difficult and takes time, however, I think that podcasts are a great tool to enable deep reflection on our practice which can then lead to a change in our habits.  

Confucius stated, “Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.” Part of being a reflective practitioner involves listening to a wider array of perspectives than we may usually be able to access. Podcasts, for me, enable me to challenge my own thinking as a direct result of the dialogue of another educator in varying contexts, this not only provides a rich learning experience but also the chance to adapt one’s thinking. This may be that your previous frame of reference has been adjusted slightly or that you’ve made a complete shift in your understanding thanks to hearing a compelling evidence base.

Reading aloud with students helps, the evidence for this is compelling, so why can’t listening help us as adults? This reminds me of a blog I read recently, by Blake Harvard, where he looked at the ‘most dangerous phrases in education.’ One phrase he looked at was: “the person doing the talking is doing the learning.” I liked how he didn’t hold back and postulates that learning doesn’t need to be voiced in order to be true, otherwise all of the learning we can do as educators using tools such as Twitter, YouTube and reading are therefore a waste of time and learning can in fact happen in quiet moments when we (students/adults) listen (or read).

Hirsch said “We use an inner voice and an inner ear. Reading IS listening.” So we can surmise that reading itself is a form of listening, therefore, listening is a form of reading. Alex Quigley has long argued that listening not only compliments reading but it also identifies the significance of its role in the writing process, so listening and speaking are a vital part for developing our oral, aural and verbal faculties. Pretty compelling stuff.

Bill Wilkinson, in a recent blog which happened to be featured on Teacher Tapp today, wrote that “high quality teacher talk is great and we should not look to limit it in the classroom.” This really resonated with me! He went on to say “The Human brain is perfectly evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to listen to, and learn from human stories and verbal communication.” Quite frankly, I couldn’t agree with Bill more! Stories and the language we use to communicate are the threads that bind us all together, a common ground no matter what our backgrounds, and we shouldn’t lose sight of this inside or outside the classroom.  So I implore you to delve into some high-quality teacher talk on podcasts.

Here are some podcasts, in no particular order, on an array of educational topics that have challenged my thinking in the last year or two:


Podcast Name Host Educational Topic(s)
The Edtech Podcast @soph_bailey @PodcastEdTech Improving the dialogue between ‘Ed’ & ‘Tech’
Evidence Based Education: Trialled & Tested EEF Exploring research evidence to inform teaching practice
The Learning Scientists Podcasts @AceThatTest A podcast for teaching, students and parents about evidence based practice and learning
The Staffroom @XpatEducator A focus on the world of pedagogy, teaching and learning
Carpool4School @carpool4school1 A selection of educational takeaways
Dismissed Podcast @Dismissedpod After school podcast about expat life, entrepreneurship and education
The ChargedUP Education Podcast @ChargedUPEdu Created by @MRAdamPE to help #physed teachers worldwide
ICT Evangelist Podcast @ICTEvangelist
Naylor’s Natter @pna1977 Musings on CPD & evidence based teaching
Team Science @TeamScienceEdu Where teachers talk & share ideas about science education
Mr Barton Maths Podcast @mrbartonmaths In depth interviews with educators from all warps of life covering various facets of education
The Cult of Pedagogy @cultofpedagogy Teaching strategies, edu reform, classroom management, #edtech & more
Teacher Toolkit @TeacherToolkit Latest gossip, thoughts and interviews in education
TED Talks Education TED Education Prominent educators & leaders share their stories & visions
Educational Research Reading Room (ERRR) @ollie_lovell Live discussions with prominent educators
The Pivotal Podcast @pivotalpodcast Weekly behaviour, safeguarding and T&L CPD
ASCL Leadership Podcast @RealGeoffBarton Leadership podcasts
HWRK Podcast @HWRK_Podcast Podcast for teachers by teachers
The School Leadership Podcast NAHT & NAHT Edge James Bowden interviews leading voices in education discussing leadership and learning


Such is the way that mixed media develops and permeates our daily lives, it’s worth mentioning that (much like the impromptu chat Mark and I had) a podcast could also take the form of a Twitter live video so I think I will strive to give this more of a go in the next year.

I hope you’ve found this blog interesting and will give listening to podcasts a go, in the near future, to aid your own professional learning opportunities. For those of you that do listen to podcasts which do you listen to and why?

Since lockdown started in 2020, Mark and I started an initiative to share across education in the Middle East and beyond called LearnLiveUAE, to date (March 2021) we have had over 70 educators on the show on over 65 shows!

Please do tune in and give us a listen, you can follow the conversation on YouTube here and on Anchor here.

You can see an example episode below:

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