The problem with grades: Are they worth keeping?

2020-11-15T21:19:35+00:00November 15th, 2020|myths|

Grades are so much a part of the educational landscape that it's hard to imagine what schools would be like without them. In the debate over whether or not we should retain exams this year, no one is suggesting we should do away with 1-9 GCSE grades. But what if we did? Clearly, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, but maybe it's worth conducting something of a thought experiment. In 10 Things Schools Get Wrong, Jared Cooney Horvath and David Botts, propose that grades are one of the things schools are currently getting wrong. They make the point that grades are [...]

The promise and danger of neuroscience

2017-04-26T19:57:13+01:00April 25th, 2017|myths, psychology|

With the advent of increasingly inexpensive access to brain imaging technology, neuroscience has entered a fascinating period of rapid advancement. The ability to generate images of what’s going on in our brains is hugely exciting, and the enthusiasm for trying to apply this science to education should come as no surprise. However, neuroscience is probably the ‘wrong level of description’ to provide meaningful insight into classroom practice: observing the actions of particular groups of neurons, or activity in various regions in the brain is a long way from teaching a classroom full of children. Concepts like neuroplasticity, or findings about the [...]

Faith, scepticism and the ‘unswayable minority’

2023-05-04T10:36:25+01:00February 19th, 2017|myths|

How do you stop people believing myths? The short answer is, it depends on how strongly people believe the myths. I've just read The Debunking Handbook, an excellent, free and succinct (only 9 pages in length!) manual produced by Sceptical Science for tackling misconceptions. In the section on what it refers to as the 'Worldview Backfire Effect' it makes the point that, "You ... stand a greater chance of correcting misinformation among those not as firmly decided about hot-button issues. This suggests that outreaches should be directed towards the undecided majority rather than the unswayable minority." When I wrote What if... I [...]

Is criticising learning styles an attack on the poor?

2017-04-09T18:14:09+01:00December 4th, 2016|myths|

Richard Olsen is a PhD candidate at Monash University studying "pedagogical capacity, effectiveness and quality in a changing world". He recently linked to this Australian Research Summary of Learning Styles saying, "Attacking learning styles isn't about learning styles, rather promoting instruction & learning as recalling facts." This is an interesting idea and not one I'd encountered before. He goes further, claiming, "the sustained attacks on learning styles are really attacks on feminist pedagogy, pedagogy of the poor and inquiry." I was curious enough about this to ask him what feminist pedagogy is. He didn't tell me. In fact his only interaction with [...]

One more nail in the Learning Styles coffin…

2016-02-21T10:35:18+00:00February 19th, 2016|myths|

We have scotch'd the snake, not kill'd it: She'll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice Remains in danger of her former tooth. Shakespeare, Macbeth Just when you think you've found a way to put the tortured soul of Learning Styles out of its pitiful misery, it lurches horribly back to life. For a moment I almost believed my last post, The Learning Styles myth debunked on the back of an envelope might have done the trick. Sadly not. If anything, all I succeeded in doing was opening up a new front for misunderstanding. Here was the 4-step debunking: People have preferences for [...]

The Learning Styles myth debunked on the back of an envelope

2016-02-18T21:03:10+00:00February 18th, 2016|myths|

"You don’t have to believe in learning styles theories to appreciate differences among kids, to hold an egalitarian attitude in the midst of such differences, and to try to foster such attitudes in students." Daniel Willingham, Learning Styles FAQ The Learning Styles myth, for those that aren't already clear, is that by aligning teaching to a student's preferred Learning Style, outcomes will improve. Despite lots of research into this claim - the so-called 'meshing theory' - no supporting evidence has turned up. But who needs evidence? In a 2014 survey, 90% of teachers agreed with the claim, "Individuals learn better when they [...]

Who is dyslexic and why does it matter?

2016-02-11T22:06:42+00:00February 11th, 2016|myths|

"Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." Francis Bacon I've been thinking about dyslexia for a while. Here are a few of the posts I've written over the past couple of years: May 2013 Does dyslexia exist? and Magic glasses and the Meares-Irlen syndrome October 2013 Are all difficulties desirable? February 2014 The dyslexia debate – is the label ‘meaningless’? One thing I've learned is that if you're in any way critical of the label 'dyslexia', you're going to get some grief. This is a highly emotive area and many people feel very strongly that being diagnosed as dyslexic was a positive, life-changing experience. [...]

Romanticism & the Enlightenment: Meta-beliefs in education

2016-03-02T08:38:12+00:00February 6th, 2016|myths|

"Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one’s beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses." James Baldwin Before claiming, as so many seem wont to do, that the dichotomy between progress and tradition is a false one, it’s worth exploring how our beliefs about education have been shaped. In the early 18th century the ideals of the Enlightenment – scientific method, logic and reason – were in full swing. Everything could be counted, weighed, measured and objective truths about the world discovered, quantified and neatly labelled. As always, whenever the pendulum [...]

More guff on creativity

2016-06-13T11:20:24+01:00February 3rd, 2016|myths|

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. (One of my favourite fake Einstein quotes.) What is it about creativity that makes so many otherwise sensible people say such silly things? Most of us can only watch in awed wonder as the truly creative turn out one marvellously realised idea after an other. There's a tendency to see it as evidence of some sort of mysterious, spooky 'otherness' which us normal folks just don't possess, but it's largely agreed that creativity is, if not directly teachable, at least possible to foster. The trouble is, being creative at say, making Lego models, doesn't make [...]

Is it just me or is Sugata Mitra an irresponsible charlatan?

2016-09-28T17:57:14+01:00November 23rd, 2015|myths|

Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power. Ralph Waldo Emerson When I first saw physicist, Sugata Mitra speak about his Hole in the Wall experiments in India I was astonished. Not only was he as  self-deprecatingly warm and funny as Sir Ken Robinson on a major charm offensive, the content of what he was saying blew any of SKR's woolly rhetoric out of the water. Basically, his claim was, is, that children can teach themselves anything. All they need is access to the internet and teachers to stay the heck away [...]

Does technology have the power to transform education?

2015-09-18T09:52:30+01:00September 18th, 2015|myths|

Disruptors is a series of articles and opinion pieces commission by Virgin all loosely connected under the theme "Is education keeping up with the 21st century?" I like to think I can be as disruptive as anybody, and have responded to a commission to write about edtech with the following article: Does technology have the power to transform education? Undoubtedly. But not necessarily in the ways we expect and not necessarily for the better. Technology has been transforming education for as long as either have been in existence. Language, arguably the most crucial technological advancement in our history, moved education from mere mimicry [...]

When is a bad idea a bad idea?

2015-06-24T22:12:47+01:00June 23rd, 2015|myths|

While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others. Christopher Hitchens Twitter exploded into fury earlier this evening when @MissNQT posted a picture of a training resource she'd been given at a course aimed at helping newly qualified teachers to challenge more able students. I took it upon myself to further propel it into the Twittersphere with this: Hyperbole? Schools Week editor, Laura McInerney certainly thought so. She suggested that were the grid retitled nobody would have gotten aeriated. Here's her edited version: [...]

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