Our book, Urban Myths about Learning and Education, out this month!

It has been a long wait (and lots of work) for Paul, Casper and myself, but this month our book will hit the stores.

You can order the book already in any popular online webshop or in your bookstore, but also here.

We received this first review about the book:

“A marvelous compendium of plausible-sounding ideas about education that have seeped into popular culture, but have little or no scientific support. Carefully documented yet a pleasure to read, this book should be required reading in all teacher training programs.” -Daniel T. Willingham, Professor, University of Virginia

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OECD-report on Gender: an infographic, links to report and more

It’s based on data we already knew, but this OECD-report has a strong focus on gender:

  • While PISA reveals large gender differences in reading, in favour of 15-year-old girls, the gap is narrower when digital reading skills are tested. Indeed, the Survey of Adult Skills suggests that there are no significant gender differences in digital literacy proficiency among 16-29 year-olds.
  • Boys are more likely to underachieve when they attend schools with a large proportion of socio‑economically disadvantaged students.
  • Girls – even high-achieving girls – tend to underachieve compared to boys when they are asked to think like scientists, such as when they are asked to formulate situations mathematically or interpret phenomena scientifically.
  • Parents are more likely to expect their sons, rather than their daughters, to work in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field – even when their 15-year-old boys and girls perform at the same level in mathematics.

So, be aware to reduce this to a ‘boys problem’,  and maybe it’s actually not that new at all.


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New study examines the effect of taking learning styles into account. Guess what…

There is a challenge for the first decent study that proves that adapting your education to learning styles work. This new study that I found via this blog post by Jeroen Janssen is decent. Pashler et al (2008) stated that good research investigating learning styles should take the following 3 steps into account:

  1. You start examining the learning style of the respondents in the study (in this new study by Rogowsky they examined visual versus auditory learning styles).
  2. The participants than need to random allocated to groups with half of the participants getting education adapted to their learning style or to a group that is not suitable for their learning styles. E.g. visual learners in one group have to read, while the visual learners in the control group will have to listen.
  3. All participants need to make the same test.

This study by Rogowsky did all that, but guess what?

Results failed to show a statistically significant relationship between learning style preference (auditory, visual word) and learning aptitude (listening comprehension, reading comprehension).

Abstract of the study:

While it is hypothesized that providing instruction based on individuals’ preferred learning styles improves learning (i.e., reading for visual learners and listening for auditory learners, also referred to as the meshing hypothesis), after a critical review of the literature Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, and Bjork (2008) concluded that this hypothesis lacks empirical evidence and subsequently described the experimental design needed to evaluate the meshing hypothesis. Following the design of Pashler et al., we empirically investigated the effect of learning style preference with college-educated adults, specifically as applied to (a) verbal comprehension aptitude (listening or reading) and (b) learning based on mode of instruction (digital audiobook or e-text). First, participants’ auditory and visual learning style preferences were established based on a standardized adult learning style inventory. Participants were then given a verbal comprehension aptitude test in both oral and written forms. Results failed to show a statistically significant relationship between learning style preference (auditory, visual word) and learning aptitude (listening comprehension, reading comprehension). Second, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups that received the same instructional material from a nonfiction book, but each in a different instructional mode (digital audiobook, e-text), and then completed a written comprehension test immediately and after 2 weeks. Results demonstrated no statistically significant relationship between learning style preference (auditory, visual word) and instructional method (audiobook, e-text) for either immediate or delayed comprehension tests. Taken together, the results of our investigation failed to statistically support the meshing hypothesis either for verbal comprehension aptitude or learning based on mode of instruction (digital audiobook, e-text).


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Interesting: learning is good for health teachers

Teaching is a stressful job, as most of us teachers know. Several studies have indicated that there is a connection between learning and health. In a recently published study from University West and Linnaeus University the researchers found that the health of school teachers is related to their level of work integrated learning.

Update: As Jan Tishauser reacted on Twitter on this post, the title can be confusing as this study shows a correlation. They think it’s a causal relation because of previous research, but only establish a correlation them selves.

From the press release:

A random sample of 229 teachers at 20 schools in Västra Götaland responded to a questionnaire which included previously tested measures of health, quality and work integrated learning. The resulting data showed a highly significant statistical correlation between the measures.

This indicates that in order to be healthy, teachers need not only teach — they must also learn and develop themselves. An ultimate state of learning is characterised by a sensation of flow, which has been described by researchers as a state of complete immersion in an activity in a way that is maximally effective while at the same time highly enjoyable. In the study, was also tested the relationship between an operationalised measure of flow and the health of the teachers and again there were a strong correlation.

According to Yvonne Lagrosen, Associate Professor in Quality Management at University West, a sense of flow implies that the workload is perceived as lower.

“Doing something that you are interested in, gives you a positive stimulation and the workload seems less high. At the same time, the challenge cannot be too big, there must be a balance between the demands an your own control of your work situation.

“What this research indicates is that to be healthy, we need to constantly learn and develop, in our profession and as people. If we enjoy our work to the extent that we are completely absorbed in it, as in the state of flow, we should have the optimal possibilities for a healthy influence from our work. So find a job that you really enjoy and make sure that you learn and develop at it,” said Yvonne Lagrosen.

The study was conducted by Yvonne Lagrosen and her fellow researcher and husband Stefan Lagrosen, former researcher at University West, now Professor in Business Administration at Linneaus University.

Abstract of the study:

– The purpose of this paper is to examine relationships between quality management health dimensions, employee health, flow and work integrated learning in primary schools. Previous research has indicated relationships between quality management and health. In this study, the role that work integrated learning plays in the connection between quality and health is investigated.

– The study object has been a number of schools. A quantitative survey has been carried out. A random sample of 20 primary schools, of which 13 (65 per cent) agreed to participate, was selected. Questionnaires to their 301 employees were delivered and 229 (76 per cent) were returned. The reliability of the items were analysed with Cronbach’s alpha test. The statistical relationships between the items were studied with Pearson’s correlation test.

– The results show that the items are reliable. Moreover, statistical correlations between work integrated learning on the one hand and employee health, quality management health dimensions and flow on the other hand are found.

Research limitations/implications
– One limitation is that the research has only been carried out in schools and the possibilities of generalising the findings to other sectors are uncertain. Research implications are the relationships that have been identified between work integrated learning and the other factors.

Practical implications
– The knowledge that has resulted from the study should be useful for organisations in their attempts to improve the health status of the employees.

– The relationship between work integrated learning and employee health has not been studied in any other major study.

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Direct and Explicit


Found this blog post via @tombennett71 and it is a very interesting read. For the people who know the Kirschner, Sweller & Clark article, it won’t come as a surprise, but do note that this article has spurred discussion (actually, this book is next on my reading list). The most important element – to me – in this blog post is the urge for replication, but educational research does have some issues here.

Originally posted on Filling the pail:

There was no conspiracy against Ignaz Semmelweis. It’s just that the doctors didn’t like what he had to say.

Semmelweis discovered that if obstetricians washed their hands then this dramatically reduced the incidence of puerperal fever. He linked this to the fact that doctors would often move from examining corpses to examining patients and thought that something was being transferred. So Semmelweis foreshadowed the germ theory of disease.

You might think that his success in cutting mortality rates would be universally welcomed. It wasn’t. Some questioned the validity of his data, suggesting that further studies were needed. Others felt the findings were a bit of an insult to the medical profession because doctors were gentleman and gentlemen’s hands were clean.

The main problem was that it didn’t fit with the prevailing orthodoxy that puerperal fever was complicated and developed in different ways in different patients. Doctors took what might be…

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Funny on Sunday: Scientific research is sometimes like owning a cat

Found this via this tweet.

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Which knowledge?


Last week there was the clear message: a school based on knowledge. Now the answer: which knowledge. Interesting post, very interesting!

Originally posted on Pragmatic Education:

I often ask pupils at family lunch at Michaela what their favourite subject is. Many of them reply, ‘I love every subject, sir!’ What we choose to teach plays a big part in how much our pupils love learning. 

At Michaela, we decide which knowledge to teach based on three principles: schemata,challenge, and coherence.


Our aim is to help pupils remember everything they are learning, and master the most important content. To this end, subject content knowledge is best organised into the most memorable schemata. So we organise history and English literature chronologically. We start in Year 7 with classical antiquity: in History we study Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Roman Britain; in Religion, we study polytheism, The Old and New Testament, Judaism and Christianity; in English, we study Greek mythology, The Odyssey, Roman Rhetoric, epic poetry and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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Confronting video: what it is like in the mind of a person with OCD

Via Larry Ferlazzo I found this video on OCD. OC what?

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. (Wikipedia)

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Good read: “ideas that travel well” in education

Berliner and Glass wrote an interesting article on why a program that sparkles in Maine may fizzle out in Montana. They ask the question “If we can’t depend on program transferability, what’s a leader to do?”. Do read the whole piece, but they conclude with some “Ideas That (May) Travel Well“. I actually do think that the (may) is indeed important.

Here are a few pet ideas that we’ve seen work in one place or another that might offer alternative approaches to school improvement:

  • Stop looking for answers to local problems in Scandinavia or Asia. The United States is neither Finland nor Singapore, and it’s a lot more complex than either.
  • Redraw school attendance areas to achieve socioeconomic balance, and support high-quality early childhood education in those areas.
  • Recognize that teachers work in teams and evaluate them accordingly. Make sure the evaluation system has no consequences for teachers associated with student test scores but does include multiple classroom observations and an evaluation of classroom artifacts—tests, papers, projects, and the like.
  • Eliminate tracking in grades K–6, and eliminate grade retention (“flunking”) completely.
  • Make sure that no school day for students starts earlier than 8:30 a.m.
  • Provide libraries staffed with librarians and counseling offices staffed with enough counselors that they can know students personally.
  • If you don’t like your reading scores, find ways to have students read more, and forget most other systems that claim to improve reading.

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Short and Long Term Consequences of Teachers’ Stereotypical Biases

I found this study via both the NY Times and the Best Evidence in Brief newsletter. The study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that teacher biases in favor of boys in elementary school have a positive effect on boys and a negative effect on girls and that these effects continue through middle and high school. The study at the same time also shows the power of a little encouragement.

From Best Evidence:

The study measured teachers’ gender bias in Tel Aviv, Israel, by comparing test scores marked by teachers in the classroom against scores from blind assessment by external markers. The results suggested an over-assessment of boys, which produced a significant positive effect on male academic achievement and had a significant negative effect on girls.

According to the study, the effects of such gender biases continue into middle and high school and impact on subject choice – such as whether to enroll for advanced mathematics and science courses – that may have long-term implications for occupation choice and earnings.
The largest impact was on children from families where the father was more educated than the mother and on girls from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Early educational experiences have a clear effect on the math and science courses the students will choose later in life, and eventually also will influence the jobs they get and the wages they earn.

Abstract of the study:

In this paper, we estimate the effect of primary school teachers’ gender biases on boys’ and girls’ academic achievements during middle and high school and on the choice of advanced level courses in math and sciences during high school. For identification, we rely on the random assignments of teachers and students to classes in primary schools. Our results suggest that teachers’ biases favoring boys have an asymmetric effect by gender— positive effect on boys’ achievements and negative effect on girls’. Such gender biases also impact students’ enrollment in advanced level math courses in high school—boys positively and girls negatively. These results suggest that teachers’ biased behavior at early stage of schooling have long run implications for occupational choices and earnings at adulthood, because enrollment in advanced courses in math and science in high school is a prerequisite for post-secondary schooling in engineering, computer science and so on. This impact is heterogeneous, being larger for children from families where the father is more educated than the mother and larger on girls from low socioeconomic background.

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