Category Archives: Book

While writing our new book…

I’ve waited some time to write this post, hopefully long enough so people won’t be recognized or even worse recognize themselves.

Last week our new book about myths about learning and education was released in Dutch. During the writing process I met some people that showed me why we need to keep up with what Paul, Casper and I are doing.

Take for example the MBTI-trainer I met who acknowledged she knew the theory and tool was utterly nonsense, but explained she kept spreading the word because the CEO’s loved it. Even wore, they would hate the proven model of the Big Five because no leader would want to be called a narcissist. She also stated that any change or reflection she could achieve, was a good thing. But keep up the good work, she said with a smile.

Or what about the professor who wrote a book about education – something that wasn’t his field of expertise. When I pointed out some factual mistakes, he explained to me that he didn’t know that much about education at all. He just wanted to give his own point of view about what is in his opinion wrong with education. That some of the stuff he was spreading could actually harm poor children, surprised him.

There was also the teacher that ended up being mentioned in our book. He was a victim of a school leader who misread the work by Hattie, a professor from ‘Australia’ (sic), making life impossible for the whole team. I was so glad that one of the first things we decided about our book, is to have a critical look at evidence-based education because it’s better to be extra critical for what you belief in.

Luckily most teachers I met during the past years wanted the best for their students. It’s them we want to support and inform. We will never ever blame a teacher for believing in things that are incorrect or more nuanced. They can’t spent the time we did on factchecking. Teachers want and need to be there for their students.

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Filed under Book, Education, Myths

What has happened today…

Today Paul Kirschner, Casper Hulshof and myself have published a new book. But wait before you start looking for it, it’s only available in Dutch for now.  But don’t panic, 2 weeks ago we submitted the English version to the publisher. We explored and examined over 30 new myths again using the 3 labels from our first book (myth, nuanced and we don’t know because lack of research).

I’ll keep you posted about the different release dates of the English version hopefully later this year!

Oh, and Augustijn released his first album also today. Why do I mention that? Well, guess who was the producer?

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Filed under Book, Pop Music

Stop using long words to look smart or thrustworthy

I have been reading a lot lately and there is something I need to share. It’s an older study by Daniel Oppenheimer, but it seems a lot of the authors didn’t hear about it yet. The title of the study? Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity.

Oh you, didn’t get that? The subtitle will make it much more clear: problems with using long words needlessly.

I summarized this also in The Ingredients for Great Teaching:

If you are a speaker, it is obviously of vital importance that the people listening to you can understand what you are saying. There is no point in blinding your audience with the eloquence of your words. Nowhere is this truer than in the classroom, otherwise you run the risk that the pupils will stop listening. While research has shown that intelligent people are more inclined to use difficult words, it is ironic to note that other research suggests that the use of difficult words makes you seem less intelligent (Pennebakern, & King, 1999)! In three simple experiments, Daniel Oppenheimer (2006) has demonstrated that fluent texts with simple language are more positively assessed by readers. This does not mean that you should never learn jargon or must eliminate difficult words from your vocabulary. But the more easily a reader or listener is able to digest your message, the more highly you will be regarded as a speaker or writer.


  • Pennebaker, J.W., & King, L.A. (1999). Linguistic styles: language use as an individual diffe- rence. Journal of personality and social psychology, 77(6), 1296.
  • Oppenheimer, D.M. (2006). Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20(2), 139-156.

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Filed under Book, Psychology

Differentiation based on prior knowledge

I wrote this post as a guest post for the popular blog by Larry Ferlazzo, high time I share it here too:

One of the biggest possible differences between learners, is their prior knowledge. And this matters a lot as prior knowledge can have a huge influence on what pupils learn.

Let me explain this with an often used example: chess. If you don’t know a lot about the game you won’t be able to understand a lot of the following chess board situation and it will be difficult to read the explanation you read in the post about this game:

This will be much different if you are an experienced chess player. Than there is a big chance you will enjoy what you see and probably learn a thing or two from what you read.But how can we differentiate based on prior knowledge?

For my book The Ingredients for Great Teaching I tried to figure out one of the most simple forms of differentiation, one we have been using in our teaching training department for some time now. Try this in a lesson in which you experienced before that the differences in prior knowledge between your pupils or students are huge.

First step: what prior knowledge to your learners need to understand what will be taught. I don’t mean what will be discussed in class, but what they need to have learned before. This excerpt from my book now continues:

After you have decided what prior knowledge your pupils need, choose five core words that they should already know if they possess this knowledge. The pupils who can describe four or five of the core words with relative ease can immediately be allowed to explore the subject of the lesson by themselves. For pupils who know three core words (or perhaps even four, but still don’t really feel confident), you should provide a short text that refreshes their memory of the themes involved (this text is some-times referred to as an advanced organizer). The pupils who know just one or two (or even none) of the words need to be taken aside and given direct instruction by the teacher, so that they can then work independently later on in the lesson, once they have gained the necessary prior knowledge.

Is it a miracle solution? Of course not, there aren’t that many in education, but it sure can help so give it a try. Oh, btw, in my experience this works best if you work together as a team when discussing what prior knowledge is needed

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Filed under Book, Education

This blog in 2018

The end of the year is here, a great moment to look back with two top 5’s.

These are the posts written in 2018 that were read the most:

  1. Double meta-analysis on Growth Mindset: how big are the effects really?
  2. Great video on Tuesday: Alternative Math (did I mention that it it is a great video?
  3.  A small review of the new book by Andreas Schleicher: World Class
  4. Are most classic theories on education fundamentally flawed? Meet the Puer Educatione
  5. A new study on learning styles and guess what?

The second top 5 are older posts that were read the most the post year, with the number one still being read over 7000 times!

  1. Science myths: did Einstein fail his fourth grade math class?
  2. Famous psychology study ‘killed by replication’: does a pencil in your mouth make you feel happy?
  3. Devil’s advocate. A plea against Prince Ea (Casper Hulshof)
  4. So you want to compare educational systems from different countries? Where to start?
  5. What are the differences between TIMSS and PISA?

What to expect for next year? More posts, more research and… more books! The Ingredients for Great Teaching is still forcing me to travel the world, but in February the Dutch version of the second installment of our Urban Myths book will be published, with the English version due to be published world wide near the end of 2019!

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Filed under Book, This blog

The 2 presentations I gave at #rEDPret

Today I gave 2 presentations in Pretoria, South Africa for ResearchED.

The first one was about Urban Myths about Learning and Education:

And I also did one on my new book The Ingredients for Great Teaching:

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Filed under Book, On the road

What if this study is correct and believing in neuromyths doesn’t matter?

There is a new interesting study published in Frontiers on how the believe in neuromyths doesn’t seem to matter as the best teachers believe as much in neuromyths as regular teachers. You can check the study here and read a good analysis by Christian Jarrett at BPS Digest here. Ok, I want to add maybe just one thing to the analysis. The researchers picked teachers that were selected as winners of best teacher elections. The authors acknowledge this is a weak spot, as we don’t know how those teachers were selected. If you read the new book by Dylan William, you will discover how it’s almost impossible to find out which teachers are actually really good or which ones are doing a bad job. It’s hard to observe the difference between a bad teacher having a good day and a great teacher having a bad day.

It may surprise you that at first I really hoped this study to be correct, and for several reasons, such as:

  • it would make my life much easier as I can stop writing about myths and move on,
  • our children would have great teachers even if they believe in nonsense.

But next I remembered that previous research has shown over and over again that people who are really interested in the brain, are easier caught in neuromyths. So it seems not implausible that really good teachers just look for a lot of stuff that may help them to become even better teachers. Which is nice, and I think actually the case.

But than I suddenly realized how dangerous this result can potentially be. Imagine it to be correct it could also mean that whatever we teach our teachers, it has little impact. In that case quid teacher training? Sad thing is, if you look at the work by John Hattie there is sometimes a case there to be made. But it would maybe also mean that one can teach and others just can’t… by nature. Because their knowledge doesn’t make much of a difference.

Of course it’s all a bit more complicated than that and there are probably often a lot of difference between what people think and how they act, and even more: sometimes how a teacher acts will be similar despite believing or not believing a myth, because the action is the same but there is a different reasoning behind it.

But I do want to argue that the authors of the study have overlooked a potential danger of neuromyths. Teaching those myths often take away important time of professional development and teacher training, time that isn’t spent on effective methods. Another possible explanation of the results could well be: even the best teachers don’t know these excellent techniques. In that case it means there is still a lot to gain. Which again is good news. Well, kind of.

In the meantime I need to get back to writing our second book on myths about learning and education.


Filed under Book, Myths, Research, Review

My presentation for #rED18: The Ingredients for Great Teaching

Check the book here!

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Filed under Book, Education, On the road

While writing…

As some of you may know, Paul, Casper and myself are very busy working on the follow up book on urban myths about learning and education. The past few weeks I’ve read so many sources and so many papers my head is spinning.

But there is one thing I really want to share. In our previous book we’ve debunked a lot of old theories but in writing this book I also discovered that sometimes people already new where it’s at even over a 100 years ago and it seems that what have happened ever since is people trying to show the original insights to be incorrect. Without much success, btw.

Compare it with the forgetting curve by Ebbinghaus. We know how fast one forgets and that you need to start studying in time, but still… students keep postponing their study time.

Maybe it’s human not to accept an insight, could well be. But somehow it’s sad if you need to debunk something by writing that somebody in 1901 probably was correct and still is, despite the many attempts to prove him wrong.

Sorry that I’m a bit vague in this post, but as long our work isn’t reviewed yet, I’m very hesitant to share anything concrete.


Filed under Book

The Ingredients for Great Teaching, my presentation at #EducationFest

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Filed under Book, Education