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:
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:
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.
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.
Sorry for the swear words, but this is too good advice not to share or to wait for a Funny on Sunday: