Blog Archives

What Makes a Top Teacher?

3-Star learning experiences

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

What Makes a Top Teacher? This is a question with both a simple and a complex answer (and probably a whole spectrum in between). First, the simple answer. A top teacher is someone whose efforts inside and outside the classroom have a positive effect on a student’s learning progress, meaning an increase of knowledge and skills. The more progress, the better the teacher.

We can already hear some people mocking or expressing their anger and disgust. “Oh, dear!”, they’ll say (if they try to be polite). They’ll go on to grumble that this is such an old-fashioned thing to say and that a school in the 21st century shouldn’t teach kids ‘things’ but should rather help them to become curious, adaptive and engaged individuals with strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, give them grit, make them flexible team workers, and so forth. They might…

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by | October 2, 2018 · 7:24 pm

Chess in Schools: Holy Grail or Snake Oil?

3-Star learning experiences

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

holy grail chess

‘Armenia makes chess compulsory in schools’, according to this article in the Guardian. Armenian authorities claim that chess is the key to success in school and life. By playing chess, children not only learn how to think creatively and strategically, they also get better at solving problems and become more intelligent. Even better (notice the slightly sarcastic tone here), this creativity, problem-solving, and other similar good stuff, isn’t just specific for chess. The promise is, that it will generalise to other subjects AND to life in general (near and far transfer). In other words, chess seems to be the holy grail!

What the Armenian authorities actually claim is that learning how to play chess on the one hand is the key to developing generic skills (in particular problem-solving) and on the other hand is a vital element when it comes to generic traits

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by | May 21, 2018 · 11:41 am

Logical Fallacies: Don’t Let Them Fool You

Great post by Mirjam and Paul 🙂

3-Star learning experiences

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Sometimes people use bogus arguments in the form of logical fallacies (arguments where the conclusion does not follow from the premises) to oppose facts or viewpoints and, ultimately to bamboozle a discussion. Below you’ll find a nice overview of twenty most often used type of ‘luring’ fallacies. We’re writing this blog hoping that you’ll learn to spot them and kick ’m in the butt instead of letting them fool you (or worse, using them yourselves)!


Let’s look at some examples.


Basically, the strawman is an intentionally misrepresented response that’s set up as an easy way to defeat the opponent’s true argument. In other words, the person throwing in the strawman doesn’t respond to the actual point that an opponent makes but to a caricatural version of it.


In the learning space, there are some common strawmen. For example, in response to the argument that…

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by | May 16, 2018 · 7:44 pm

Direct Instruction Gets No Respect (But It Works)

3-Star learning experiences

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in the US, recently published a blog (overall worth a visit!) in which he called direct instruction the Rodney Dangerfield of curricula. Rodney Dangerfield was an American comedian who constantly complained that he didn’t get any respect, no matter what he did. Poor Rodney.

The same seems to be true for direct instruction, which is sad.

First, let’s explore what direct instruction is. To begin, there is not one, but rather two types! The first is Direct Instruction (with capital DI). This is a model for instruction that emphasises well-developed, carefully planned lessons, focussing on small learning steps with clearly defined and prescribed learning tasks. This model was founded by the American Siegfried Engelmann (Oregon University).

DI 2

His theory is that clear instruction should eliminate misconceptions and will/could…

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by | May 8, 2018 · 5:53 pm

Why Myths Are Like Zombies

3-Star learning experiences

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a zombie as “a person or reanimated corpse that has been turned into a creature capable of movement but not of rational thought, which feeds on human flesh”.

While except in the most primitive cultures zombies are fictional, in education they are real, they exist and they thrive! You see them as approaches to teaching and learning (educational myths) that continue to exist and even spread though they have long been proven to be untrue. Paraphrasing the definition above, an educational zombie is “a reanimated myth that has been turned into an educational intervention/approach that moves both in time and place, is capable of influencing how we teach, but is not based on rational thought and which feeds on human learning”. And what’s more, they seem almost impossible to eradicate!

But why are educational and learning myths so stubborn?…

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by | April 11, 2018 · 7:20 pm

Where Are the Learning Sciences in Learning Analytics Research?

3-Star learning experiences

Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

In his LAK 2016keynote in Edinburgh Paul Kirschner answered the question ‘What do the learning sciences have to do with learning analytics (LA)?’ with a firm: ‘Just about everything!’ He also noted that in most LA projects and studies, the learning scientist and learning theories are conspicuously absent, which often lead – in his words – to dystopian futures.

The trigger to write this blog was far and foremost a statement that Bart Rienties made in his keynote at EARLI17 (summary and slides here), in which he said that research shows that learning design[1] (LD) has a strong impact on learner behaviour, satisfaction, and performance. This, in itself, isn’t earth shocking for us (we’d expect effective LD; that is LD based on evidence from learning sciences, to positively impact learning and ineffective LD to harm it). However, it’s of tantamount importance…

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by | October 20, 2017 · 6:39 am