Debunk The Educational Nonsense

If there is something we are seeing more and more of these days that is teachers challenging education myths.

I’ve written about these folklores and legends before because I care about what happens in the classroom.

If there is one thing we know, schools are full of rubbish and we can’t have that.

There are plenty of examples of initiatives and strategies that somehow manage to get a foothold in a school (or a whole educational system) that are pure garbage.

The thing is there are so many of them its worrying to think that someone somewhere will be teaching something that is just bosh and tosh.

Litter Pickers

Teachers are privileged to work in a system where ideas can be shared and discussed and it is our professional responsibility to get things right and actively challenge distortions, half-truths and spin.

If we see misinformation rubbish then we need to pick it up and get rid of it not just walk over it.

Learning styles is a prime example of classroom litter we need to bin (VAK has been widely discredited but it is still entrenched in the psyche of some as the way we learn). Learning styles is toxic waste so you may need to wear full body protection!

You could of course join a club of like-minded professionals and expose and discredit the crap out there.

Will Thalheimer is certainly one of the best educational litter pickers we have and he has formed the Debunkers Club which I urge you to sign-up for.

Anyone can join the Debunkers but you have to agree to the following:

  1. I would like to see less misinformation in the learning field.
  2. I will invest some of my time in learning and seeking the truth, from sources like peer-reviewed scientific research or translations of that research.
  3. I will politely, but actively, provide feedback to those who transmit misinformation.
  4. More than a few times per year, I will actively advocate to debunk misinformation, EITHER by seeking out providers of misinformation and providing them with polite feedback, OR publicly posting debunking information on social media, etc. (or doing both).
  5. I will be open to counter feedback, listening to understand opposing viewpoints. I will provide counter-evidence and argument when warranted.

While I was researching some of the great myths of education and learning I came across Tomasz Jankowski, an e-learning methodologist. He had posed 10 questions to Will Thalheimer and I found one of these in particular relevant to this blog.

Tomasz presented Will with 9 learning myths and asked him to rank them in order from the most harmful to the least harmful. Will said that putting them in any sort of order was hard but he’d comment on them instead – his responses are fascinating and well worth a read so head over to Tomasz’s site for more.

  1. Learning styles
  2. Dale’s Cone of Learning with % (people remember 10%…)
  3. Presentation of learning objectives to the learners
  4. People forget 90% of what they learned after 7 days
  5. 70:20:10 model and 10% formal learning
  6. We only use 10% of our brains…
  7. MBTI is valid
  8. Elearning is less expensive than classroom learning
  9. Feedback to learners should always be immediate

Although Will doesn’t rank the myths, one of the most popular blogs he has written relates to Dale’s Cone of Learning – this is a whopper of a myth and so has to be up there in the top 3. In his blog Will reminds us

The fact that our field is so easily swayed by the mildest whiffs of evidence suggests that we don’t have sufficient mechanisms in place to improve what we do. Because we’re not able or willing to provide due diligence on evidence-based claims, we’re unable to create feedback loops to push the field more forcefully toward continuing improvement. Isn’t it ironic? We’re supposed to be the learning experts, but because we too easily take things for granted, we find ourselves skipping down all manner of yellow-brick roads.

Tomasz also makes reference to a useful debunking handbook by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky which is also an interesting read.

Will is one of my go-to sources for debunking – another is Ben Goldacre – we need more people like this to spread the truth and help us get education cleaned up.

2 thoughts on “Debunk The Educational Nonsense

    • June 26, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Tomasz,

      Not a problem – it needs to be more widely read and hopefully it will get more traction. Great work on your part.


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