Myths & Low-effect

Myths, fads and low effect-size methods and policies

The easiest way to improve learning is to STOP doing things which have little effect, especially when it either takes a lot of time or money.  There are at least 50 things which are better to do than those on this list.

Sources include the things at the bottom of Hattie’s list and the EEF list (see under ‘Evidence’)

Also:  see this from Australian site

Myths about the brain Detail of myth
  1. Fixed intelligence
Intelligence is fixed by our genes
  1. Fixed learning difficulties
You have learning difficulties for life, they cannot change
  1. Critical periods for learning
If you miss the ‘time window’, the child cannot learn after that
  1. Enriched environments for young children
They need especially stimulating activities, early tuition etc
  1. 10% of the brain
Most of the brain is unused
  1. Left brain – Right brain
Some people are dominant on one side or the other
  1. Gender differences
Girls and boys need to be taught differently
  1. Learning Styles/Preferences
Everyone has a preferred way to learn, eg visual, auditory or kinaesthetic
  1. Neuro-linguistic programming
A commercial product
  1. Brain hydration
If students do not have water available at all times their brains will not function properly
  1. Brain foods
Special foods are needed


Ineffective methods 
  1. Play them Mozart
Certain types of music aid learning
  1. Brain Gym
Exercises which stimulate the brain or join the halves together
  1. Teacher subject knowledge
Experts in their subject (eg PhD or commercial experience) make better teachers
  1. Longer Initial Teacher Training
Longer training makes better teachers
  1. Ability grouping
Mixed ability is always worse
  1. Repeating a year
S/he failed this year, so should repeat it
  1. Increased testing and marking
The more marking the teacher does, the better
  1. Challenging homework
Homework is effective if it is difficult
  1. Changing the length of the lesson
Shorter (or longer) lessons are more effective
  1. Late start for adolescents
After puberty, students need to start later in the morning
  1. Management reorganisation
Changing job-titles, job-descriptions and structure regularly
  1. School finances
The more money, the better the results
  1. Students outcomes linked to poverty
Poor children inevitably do less well
  1. Charter schools
Freedom from Local Authority control will improve learning
  1. Aspiration interventions
Simply increasing aspirations will help students learn more
  1. Financial incentives for students
Pay them by results and they get better grades


Expensive, low effect methods 
  1. Reduce class sizes
Smaller class always do better
  1. New buildings
Old building cause less learning
  1. Non-specialist information technology
New computers and interactive whiteboards improve learning
  1. Untrained teaching assistants
Any help is better than no help
  1. Staff development with no follow-up
Any training session will help the learning.  Teachers don’t need to practice.


Training in Evidence-Based Teaching is available from the Evidence Based Teachers Network.