Myths and ineffective methods

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One way to apply the evidence to our teaching is to avoid doing what’s proven to not work, so on this page you’ll find a summary of what not to do!

 

Using research to inform our teaching methods is invaluable, but we can also learn a lot from what research tells us about the least effective methods and policies. On this page you’ll find lists and explanations of what not to do – myths about the brain, the least effective methods and policies, and methods which are expensive but ineffective.

Our list is below, but you might also find this article helpful. It’s called “Dispelling educational myths” and it’s based on John Hattie’s research.

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Myths about the brain

The “fixed intelligence” myth

Intelligence is fixed by our genes.

The “fixed learning difficulties” myth

A person who has learning difficulties has them for life and can’t change them.

The “critical periods for learning” myth

There are specific windows of time for learning. If you miss the window, the child can’t learn after that.

The “enriched environments for young children” myth

Young children need especially stimulating activities, early tuition, and so on.

The “10% of the brain” myth

Most of the brain is unused – we only use 10% of it.

The “gender differences” myth

Girls and boys need to be taught differently.

The “left brain/ right brain” myth

People are dominant on one side or the other.

The “learning styles/ preferences” myth

Everyone has a preferred way to learn. A popular model is of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learning styles.

The “neuro-linguistic programming” myth

Neuro-linguistic programming is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy.

The “brain hydration” myth

Students need to have water available at all times, otherwise their brains won’t function properly.

The “brain foods” myth

There are certain foods that boost brain function.

The “fixed intelligence” myth

The “fixed learning difficulties” myth
.

The “critical periods for learning” myth
.

The “enriched environments for young children” myth
.

The “10% of the brain” myth

The “left brain/ right brain” myth

The “gender differences” myth

The “learning styles/ preferences” myth
.
.

The “neuro-linguistic programming” myth
.
.

The “brain hydration” myth
.

The “brain foods” myth

Intelligence is fixed by our genes.

A person who has learning difficulties has them for life and can’t change them.

There are specific windows of time for learning. If you miss the window, the child can’t learn after that.

Young children need especially stimulating activities, early tuition, and so on.

Most of the brain is unused – we only use 10% of it.

People are dominant on one side or the other.

Girls and boys need to be taught differently.

Everyone has a preferred way to learn. A popular model is of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learning styles.

Neuro-linguistic programming is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy.

Students need to have water available at all times, otherwise their brains won’t function properly.

There are certain foods that boost brain function.

Ineffective methods and policies

The ineffective “music by Mozart” method

The ineffective “brain gym” method
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The ineffective “teacher subject knowledge” method
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The ineffective “longer Initial Teacher Training” method

The ineffective “ability grouping” method
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The ineffective “repeating a year” method

The ineffective “increased testing and marking” method

The ineffective “challenging homework” method

The ineffective “lesson lengths” method

The ineffective “later morning start” method
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The ineffective “management reorganisation” method
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The ineffective “school finances” method

The ineffective “outcomes are linked to poverty” method

The ineffective “charter schools” method
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The ineffective “aspiration interventions” method

The ineffective “financial incentives” method
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Certain types of music aid learning.

Brain gym involves exercises which stimulate the brain or join the two halves of the brain together.

Experts in their subject (academic or industry experience) make better teachers.

Longer training makes better teachers.
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Mixed ability groups do worse than similar ability groups.

A student who fails should repeat a year.

The more marking a teachers does, the better.
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Homework is effective if it’s difficult.

Shorter or longer lessons are more effective.

During adolescence, students need to start the day later in the morning.

Changing job titles, job descriptions, and structure regularly to improve teaching and learning.

The more money, the better the results.

Children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds do less well.

Freedom from Local Authority control improves learning.

Increasing aspirations helps students to learn more.

Giving students a financial incentive based on exam results helps them to achieve higher grades.

The ineffective “music by Mozart” method

Certain types of music aid learning.

The ineffective “brain gym” method

Brain gym involves exercises which stimulate the brain or join the two halves of the brain together.

The ineffective “teacher subject knowledge” method

Experts in their subject (academic or industry experience) make better teachers.

The ineffective “longer Initial Teacher Training” method

Longer training makes better teachers.

The ineffective “ability grouping” method

Mixed ability groups do worse than similar ability groups.

The ineffective “repeating a year” method

A student who fails should repeat a year.

The ineffective “increased testing and marking” method

The more marking a teachers does, the better.

The ineffective “challenging homework” method

Homework is effective if it’s difficult.

The ineffective “lesson lengths” method

Shorter or longer lessons are more effective.

The ineffective “later morning start” method

During adolescence, students need to start the day later in the morning.

The ineffective “management reorganisation” method

Changing job titles, job descriptions, and structure regularly to improve teaching and learning.

The ineffective “school finances” method

The more money, the better the results.

The ineffective “outcomes are linked to poverty” method

Children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds do less well.

The ineffective “charter schools” method

Freedom from Local Authority control improves learning.

The ineffective “aspiration interventions” method

Increasing aspirations helps students to learn more.

The ineffective “financial incentives” method

Giving students a financial incentive based on exam results helps them to achieve higher grades.

Expensive but ineffective methods and policies

The expensive yet ineffective “reduced class sizes” method

The expensive yet ineffective “new buildings” method
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The expensive yet ineffective “non-specialist IT” method

The expensive yet ineffective “untrained teaching assistants” method

The expensive yet ineffective “staff development with no follow-up” method

Smaller classes do better.
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Students learn more when they are taught in new buildings.

New computers and interactive whiteboards improve learning.

Additional support in the classroom improves student learning, even if the person isn’t trained.

Any training session for teachers improves student learning. Teachers don’t need to practise.

The expensive yet ineffective “reduced class sizes” method

Smaller classes do better.

The expensive yet ineffective “new buildings” method

Students learn more when they are taught in new buildings.

The expensive yet ineffective “non-specialist IT” method

New computers and interactive whiteboards improve learning.

The expensive yet ineffective “untrained teaching assistants” method

Additional support in the classroom improves student learning, even if the person isn’t trained.

The expensive yet ineffective “staff development with no follow-up” method

Any training session for teachers improves student learning. Teachers don’t need to practise.