Myth Busting

Education is pervaded by powerful myths which lower expectations, constrain teacher practice, and misdirect resources. Here are some challenges to some of those myths.

Training in effective practice

 

Myth Busting

Learning Styles, science, practice and Disneyland (Willingham D 2013) 

Daniel Willingham urges caution with the interpretation and application of learning styles. While varying the modes of presentation in a teaching sequence can be helpful, basing a theory of learning on the tenuous evidence base is quite another.

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The Myth of Learning Styles (Reiner C and Willingham D 2010) changemag.org website
A clear and compelling outline showing that the concept of learning styles is not only unproven, but that it can distract educators from useful scientific findings about how students differ and how these differences impact on learning. The implications for higher education are discussed, and these may be usefully generalised to other educational settings. 

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Behavior Watch: Is Alfie Kohn Conning You? (Daniels A undated) The Aubrey Daniels Institute website

Aubrey Daniels takes a well-deserved scalpel to the appealing, but ultimately destructive, myths propagated by Alfie Kohn - in particular, the idea that conditionality is coercive. Daniels argues forcefully that “all behaviour that matters is conditional”. Daniels also points out the shakiness of the ‘research’ that Kohn uses to support his opinions.

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Is Brain Gym an Effective Educational Intervention? (Spaulding L, Mostert, M & Beam A, 2010)

An analysis of the theoretical basis and scientific evidence for Brain Gym. The authors note the generally defunct theories upon which the approach seems to be based, and the problems with the 'evidence base', much of which is promulgated by Brain Gym International and which is not of a sufficently rigorous standard to bear scientific examination. There is an extensive reference list. 

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The Left Brain / Right Brain Myth (CERI, undated)

"According to the concept of hemisphericity, information is processed in different ways in the two brain hemispheres." This article from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), part of the OECD, begins by summing up the popular theories of left brain / right brain processing. While these may seem intuitively appealing, the final section of the article demonstrates that there is no scientific foundation to such claims. 

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Keeping An Eye on Reading: is difficulty with reading a visual problem? (Hempenstall, K 2013)

This article reviews the theoretical approaches and evidence for theories of visual processing as an underlying cause of reading difficulties, including the use of Irlen glasses to reduce 'visual stress'. Hempenstall argues that in the face of little or no empirical evidence to support such notions, educators should focus on improving the quaity of instruction for those who struggle. 

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Irlen Tinted Lenses and Overlays (Hyatt K J 2010): Macquarie University Special Education Centre MUSEC Briefings: Issue 22

A short summary of the research on using tinted lenses to address reading difficulties. The conclusion is that the technique is unsupported and may cause unnecessary expense to families whilst diverting funding from evidence-based reading interventions.

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Annotation: Does Dyslexia Exist? (Stanovich, K E 1994): Journal of Child Psychology and Psychology Vol 35 No 4

Stanovich outlines the issues in defining 'dyslexia', and examines the lack of empirical evidence for the long-standing assumption that it is defined by a discrepancy between (low) reading performance and high IQ. This 'folk belief' has not only become pervasive in the media but also in educational research and practice. 

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Dyslexia: Diagnoses, Debates and Diatribes (Elliot, J G 2010 Education Canada Vol 46 (2)):  Canadian Education Association

Julian Elliot explores the proposition that “there is no clear evidence that there exists a particular teaching approach that is more suitable for a dyslexic subgroup than for other poor readers”; nor is there a useful definition of dyslexia which allows us to distinguish between such groups. Elliot does not discount the struggles of those who have had difficulty with reading; but on the other hand, the degree of attachment people have to this label suggests that its function is partly an emotional response to the ways in which poor readers have been humiliated rather than helped. 

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Dyslexia: a big expensive myth (Mills, D 15 January 2007): The Telegraph

In 2005, David Mills produced a documentary which aroused a storm of controversy. Mills made the point that if dyslexia, as a distinct condition, is indeed a myth, then enormous resources are being diverted to those allocated this definition, while other students equally in need of instruction miss out because they do not fit an unverified definition. Here, he reviews the evidence for his stance, and discusses the responses to it. The article is followed by a short but useful outline of the importance of phonemic awareness.  

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The Dyslexia Myth

The documentary referred to above, produced by David Mills: ‘Dispatches exposes the myths and misconceptions that surround a condition said to affect 10 per cent of the population. The Dyslexia Myth argues that the common understanding of dyslexia is not only false but makes it more difficult to provide the reading help that hundreds of thousands of children desperately need.’

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Dyslexia or Dysteachia? (Engelmann, S - Children of the Code)

In this interview, Zig Engelmann discusses the reasons for reading failure and what is required for effective instruction that prevents and remediates such failure. 

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Ten Faulty Notions About Teaching and Learning That Hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education (Heward, W L 2003) The Journal of Special Education. 2003 Winter; 36 (4): 186 – 205.

Professor William Heward addresses a series of common and deep-rooted beliefs which, while flying in the face of scientific evidence, are widely believed and followed by educators. He proposes three ways in which the profession can adopt more scientifically-based practices.

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The Myths and Facts About Direct Instruction (Killian S 2014) Pinnacle Education

As soon as Direct Instruction begins to have an effect, objectors appear in the media. In Australia, politicians admired the impact of DI with poorer, disadvantaged communities with predictable results. This article answers the misleading claims made about the programme by its opponents.

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Myths About Direct Instruction and Research That Refutes Those Myths (undated) Tarver S: University of Wisconsin

Myths in education do not merely promote unsound definitions leading to imbalanced responses. There are powerful political and philosophical currents which give rise to discrimination and misinformation about effective methodology which does not “fit”. Direct Instruction has come in for more than its fair share of such myths. Here Sarah Tarver dissects and debunks the most common of these misconceptions.

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Myths and Truths About Direct Instruction (1998) Tarver S G: Effective School Practices

A more detailed discussion of the myths and misrepresentations that are actively promoted about Direct Instruction. Tarver refutes these claims and questions why educators refuse to acknowledge successful teaching methods. 

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