Every professional field has its myths that don’t stand up to scrutiny. It would be perfectly understandable in education if we were confronted with the challenges of myths held by parents and other lay people. After all, we continually are reminded that everyone went to school and therefore has their own perceptions about how school should be.
However, what worries me far more than our need as educators to educate the parents about what they should want and need for their children is when there are educators who continue to advocate for old orthodoxies even though they are thoroughly discredited as myths without substance.
John Hattie, Australian educator has made his career analyzing vast quantities of meta-analysis data to determine what does and doesn’t produce tangible results in education. Here’s a good article from NPR in which Hattie sets out three myths that need to be buried;
Of the five points that are highlighted as largely ineffective (or at least on their own) is small class sizes. The reality is that masses of research has failed to show the benefits of small class sizes that so many expect.
Hattie terms his research and findings “Visible Learning”. If I have an issue it’s that he starts with the big assumption that they only real things that matter to us in schools are academic learning, as measured through standardised and summative tests and exams. Nevertheless, to the extent that those things do matter, his research provides very useful guides for educators about what produces better academic results and what has little or no impact.
If the article linked above highlights what Hattie’s research suggests doesn’t work, here are two videos that suggest the things that he sees as offering better enhancement to pupil learning: