A few thoughts and ideas

Learning Styles and the prevalence of saleable education products.

I wrote this in reply to an email from a colleague who sent me this link.


Informed educators have been pushing back against learning styles for years. Though you can use them in some low-stakes ways to enrich some teaching.

The use of educationally-related ideas to manufacture saleable products is a problem. Teachers who don’t have the time to filter the good from the ‘snake oil’ are sold millions of dollars of rubbish every year. The problem is that schools invest effort, ¬†time and money in promising programs that give little value and merely divert teachers’ energy. As a consequence we have innovation fatigue in many of our experienced workforce.

Even Habits of Mind and Growth Mindset frameworks, that have a lot of potential to engage students in the learning process, have their share of ‘product placement’. Similarly, John Hattie’s work has spawned a pretty lucrative industry of speakers, programs, resources etc.

The trick, I think, is to take the bits that work in a given context and guard against the faddism of the rest. This is actually quite hard as teachers and schooling systems are always looking for prepackaged programs that ‘just work’.

The need for prepackaged and easy to deliver products is driven by the complexity of modern schooling and is linked to real and perceived characteristics of staff capacity and skillsets. But, that’s another PhD!

A particular concern of mine is the growth of well-being programs which are quite hard to justify but are a current draw to schools. That is not to say that the principles are wrong but, as Hattie would guide, we should be making intelligent selections bass on empirical evidence.

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