Opinion – Knowledge is the Road to Joy

The work of E D Hirsch and many others has been cited as pivotal in the recent interest – particularly in the UK and the US – of ‘knowledge-based curriculums’. That’s great, says Will Orr-Ewing – as long as we don’t forget joy.

A knowledge-based approach is on the march in UK schools. For any traditionalist who was working in the early 2000s – when a knowledge-based approach would have been dismissed as boring, reactionary and (thanks to Google) redundant – this must feel like an unexpected victory. It is a mark of how far we have come from the days of the 2007 National Curriculum and the RSA Open Minds Curriculum that the majority of the UK’s most prominent schools and educationalists now publicly favour a knowledge-based (or knowledge-rich) approach and the education minister can proudly call himself a ‘Hirschian’.

With the battle won (in theory if not quite yet in practice) and the victors sweeping the battlefield, finishing off dead and wounded progressives, many educationalists are now moving on from philosophy to implementation. Before they do, it is worth pausing to stake a philosophical claim that might determine the forms this implementation might take. This claim, neglected in debates over the last decade but treasured by older thinkers, is that knowledge – whatever its other educational benefits – brings joy. That knowledge gained is not just a means to other ends but is its own reward, and that this is one of its most important features and benefits. It is understandable that, in the fierce heat of contemporary squabbles, heads and educationalists prefer to talk up the more empirical benefits of a knowledge approach; but, by doing so, they leave the implementation of a knowledge-based approach open to those who would happily squander its joy for its effectiveness. In order to illustrate the way that a knowledge approach is currently advocated, it is necessary to summarise the arguments of its defenders very briefly. There are three main strands, all interrelated and often evoked as one.

1. Knowledge = access. Children need a secure knowledge base to access, firstly, texts of increasing complexity (cf. E D Hirsch, Daniel Willingham, Doug Lemov et al.) and, secondly, higher-order skills such as creativity, interdisciplinary thinking, critical thinking etc. (cf. Dylan Wiliam, Daisy Christodoulou, David Didau, Joe Kirby et al.). Here is a representative quote from Carl Hendrick: ‘The extent to which we can think critically about something is directly related to how much we “know” about that specific domain and “knowing” means changes in long-term memory.’ This contention is sometimes summarised as ‘the Matthew effect’ based on the passage from Matthew’s Gospel: ‘For all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’

2. Knowledge = success. Because higher-order skills, including exam skills, cannot be accessed without knowledge, the best way to prepare for long-term exam success is via a knowledge-rich curriculum. The work of schools such as Michaela and those in the Inspiration Trust exemplify this approach. Christine Counsell, Director of Education for the latter, says: ‘I feel quite passionate about the broad curriculum in key stage 3 serving attainment in GCSE.’

3. Knowledge = power. Building on the two positions above, if schools do not teach knowledge, only those children from more privileged backgrounds whose parents pass on their own knowledge (even if obliviously) will be able to read well, access higher- order skills and achieve exam success. This is the social justice case for a knowledge approach advanced by all of the above, as well as the likes of the West London Free School. See also Michael Young’s concept of ‘powerful knowledge’.

These arguments, prosecuted on Twitter, blogs and at conferences, have generally and rightly won out – remarkably so, given the headwinds of a progressive teaching establishment. And yet, despite the fact that such arguments are often labelled ‘traditional’, they feel rather too bound within late modernity’s norms and values. As you have read in the above, knowledge is almost exclusively presented as a means rather than an end. The search for empirical benefits, able to justify approaches in only instrumentalist terms, has missed the marrow at the heart of knowledge and so risks erecting an educational project as thin and dreary as the orthodoxy it correctly seeks to replace.

Perhaps we need older perspectives – from an Aristotle or a C S Lewis or anyone who might be said to defend a liberal education in the old sense of that phrase – to remind us of just how much we are selling knowledge short. This older view of what knowledge can do is perhaps best encapsulated in the writing of Charlotte Mason, who saw herself both as the inheritor of this ‘liberal education’ tradition and as being charged with spreading its fruits to children of every background in late Victorian and Edwardian England. Here is what a knowledge-based approach meant to her:

‘We launch children upon too arid and confined a life. Personal delight and joy in living is a chief object of education … It is for their own sakes that children should get knowledge. The power to take a generous view of men and their motives, to see where the greatness of a given character lies, to have one’s judgment of a present event illustrated and corrected by historic and literary parallels … these are admirable assets within the power of every one according to the measure of his mind; and these are not the only gains which knowledge affords. The person who can live upon his own intellectual resources and never know a dull hour (though anxious and sad hours will come) is indeed enviable in these days of intellectual inanition, when we depend upon spectacular entertainments pour passer le temps.’

In her writing and in her schools, knowledge was never presented as a means to something else.

She talked of a child’s ‘knowledge-hunger’, an appetite of the mind akin to the appetite of the body for food. Knowledge was inherently ‘delightful’, ‘enlivening’, ‘vitalising’, helping children to see a world that pulsated with meaning. It required no further justification. Beyond the philosophical differences, she also contrasts with today’s defenders of knowledge in the implementation of her vision. There are many interesting ways in which the approaches diverge (and, naturally, converge) but the three summaries below will stand as illustrations:

1. Role of the teacher. It seems fair to say that those that promote knowledge today also tend to favour a heightened role for the teacher than the ‘guide on the side’ proposed by progressives. Many knowledge-rich schools make much of their teachers’ subject knowledge for instance. Mason would not have had a problem with this per se but she worried that a charismatic teacher could get in the way between a child and knowledge. There is an interesting piece by one of her followers on her views on Vygotsky’s ‘scaffolding’, which shows her dislike of the way teachers would often unwittingly come between children and ‘the mountain’ (or what she elsewhere called ‘the feast’) of knowledge through excessive talking. Teachers of course have their role to play in elucidating meaning but their role was one of ‘masterly inactivity’, something which is unlikely to find any favour in contemporary knowledge advocates, who tend to favour direct instruction and other ‘sage on the stage’ roles for the teacher, sometimes going as far as prescribing scripts for teachers.

2. Books vs textbooks. Because Mason feared that teachers often got in the way between children and knowledge, her lessons were rooted in reading. She condemned the way that educationalists ‘wrote down’ to children in ‘dry as dust’ textbooks, diluting the delightful aspects of knowledge, and would have disapproved of the generally pro-textbook stance of knowledge’s defenders today, not to mention the printable worksheets, précis and simplified versions that are still so common across all classrooms today.
She placed her trust not in all books but in certain well- chosen books, especially those with lively narratives and the right expressions, which expertly conveyed meaning from the mind of the author to the mind of the child. The teacher’s role is to elucidate the meaning in the books but not to be the main purveyor of the knowledge itself.

3. Knowledge demonstrated vs teaching to the test. Today’s defenders of knowledge seem to see the UK’s examination system as being a worthy demonstration of their pupils’ knowledge, boasting of high attainment in GCSE or, in the case of private schools, of places won at top senior schools or universities. Mason, on the other hand, worried that any teaching to the test, any academic marks or prizes, winnowed the innate desire within children for knowledge for its own sake. She favoured a method called narration, whereby children told back (either written or out loud) what they had heard or read. Now that schools can boast of their pupils’ knowledge via social media, YouTube etc., where are the demonstrations of that joyful knowledge that Mason would surely have used if she was still alive today? (Her equivalent was to publish a list of substantive nouns and proper nouns written in a typical exam in her schools – e.g. Africa, Alsace- Lorraine, Antigonus, Abdomen, Antennae, Aphis, Antwerp, Alder, etc.) The closest that comes to it are Michaela’s moving videos of their children chanting great poetry, but where are the others?

By aligning a knowledge approach with textbooks, charismatic teaching and excellent examination prep, amongst many other implementations, there is a danger that today’s defenders of knowledge are dampening exactly that aspect of knowledge that makes it so genuinely ‘rich’, ‘powerful’ and delightful. It is time to reclaim joy as the rightful aim of a knowledge-based approach (could it even be hoped that a knowledge approach implemented on Mason’s grounds could go some way to pushing back at the awful incidence of childhood unhappiness we see about us?) and time to experiment with other methods that protect and uphold this worthy goal for a great and liberal education.

Graham Nuthall: Educational research at its best

Professor Emeritus Graham Nuthall, an educational researcher from New Zealand, is credited with one of the longest series of studies of teaching and learning in the classroom that has ever been carried out. A pioneer in his field, his research focused on the classroom, and what impact certain factors – for example, teaching – had on the outcomes of learners. Perhaps his most famous work is The Hidden Lives of Learners, which is increasingly being seen as a seminal text for understanding learning.

Jan Tishauser, programme manager for researchED Netherlands, explores his contribution to the education debate, and why his work is extraordinarily relevant today.

The outcomes of the research that Graham Nuthall conducted into the classroom experience of learners are little known, notwithstanding the far-reaching implications for our classroom practice. He demonstrated the need for formative assessment and discovered which factors influence learning most. He also pinpointed metacognition’s role on learning outcomes.

Nuthall started recording classroom conversations as a student. He kept on doing this during his whole career from 1960 until 2000. In some ways his research was an expedition into unknown territory. His first question was: what actually happens during a lesson? His final research question was: what is the role of ability in learning?

Taking off

It all started in 1960, when Nuthall (at that time a young student) obtained permission from a number of experienced teachers to record their lessons with a number of students. At this time, he had not yet developed a sound design for his research. He was simply driven by curiosity, wondering what actually happens in a lesson. He worked under the assumption that one needs to observe experienced teachers to spot good teaching.

On the surface, his initial results show a seemingly spontaneous interaction between teachers and students; but beneath this surface, his analysis showed set patterns of communication and predictable structures and rules for social interaction. Nuthall replicated his research in the US and Japan; these rituals were identical everywhere. But the purpose of these rituals was not clear at that time. He concluded that ‘like language, teaching has its own underlying grammatical rules’.

Learning that experience makes no difference

In the period between 1968 and 1974, Nuthall and his PhD students started to work with an experimental design. Together with a group of teachers, they scripted a series of lessons about the black-backed gull. They wanted to know whether a teacher’s experience or training influenced the learning of students. They analysed differences between three groups of teachers: experienced teachers, inexperienced teacher trainees and teacher trainees who were trained to analyse their lessons using micro-teaching and recording. The results were rather unexpected: experience and training made no difference; instead it was only the type of feedback the teachers gave and their style of questioning students that mattered.

Dead end

Nuthall and his PhD students thought they were on to something and continued to work with scripted lessons. They worked with experienced teachers, made recordings, did pre and post tests, trying to find the factors that had a positive effect on learning outcomes.

Finally they came up with results: the way teachers gave feedback, questioned students and activated students made a difference. This might not seem so amazing to us now, but in 1974, these were promising results. One of the problems that was brought to the surface through their intensive monitoring of the interactions in the classroom was the enormously complex reality of the classroom. To supplement their findings, they would have to do hundreds of intensive follow-up studies, which would most likely produce an endless, useless list of dos and don’ts. It could lead to a ‘robotification’ of the teacher, while their own research had shown them that this is impossible and undesirable:

‘I realized I was following a path that satisfied the cultural rituals of the research community, but would be of little value to teachers, and probably do them harm.’ Nuthall hit a dead end. He describes this period as ‘roaming in the desert’.

A focus on student learning

Then Adrienne Alton-Lee, an experienced teacher, started working on a PhD in 1978. Her research question focused on the students. What causes a student to learn the course material? In her classroom practice she was unable to predict when a given student would have learned the material and when they would not. Alton-Lee dissected the course material in great detail, down to what she called ‘concepts’ and ‘items’, using a rolodex system. For example, a simple series of lessons on climate could contain as many as 500 items.

What stands out most in Nuthall’s research is that only the ‘three times’ rule has predictive value. Ability or intelligence or similar properties do not.

A ‘concept’ could be: Antarctica is the driest continent. Examples of ‘items’:

  • There is little precipitation.
  • There is more precipitation in the Sahara.
  • Because of the low temperatures the snow never melts.

Every 15 seconds, all student communication and every action was registered, such as what they did, or what they said to themselves and to others. All the material a student encountered was registered and everything a student made or wrote was photographed. This led to a dissertation published in a leading magazine.

Replication crisis

Because Alton-Lee had followed a mere three students, Nuthall decided he needed replication studies. He designed three follow-up studies in order to replicate her findings. Technological advancements made it possible to gather even more information. Linking the students’ learning experiences, the course material and the outcomes seemed to work. Together, they collected a mountain of information.

They identified four simultaneous processes going on:

1. The invisible thinking of the student

2. The self-talk

3. The social interaction between peers (mostly invisible to the teacher)

4. The teacher-led public discussion

The self-talk and interaction between peers is well hidden. This was illustrated by the fact that while each student had an observer, even they missed 40% of the talk that was on tape. Nuthall concluded that the opinions from peers were more important and better believed than the teacher’s opinions, including those related to the course matter.

The study also concluded that:

  • When you start a lesson, half of what you are about to teach is already known.
  • Every student holds a different piece of the puzzle.
  • Almost every student learns something different in your lesson.
  • In practice, they learn more from each other than from the teacher – including misconceptions – which is obviously not always a good thing.

The often-chaotic nature of the classroom explains the function of the rituals that Nuthall found in his first study. The rituals allow the teacher to focus on the class as a whole; the teacher simply doesn’t have the resources to follow individual students. Part of the ritual is the ‘nodding and smiling’ of the students who draw the attention of the teacher. Students also make sure to appear to focus on their work whenever the teacher is in their vicinity. ‘Appear’ is the key word here.

Eureka!

Ultimately, Nuthall decided to precisely map out the learning process of one student in relation to one topic. He analysed the interaction of ‘John’ in regards to the topic ‘The migration to New York’. That’s when some light was finally shed on a recurring pattern.

His analysis of John’s learning experience made it possible to define learning in the following terms: it is a positive change of what we know or can do; it takes place by means of a sequence of events and learning experiences; each experience builds on the previous one and every change in the order of the learning experiences will lead to a different outcome. The learning activities of a student consist of understanding and making sense of the learning experiences. A student understands, learns and remembers a concept if they have encountered all the underlying information three times.

They built on this insight and did one replication study after another with increasing numbers of students, classes and topics. And they could predict with 85% certainty which student would correctly answer which question on a test.

If ability doesn’t matter, what does?

What stands out most in Nuthall’s research is that only the ‘three times’ rule has predictive value. Ability or intelligence or similar properties do not. Yet the ‘better’ students learn more. Nuthall dedicated his last research period to solving this conundrum. These students had more prior knowledge and they profited more from the lessons. The secret seems to be that they make sure to get more out of the lessons. They possess better metacognitive skills; they understand what it takes to get results.

The Hidden Lives of Learners

At the end of his life, Nuthall hastily wrote The Hidden Lives of Learners, drawing these conclusions for the classroom based on his research:

  • Standardised tests appear to offer certainty, but are no more reliable than interviews held with students.
  • Learning activities should be designed to take into account how memory works.
  • The subject matter should be repeated in different ways.
  • Follow the individual learning experience.
  • Less is more: we should confine the curriculum to the big questions. Teachers need the time to design rich learning experiences, conduct pre- tests and get to know the social processes in the class. Learners need the time and the space to really master the content.

Nuthall’s diligent research efforts gave us lasting insights into the fundamentals of learning and teaching. We should take his research into account both in our current teaching practice and in our curriculum design. For me, the two fundamentals are that learning takes time and that it is not necessarily related to ability. The latter is really a finding that should encourage us all to set high goals for ourselves and our students.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Nuthall, G. and Alton-Lee, A. (1993) ‘Predicting learning from student experience of teaching: a theory of student knowledge construction in classrooms’, American Educational Research Journal 30 (4) pp. 799–840.

Nuthall, G. (1999) ‘The way students learn: acquiring knowledge from an integrated science and social studies unit’, Elementary School Journal 99 (4) pp. 303–341.

Nuthall, G. (2004) ‘Relating classroom teaching to student learning: a critical analysis of why research has failed to bridge the theory- practice gap’, Harvard Educational Review 74 (3) pp. 273–306.

Nuthall, G. (2007) The hidden lives of learners. Wellington: NZCER Press.

Nuthall, G. (2012a) ‘Understanding what students learn’ in Kaur, B. (ed.) Understanding teaching and learning. Rotterdam: Sense, pp. 1–40.

Nuthall, G. (2012b) ‘The acquisition of conceptual knowledge in the classroom: a case study’ in Kaur, B. (ed.) Understanding teaching and learning. Rotterdam: Sense, pp. 97–134.

Wright, C. J. and Nuthall, G. (1970) ‘Relationships between teacher behaviours and pupil achievement in three experimental elementary science lessons’, American Educational Research Journal 7 (4) pp. 477–491.

The light is winning

WHY RESEARCH IS (SLOWLY) TRANSFORMING TEACHING. TOM BENNETT’S THOUGHTS ON researchED’S SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES SO FAR

At the recent researchED in Haninge, Sweden, researchED magazine’s editor Tom Bennett closed the conference with a speech that tried to understand where we had got to in evidence-informed education, and what the landscape now looked like. This is a transcript of that speech.

The sleep of reason produces monsters – at least it does in education, where we see teaching full of myths, snake oil and poorly evidenced practices and strategies. Why have we succumbed so much to learning styles and worse, and why have we found ourselves basing our vital practice on gut feelings, hunches and intuition? I think it’s because misconceptions creep into the spaces where:

• we don’t know much about the topic,

• we like the answers junk science provides, or

• we’re too busy to find out the facts.

How did we get here? Let’s reframe that question. Where did you acquire your ideas about teaching, learning, pedagogy etc? Chances are your answer revolves around the following: teacher training; memories of your own school experience; your mentor; your early class experiences.

Up to a point, that’s fine. Teaching is to a great extent a craft. But craft without structured evidence to interrogate its biases and misconceptions can lead to what I call ‘folk teaching’, where we reproduce the mistakes of our predecessors as easily as we do their successes.

So what? Because merely folk teaching leaves us at the mercy of snake oil, fads, fashions, ideology, bias. We can think of an ocean of cargo cult voodoo that often dominated educational discourse in the past: Shift Happens; TED talks; the Great Interactive Whiteboard Con; most links you see shared on Facebook. We recall the training days hosted by inexpert experts; the books by charismatic gurus; the often quoted rentagobs that fill TV, radio and print and seem to know so much about classrooms despite never having worked in one. Know- nothings elevated by other know-nothings.

In this landscape, discussions about teaching become a battle of prejudices – Pokémon debates where we simply hurl one unprovable claim against another until someone blinks.

A new hope?

My naive ambition in 2013 when I began researchED was simple: we should lean on evidence where it exists; we should try to become more research-literate as a profession; and crucially we should ask for evidence at every turn. That was as far as I had gotten, strategy-wise. But surprisingly, amazingly, researchED took off, despite its lack of blueprint or funding. It was a movement that wanted to happen, and we started to respond to demand by hosting events across the UK and, quickly, around the world. Since then we have been to 14 countries, 5 continents, and seen 17,000 unique visitors to our events. researchED has 30,000 followers on Twitter (not counting the local accounts), and we have been graced with 1000 speakers (none of whom are paid). We pay no salaries (least of all to myself) and entirely self-fund each event. It is a humbling testimony to what can be achieved for next to nothing if love and altruism and mutual benefit are all you want to achieve. And it reminds me of the best in people – always.

The dangers of research

But it is important to always retain a sense of caution alongside the enthusiasm. The sleep of reason produces monsters, even with good intentions. There have been some reasonable responses and criticisms of this new age of evidence enquiry:

Evidence in the wild

Bad research – the ‘not even wrong’ categories like learning styles – isn’t the only problem. What happens to evidence in the wild is crucial. One thing this has taught me is that high-quality research is, by itself, not enough. If it doesn’t reach the classroom in a useful state then it may as well not have happened. And often good research gets lost in translation. I call this the Magic Mirror. Sometimes research goes through the mirror and schools turn it into something else. Research translation is as important as research generation. Poor old assessment for learning drops into the Black Box and gets mangled into levelled homework and termly tests, weird mutant versions of what it was meant to be. And some research is simply misunderstood: project-based learning, homework, collaborative learning all have utility in the right contexts. But how many teachers know the nuance of their evidence bases? Homework, for example, has variable utility depending on circumstances. Grasping the when and the how of ‘what works’ is essential, otherwise we oversimplify.

A brave new world that hath such teachers in it

I think researchED is a symptom of a new age of evidence interest. Perhaps also a catalyst – one of many that now exist, from the Deans for Impact1 to the Learning Scientists2 to the Five from Five3 programme and many more. This is indicative of an appetite that was always there. We now host more conferences, visit more countries every year. We have more first-timers, both attendees and speakers. Like the can of worms opened, the worms cannot now go back in the can. This car has no reverse gear. Successful innovations, once perceived, cannot be unseen.

Policy makers

I once asked ex-UK premier Tony Blair what research he relied on when making education decisions. He replied that there ‘wasn’t any useful evidence at the time’. This attitude still dominates the biggest lever-pullers. We still see at a policy level multiple factors driving decisions away from evidence bases:

• Budgets
• Policy/ministerial churn
• Lack of insider representation
• Reliance on personal experiences

But the more the profession talks the language of evidence, the more they will have to listen to it. And I have always believed that we should reward policy-makers when they participate in evidence-driven discussions. That’s why I’m proud we try to engage rather than barrack our political representatives. And why every year we invite ministers of every party to our party.

Schools

Leadership is still the biggest lever in driving evidence adoption. One evidence-literate school leader cascades far more than one teacher. Some schools are now embracing the ‘research lead’ role, and devoting staff resources to this area. There is a moral and a practical duty for leadership to attend to evidence, because an era of dwindling resources demands better, more efficient decisions – less waste, more impact, from training to workload to tech. Let us abandon the days we tried to buy our way out of our problems, as if a chequebook were a magic lamp. And I sometimes wonder if raising budgets isn’t by itself insufficient, because the most important thing is to be judicious in spending the money we have.

Teachers

In the absence of a coherent, evidence-informed system it is necessary for teachers to drive their own research articulacy. It is necessary. Teachers should not be pseudo- researchers, but they should become literate; share, disseminate and interpret high-quality research, and help us to develop a herd immunity, where enough of us are learned enough to recognise the zombie learning and junk pedagogy when it rises – as it always does – from the grave.

Embrace ambiguity

We have one more duty to observe. Teachers must become active participants in the research ecosystem rather than massive recipients. But teaching is driven by practice, and the data is subtler than we suspect. We frequently seek definite answers where none exist. Research often unpacks ambiguity, and we need to embrace nuance, uncertainty and probability rather than dress high-quality research up as eternal and immutable fact. We should avoid universals and certainty – and always remember that context is king. Otherwise we perpetuate dogma and become that which we seek to surpass.

The gatekeepers

One thing I didn’t expect – but should have – is that the existing system objects to its own reinvention. Whenever power shifts, former custodians of power seek to preserve privilege; and this new age of evidence adoption has frequently been dismissed by some academics, some education faculties, commercial interests, some teaching bodies. But the habit of command dies slowly. Education has relied on arguments from authority for decades. Evidence challenges their dominance like mystics challenge the Church. I have faith that evidence and truth will win, but it will not be because it was easy. Arguments must be made; evidence bases must be made transparent.

Evidence doesn’t obliterate professionalism – it liberates it

We enter a new age of evidence. Once seen it cannot be unseen, and science cannot be uninvented, although ideas can change. Fears that evidence makes us slaves to research are no more rational than the fear that understanding how to cook makes you a worse chef. It empowers. If you object to where evidence takes us, then find better evidence. Otherwise, ask yourself if your opinion is dogma, or if something more animates your objections.

Caveat emptor. In a complex field we need interpreters and brokers of research, but we must also take care not to create a new priesthood – the neo-shamans of evidence, who act as irrefutable guardians of divine truth. The OECD, for example, in some ways has become the new international inspectorate, blessing or banishing entire countries on the basis of their data. Is this healthy? I don’t think so. Beware also the New Generation of Consultants selling ‘Snake Oil 2.0’ who have updated their absurdities by simply stapling the phrase ‘evidence-based’ onto their bags of magic beans. And don’t think I’m ignoring the danger of researchED succumbing to this, like mortal ring bearers corrupted by Sauron. This is why we curate events to include challenge and debate, like the grit in the oyster that helps to make the pearl.

The future

We begin to see new models of professional groupings emerge – digital collaborations, conference communities that no longer require permission to exist. Self-propelled, self-sustaining, self-regulating, they exist only as long as people want to go. These fluid, accessible, dynamic, virtual colleges are needed until they are no longer needed because the profession will have reinvented itself. We’re not there yet. Which is why we commit to cheap, accessible events that are democratic, inclusive and most of all, directed at discovering what works – and when, and why, and how.

My ambition is that we begin to drive this voluntary professional development, and then that cascades back into schools and starts conversations which set off sparks in classrooms – ones that catch fire and burn down dogma. And also that initial teacher training increasingly

makes evidence its foundation (where it does not do so already), platforming the best of what we know rather than perpetuating the best of what we prefer. For new teachers to be given skills to discern good evidence from bad. And for that to eventually bleed into leadership; and from there, into the structures that govern us.

I’m reminded of the story about the eternal battle between darkness and light in the sky. A pessimist could look up and think that darkness was nearly everywhere. But the optimist doesn’t see that. The optimist knows that once, there was only darkness.

If you ask me, the light’s winning.

This transcript was first published on Tom’s blog, The Behaviour Guru.

REFERENCES

  1. www.deansforimpact.org/resources/the-science-of-learning/
  2. www.learningscientists.org
  3. www.fivefromfive.org.au