To tackle misinformation about what works in teaching, schools must find effective ways to help teachers understand the implications of research
In the past few years, schools have focused more on the use of research, especially into how pupils learn and the implications on effective teaching.
One reason teachers have needed to become more research informed is to respond to the masses of misinformation presented to us. Even when a teaching approach is exposed as incorrect, it can continue to influence how we work.
One example is the learning pyramid, which is based on Edgar Dale’s cone of experience. This was a theoretical framework that made no mention of learning but soon took on a life of its own, as the learning pyramid. Most teachers will have been given information apparently based on this work – for example, that pupils only remember 5% of what they’re told but 90% of what they teach others.
There is not – and never has been – any evidence to support those claims and yet they still appear in continuing professional development (CPD) sessions and advice to teachers. Even when the fault in the original idea is known, it is so ingrained in “good practice” that it still holds sway; I’ve met plenty of teachers who limit how much time they spend talking to a class as a result.
Another example is the idea that pupils should be taught according to their learning style. Despite this thinking being widely criticised and evidence for it lacking, as many as 93% of teachers in the UK still hold on to this idea. In my experience, few schools ever told teachers to start teaching different learning styles; they just stopped mentioning it – so its use died out, but not necessarily the underlying belief.