How to spot education education myths and read research

The academic explains how teachers can be more effective consumers of education research and why some of our beliefs about the big theories of teaching can be over simplifications

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“You can shout as often as you like that ‘x’ should work, but if it is not working while I am teaching, I will do other things that on paper might not be as efficient,” says Dr Christian Bokhove, a lecturer in mathematics education at the University of Southampton and a specialist in research methodologies.

Speaking in this week’s Tes Podagogy podcast, which focuses on spotting research myths and how teachers can be empowered by research, Bokhove explains that the relationship between teachers and education research is a difficult one to get right. On one side, it has huge scope to improve practice; on the other, there are real dangers in how teachers often consume research.

“I think we need to be careful we don’t get [a situation] where we start with something very complex and we morph the nuanced message of an academic into something simpler that may sometimes feel like a good representation, but just as often is just a short cut,” he says.

'Don't look for a silver bullet in research'

“I think it is useful for teachers to analyse and read articles, but more to get a sense of the enormous complexity and variables at play rather than trying to find a silver bullet that says ‘look, this works’ because science is incremental; we keep on building, one study will never be enough, there will never be a single study that shows this finally worked.”

In the podcast, Bokhove – a former teacher – identifies some prime examples of where he feels research has been oversimplified or misconstrued by educators, including popular work from the likes of ED Hirsch and John Sweller. He also details things teachers should look for in research and discusses issues such as publication bias.

You can listen for free by downloading the podcast from iTunes or you can listen below.


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