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Myths & Low-effect

Myths, fads and low effect-size methods and policies


The easiest way to improve learning is to STOP doing things which have little effect, especially when it either takes a lot of time or money.

There are at least 50 things which are better to do than those on this list.

Sources include the things at the bottom of Hattie's list and the EEF list (see under 'Evidence')

Also:  see this from Australian site

Myths about the brain

 Detail of myth

  1. Fixed intelligence

Intelligence is fixed by our genes

  1. Fixed learning difficulties

You have learning difficulties for life, they cannot change

  1. Critical periods for learning

If you miss the ‘time window’, the child cannot learn after that

  1. Enriched environments for young children

They need especially stimulating activities, early tuition etc

  1. 10% of the brain

Most of the brain is unused

  1. Left brain – Right brain

Some people are dominant on one side or the other

  1. Gender differences

Girls and boys need to be taught differently

  1. Learning Styles/Preferences

Everyone has a preferred way to learn, eg visual, auditory or kinaesthetic

  1. Neuro-linguistic programming

A commercial product

  1. Brain hydration

If students do not have water available at all times their brains will not function properly

  1. Brain foods

Special foods are needed


Ineffective methods


  1. Play them Mozart

Certain types of music aid learning

  1. Brain Gym

Exercises which stimulate the brain or join the halves together

  1. Teacher subject knowledge

Experts in their subject (eg PhD or commercial experience) make better teachers

  1. Longer Initial Teacher Training

Longer training makes better teachers

  1. Ability grouping

Mixed ability is always worse

  1. Repeating a year

S/he failed this year, so should repeat it

  1. Increased testing and marking

The more marking the teacher does, the better

  1. Challenging homework

Homework is effective if it is difficult

  1. Changing the length of the lesson

Shorter (or longer) lessons are more effective

  1. Late start for adolescents

After puberty, students need to start later in the morning

  1. Management reorganisation

Changing job-titles, job-descriptions and structure regularly

  1. School finances

The more money, the better the results

  1. Students outcomes linked to poverty

Poor children inevitably do less well

  1. Charter schools

Freedom from Local Authority control will improve learning

  1. Aspiration interventions

Simply increasing aspirations will help students learn more

  1. Financial incentives for students

Pay them by results and they get better grades


Expensive, low effect methods


  1. Reduce class sizes

Smaller class always do better

  1. New buildings

Old building cause less learning

  1. Non-specialist information technology

New computers and interactive whiteboards improve learning

  1. Untrained teaching assistants

Any help is better than no help

  1. Staff development with no follow-up

Any training session will help the learning.  Teachers don't need to practice.


Training in Evidence-Based Teaching is available from the Evidence Based Teachers Network.

Email office@ebtn.org.uk or look online at www.ebtn.org.uk

Mike Bell, Secretary