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Research Matters: Run, do not walk, from these zombie educational theories!

By May 6, 2021No Comments

Certain outdated and disproven ideas in education really ought to die but never seem to get around to it. McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin explains why we should be afraid, very afraid, of some concepts that still walk the earth in his Research Matters column for the May 2021 edition of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine.

You’ve definitely heard these ideas, and that’s part of the problem: They’re repeated so often, they sound like they must be true. “Students have different learning styles,” for example. You probably even know what these supposed styles are: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. So if a student is a kinesthetic learner, they can learn academic content better by doing a dance about it, right?

Wrong, says Bryan. This notion is a mutation of Howard Gardner’s “multiple intelligences” theory, which said people can be smart in different ways, but said nothing about monster-mashing them up this way.

Or how about “Students should learn to read through authentic reading”? Of course students should have access to literature, and it’s great when students can choose books to read based on their interests. But before they get there, they need to be directly taught how to fluidly decode the letter symbols and phonemes on the page. “Although this has been settled science for decades, it does not appear to be taught in many pre-service programs,” Bryan says.

So grab a pitchfork and read more about the undead ideas eating teachers’ brains!


McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.