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In this controversial new book, Daisy Christodoulou offers a thought-provoking critique of educational orthodoxy. Drawing on her recent experience of teaching in challenging schools, she shows through a wide range of examples and case studies just how much classroom practice contradicts basic scientific principles. She examines seven widely-held beliefs which are holding b In this controversial new book, Daisy Christodoulou offers a thought-provoking critique of educational orthodoxy. Drawing on her recent experience of teaching in challenging schools, she shows through a wide range of examples and case studies just how much classroom practice contradicts basic scientific principles. She examines seven widely-held beliefs which are holding back pupils and teachers: - Facts prevent understanding - Teacher-led instruction is passive - The 21st century fundamentally changes everything - You can always just look it up -We should teach transferable skills - Projects and activities are the best way to learn - Teaching knowledge is indoctrination. In each accessible and engaging chapter, Christodoulou sets out the theory of each myth, considers its practical implications and shows the worrying prevalence of such practice. Then, she explains exactly why it is a myth, with reference to the principles of modern cognitive science. She builds a powerful case explaining how governments and educational organisations around the world have let down teachers and pupils by promoting and even mandating evidence-less theory and bad practice. This blisteringly incisive and urgent text is essential reading for all teachers, teacher training students, policy makers, head teachers, researchers and academics around the world.


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In this controversial new book, Daisy Christodoulou offers a thought-provoking critique of educational orthodoxy. Drawing on her recent experience of teaching in challenging schools, she shows through a wide range of examples and case studies just how much classroom practice contradicts basic scientific principles. She examines seven widely-held beliefs which are holding b In this controversial new book, Daisy Christodoulou offers a thought-provoking critique of educational orthodoxy. Drawing on her recent experience of teaching in challenging schools, she shows through a wide range of examples and case studies just how much classroom practice contradicts basic scientific principles. She examines seven widely-held beliefs which are holding back pupils and teachers: - Facts prevent understanding - Teacher-led instruction is passive - The 21st century fundamentally changes everything - You can always just look it up -We should teach transferable skills - Projects and activities are the best way to learn - Teaching knowledge is indoctrination. In each accessible and engaging chapter, Christodoulou sets out the theory of each myth, considers its practical implications and shows the worrying prevalence of such practice. Then, she explains exactly why it is a myth, with reference to the principles of modern cognitive science. She builds a powerful case explaining how governments and educational organisations around the world have let down teachers and pupils by promoting and even mandating evidence-less theory and bad practice. This blisteringly incisive and urgent text is essential reading for all teachers, teacher training students, policy makers, head teachers, researchers and academics around the world.

30 review for Seven Myths about Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is an important book for anyone teaching in today's standard classrooms! There is a widespread idea that one cannot criticise the "progressive" (old) school of thought (from Rousseau over Dewey to Freire etc.) without being labelled "reactionary" and being accused of wanting to "indoctrinate" children with random "facts" that will be obsolete before they leave school. What if you believe that the most important task for our schools globally is to educate independent, democratic citizens who This is an important book for anyone teaching in today's standard classrooms! There is a widespread idea that one cannot criticise the "progressive" (old) school of thought (from Rousseau over Dewey to Freire etc.) without being labelled "reactionary" and being accused of wanting to "indoctrinate" children with random "facts" that will be obsolete before they leave school. What if you believe that the most important task for our schools globally is to educate independent, democratic citizens who develop empathy and social skills along with the ability to adapt to new learning situations in a lifelong process? If you believe that, surely you have to adopt the "methods" of those also believing in those outcomes? What if you are a teacher, wanting to achieve that goal, but realising that it is not reached at all with those "progressive" methods of project-based, student-led general inquiry and discussion? What if you believe students should develop independent thinking skills but you realise that letting them try everything themselves while you remove yourself to the role of a non-interferring facilitator in order not to "dictate" to the students reduces them to shallow and boring and extremely repetitive tasks, quite similar in all different subjects as they are encouraged to focus on "transferable skills" rather than content and specific knowledge? What if the methods don't work to achieve the goals you share with the "progressive" school of education? What if you realise that teaching students the basics first gives them the necessary tools to actually later becoming independent learners? Have you become a "reactionary educator"? Do you have to go back to "authoritarian" methods? No, you haven't and you don't. You have just discovered that there must be a balance. You have learned from experience and practice and developed deeper understanding of how students actually develop skills via knowledge and understanding. The new research clearly shows that knowledge cannot be separated from understanding, and that it is impossible to teach "transferable" skills without basic subject content to build skills. This may seem like common sense to anyone outside of the teaching sphere, and you may think the book targets straw men, but for anyone who has been inside the reality of a contemporary school, with its vague, content-free, skill-based curricula, with lesson planning focusing on keeping students "active" rather than on actual learning objectives, with projects that shift focus from the content at hand to some "activity" that has a remote affinity to the topic but guides students' concentration to secondary tasks rather than to a deeper understanding of the point of interest, anyone who has tried student-led "online research" will know that the 7 myths are out there, and are used to devalue teacher-led instruction and knowledge-based curricula, with the greatest of intentions and disastrous results. I wish every teacher would read this and feel strong and validated enough to actually start teaching students the knowledge that will give them a basis from which they can move on to be skilled and independent grown-ups in the future. Knowledge liberates and empowers. Schools and curriculum designers seem to have forgotten that. Must-read! PS: These are the myths: - Facts prevent understanding - Teacher-led instruction is passive - The 21st century fundamentally changes everything - You can always just look it up -We should teach transferable skills - Projects and activities are the best way to learn - Teaching knowledge is indoctrination.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Geourska

    My initial reaction, upon seeing this book, is that I thought I would largely agree with it. The myths listed are certainly ones that I have come across many times in education and based on my own reading and experience, do not agree with. In the end, I was surprised to find myself disagreeing with parts of the book and I believe the problem is that Christodoulou oversimplifies some of the arguments and in some cases, does not seem to provide adequate evidence for all the myths. The book got off My initial reaction, upon seeing this book, is that I thought I would largely agree with it. The myths listed are certainly ones that I have come across many times in education and based on my own reading and experience, do not agree with. In the end, I was surprised to find myself disagreeing with parts of the book and I believe the problem is that Christodoulou oversimplifies some of the arguments and in some cases, does not seem to provide adequate evidence for all the myths. The book got off to a weak start with Myth 1: Facts Prevent Understanding. When I read this myth on the back cover, I assumed that it was a summary of the belief that learning facts are not very important and should not be emphasized in education - an idea that I have come up against over and over again. Christodoulou, however, was not simplifying and I found her evidence that this is a widespread belief in education to be weak. I would fully agree that some form of this myth is prevalent but I'm not sure anyone would actually come out and state that facts actually prevent understanding. As evidence, Christodoulou summarizes the views of several educational theorists/philosophers (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey and Paolo Freire), makes reference to a literary figure (Charles Dickens' Thomas Gradgrind in 'Hard Times'), and then alludes to the English National Curriculum, which never explicitly discourages the teaching of facts, although it is true that it focuses on skills. I'm not sure that a reference to an 19th century fictitious figure does much in the way of supporting the idea that the educational establishment is against teaching facts. It would have been nice to see more concrete evidence of this. The solution, I believe, would have been to rephrase the myth to suggest that skills are more important than facts or that no one needs to learn facts, because they can simply be looked up. The latter, of course, is the basis of myth 4, so perhaps, these two myths should just have been combined. The evidence that Christodoulou provided in support of learning facts, however, was strong. The most problematic myth for me was the idea that teacher-led instruction is passive. Again, there are elements of the myth that I fully agree with. Free, unguided inquiry is most certainly not an effective way of learning and research backs that up. However, Christodoulou seems to swing entirely to the other end of the spectrum by suggesting that all instruction should be direct and teacher-led. First of all, it is not entirely clear what she means by direct instruction, but I took it to mean that the teacher stands at the front of the class and delivers the course material - 'the sage on the stage', so to speak. This, however, contradicts much physics education research, which is based on the cognitive science research that Christodoulou otherwise uses to back her arguments. The traditional model of physics teaching (particularly in universities) is to simply lecture. Research has shown, however, that using a variety of other techniques, such as workshop-style classes and guided inquiry, significantly increases student understanding of physics. I think it's worth noting here, however, that guided inquiry is not the free discovery technique that Christodoulou mentions, but nor would I categorize it as direct instruction. Similarly, the constructivism that Christodoulou discredits also plays a role in science, where students come to the class with preconceptions that are very much in conflict with current scientific models. One compoenent of science education is to replace these preconceptions with new models, often through cognitive dissonance, which is very much a constructivist approach. Thus for this particular myth, I feel that Christodoulou has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Another example of this is for Myth 6: Projects and activities are the best way to learn. Christodoulou gives several examples from Ofsted reports of frankly, rather terrible activities - students making puppets in an English class or creating a family crest in history. It is easy to understand why these activities do not actual result in true learning about the topic. However, yet again, she fails to see a happy medium in which students could be taught the skills and then apply them. She gives an example of a project to 'green' a library. To my understanding, the project was presented without the students having any background knowledge and they were just supposed to magically acquire it. Nevertheless, this could be a perfectly reasonably project if students were to first learn about the environment, ways to conserve energy, etc., and then apply that knowledge to the project. Similarly, by applying appropriate scaffolding, students can be taught how to write reports. Providing such support is not just a 'hint' or 'cheating', as Christoulou implies. The alternative to loose, purposeless projects is not simply direct instruction and lots of drills. There are a variety of educational activities which can all have a place in the classroom, as long as they actually serve a true purpose and further learning. Ultimately, I am glad I read the book, because it is always good to be confronted with alternative points of view and I did ultimately agree with large parts of the book. I particularly enjoyed the last chapter, which got into the theories behind curriculum building - a topic that interests me very much. How do we decide what students should learn? How multicultural should we be? Christodoulou analyzed some of these questions very well, in addition to looking at the politics driving curriculum reform. She counters the dead, white male argument, for example, by referring to the need for the background knowledge that underpins much of what we read in the newspapers and encounter in daily life. Yet again, this is research based on cognitive science. I think the topic is probably still far more complex, but she had some good arguments. This leads me to my final complaint about the book. For a topic as complex and politicized as education, it was far too short to properly deal with all the myths. I also wish she had included the myth of learning styles, because while it has been debunked, far too many people still believe it. On a final note, much of the theory debunking the myths came from Daniel Willingham's excellent book, 'Why do students hate school?', which explains much of the cognitive science behind teaching. This book should be on every teacher's reading list and will give perhaps a clearer picture of much of what Christodoulou was trying to present. For teachers who are not familiar with the Ofsted and teaching in the UK, which I am only peripherally familiar with, it may also be more accessible.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Kennedy

    In this short book, Daisy Christodoulou tackles 7 myths about education. Each chapter contains a myth. She begins by showing the theoretical evidence for the myth, including important educational figures who have espoused the myth. Next she moves on to how this is seen in educational practice in Britain. She largely uses OFSTED reports in this section. Finally she shows why it is a myth. Now to those outside of education, some of these myths will be astounding. For instance myth 1: Facts prevent In this short book, Daisy Christodoulou tackles 7 myths about education. Each chapter contains a myth. She begins by showing the theoretical evidence for the myth, including important educational figures who have espoused the myth. Next she moves on to how this is seen in educational practice in Britain. She largely uses OFSTED reports in this section. Finally she shows why it is a myth. Now to those outside of education, some of these myths will be astounding. For instance myth 1: Facts prevent understanding. This is really the backbone of the entire book. Most ordinary adults would balk at this statement, asking themselves, “Well what on earth are schools doing if they are not providing children with facts?” However those of us in education, will be familiar with postmodern concepts of co-construction of knowledge and the irrational fear of teaching knowledge among the elites in our teacher training institutes. Our own curriculum here in New Zealand is a nothing curriculum. It’s almost devoid of any knowledge whatsoever. So this book is a timely reminder. So onto the myths. Myth 1: Facts prevent understanding. This myth has a long history. Christodoulou quotes Rousseau arguing for experience alone to be teacher, Dewey who associates fact teaching with passivity and Paulo Freire who describes ‘the banking deposit concept of education’ as a misguided system. Facts are set up in contrast to meaning, significance and understanding. Of course nobody would argue that understanding meaning and significance and that sort of higher-order skill development are essential, the problem is that facts are actually the foundation of this. She gives some interesting research into human thinking, and the importance of long-term memory to cognition. Because working memory is so limited, the more information that is stored in long term memory, the less load is placed on working memory, which allows for higher-order thinking. This calls for a knowledge rich education. Dan Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who applies the findings of cognitive psychology to education, is quoted, “The very processes that teachers care about most – critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving – are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory.” The second educational myth is that teacher led instruction is passive. Again, the average adult would be gobsmacked by this concept. You know, “So if a teacher isn’t to teach….why are they called teachers?” Again Rousseau’s thinking has influenced us. He did not agree with formal teaching of reading and believed that by stimulating a child’s environment, the child would discover reading for themselves. Dewey, the patron saint of many educators, argued that a child’s inclinations should determine the education process, and Freire was opposed to teachers being figures of authority among students. Once again there is an element of truth to the myth. Yes of course we don’t want to produce adults who require someone to direct them to learn. We do want to produce adults who can solve problems independently. Where things go wrong is that of assuming the best method to produce independent learners is to force children to learn independently. First of all, there are some essential things that are not learned naturally, the alphabet, the number system and gravity for example. But most importantly, The evidence in favour of direct teacher instruction is powerful according to John Hattie’s meta-analysis in Visible Learning. Christodoulou also points to a major American study that showed direct teaching out performed other methods in terms of academic performance and self-esteem of students. The third myth is that the 21st century fundamentally changes everything. As if when the clock ticked 00:00 on 1 January 2001, everything about education in the previous century became irrelevant. Yet this is the way people talk. Now people need to be creative and able to communicate well and able to solve problems…..because they never used to have to do these things. Christodoulou writes, “And that is where the real problem with the concept of twenty-first century education lies. To the extent that it says that creativity and problem-solving are important, it is merely banal; to the extent that it says such skills are unique to the twenty-first century, it is false but harmless, to the extent that it proposes certain ways of achieving these aims, it is actually pernicious. This is because, very often, the movement for twenty-first century skills is a code word for removing knowledge from the curriculum, and removing knowledge from the curriculum will ensure that pupils do not develop twenty-first century skills.” Core knowledge does not change, and as knowledge proliferates, it is more important for us to separate the wheat from the chaff. Christodoulou highlights here the fact that we should actually be more sceptical of newer ideas being included in schools, because the newer the idea, the less it has proved itself over time. Reading is important after thousands of years, but nobody needs to know how to use a microfiche machine anymore. Myth four is that you can always just look it up. This myth is one that you hear all the time. This myth has lead to a focus on research skills at the expense of learning knowledge and facts. Once again the long-term memory research mentioned in chapter 1 is applicable. Furthermore, “research skills are, on closer inspection, the function of large bodies of knowledge.” Those with good research skills have a good general knowledge, which enables them to make research questions intelligible. Myth five says we should teach transferable skills. Professor Guy Claxton argues, “knowledge is changing so fast that we cannot give young people what they will need to know, because we do not know what it will be. Instead we should be helping them develop supple and nimble minds, so that they will be able to learn whatever they need to.” In practice, this thinking has led to project based approaches to learning. Unfortunately, this approach is flawed. Yes multiple subjects in school require us to explain or analyse, but the way one analyses a maths problem is going to be different to the way one analyses a historical question. The skill of analysis in maths is not neatly transferable to history. Skills cannot be taught in a vacuum and applied across all of life. Dan Willingham points out that our brains are not like calculators that can perform the same function with different sets of data. In fact our critical thinking processes are actually tied to background knowledge. Thus, it is essential that students acquire background knowledge alongside practising their critical thinking skills. There is also a very interesting discussion on the word ‘skills’. E.D. Hirsch argues that Knowledge is skill: skill is knowledge. Christodoulou explains that the word skills is good for defining a phenomenon, but not good at describing how we acquire it. In a journal article quoted, Herbert Simon pointed out, “In every domain that has been explored, considerable knowledge has been found to be an essential prerequisite to expert skill.” One interesting study was mentioned in this chapter. A group of readers were given a text on baseball to read. The good readers who did not know anything about baseball were outperformed by the so-called poor readers who knew about baseball. This shows the importance of knowledge in the skill of reading. Good readers are those who tend to know a little bit about a lot. This should guide our practise in teaching reading! Thus, spending time supposedly teaching transferable skills at the expense of time spent learning knowledge which actually builds transferable skills is wasted time. The second to last myth is that projects and activities are the best way to learn. There is a trend to move away from subjects and to attempt to integrate knowledge from all subject areas. Working in subjects is apparently compartmentalising knowledge. Thus a focus on enquiry models of pedagogy. Students are encouraged into autonomous learning and taking the role of teacher or assessor. ‘Real’ projects are encouraged as well as role-playing as experts. But the problem with all this is that there is a difference between experts and novices. A novice cannot be an expert by copying what they do. This is to make the mistake of assuming what experts do is what makes them an expert. What actually differentiates the expert from the novice is a huge body of background knowledge that is stored in the long term memory which in turn leads to qualitative differences in thinking. Children by the very fact that they only have limited life experience cannot have this. Producing experts is not a legitimate aim for primary schooling. Yes our schools need to equip students to solve real world problems. That is an achievable aim over the whole of a child’s school career, but while this is the final aim of an education, it should not be the sole method of education. In fact there is something deeply inequitable about the process of teaching by projects and enquiry. This method requires background knowledge, but does not teach it. So pupils who “do the least badly at such projects are those who have gained background knowledge elsewhere.” In other words, children from wealthier backgrounds. The seventh and final myth is that teaching knowledge is indoctrination. This is a result of postmodern thinking. Berger and Luckmann argued that facts are the constructions of society, buttressed by institutional power. So, teaching facts and knowledge is not a neutral activity, but is “intimately bound up with questions of power, authority and social class.” Imposing a body of knowledge is supposedly undemocratic, and the twentieth century model of mass education, it is argued, imposed high culture onto the masses. It is argued that students should not have external content imposed on them, “but instead work with the knowledge and experiences they already have to develop their abilities.” Christodoulou argues that if one is actually concerned for democracy and equality, one should not reduce or marginalise the teaching of external knowledge in schools, as this will actually increase the undemocratic and unequal features of our society. If one only teaches pupils using the knowledge they bring to the classroom, those who bring less (typically those with uneducated or immigrant parents) will be disadvantaged. While it is important to be concerned about indoctrination, the best defence against bias is actually more knowledge – those who have little knowledge will not know when things need questioning. While many write off people like Christodoulou as wanting to take education back to the nineteenth century with this focus on knowledge, it is actually the reverse that is true. In the 19th century, it was the mill workers and coal-miners who embraced Shakespeare and what we might call an elite education. They did not believe that these belonged to someone else’s culture. They believed that what we call civilisation, “the accumulation of knowledge…is by right the common heritage of all.” I heartily endorse this book, and wish that more teachers would become aware of the contradictions in our modern approach to education.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    In just 167 pages, Ms. Christodoulou deconstructs seven of the myths of modern education, all of which were taught as gospel truth in my education classes. These myths are the following: 1 – Facts prevent understanding 2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive 3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything 4 – You can always just look it up 5 – We should teach transferable skills 6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn 7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination It would take me quite a w In just 167 pages, Ms. Christodoulou deconstructs seven of the myths of modern education, all of which were taught as gospel truth in my education classes. These myths are the following: 1 – Facts prevent understanding 2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive 3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything 4 – You can always just look it up 5 – We should teach transferable skills 6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn 7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination It would take me quite a while to comment on everything she writes, so I'll choose just a few. First of all, teacher-led instruction (direct instruction) is discouraged in education classes and in schools. In fact, in classroom evaluations, the Instructional Practices Inventory rates teacher-led instruction as as Level 4 out of a possible 6; in other words, acceptable but not at the top levels of student engagement. However, student engagement depends upon the level of personal attention that students give to teacher-led instruction. The sad thing is that some (many) of today's students have very short attention spans and seem to be unable to concentrate on any given task for longer than 10-15 minutes. That's the subject of another rant; in essence, however, we (parents/teachers) have allowed this to happen. (I would not expect students who have spent their entire lives watching television or playing video games or listening to music that lasts only three minutes to be able to give devoted attention to a lecture.) Most of my college instruction was direct instruction through lecture and seminars that included discussion. I was never bored. The fourth myth--"you can always just look it up"--is another one that I'd like to address. I found that a fair number of my students were clueless about "looking things up" through Google searches. They had never developed the imagination necessary to conduct sustained internet-based research, and frequently when they did find something that *they* considered worthwhile, they had very little discernment about the quality of the "research" they had found. For example, on one short research assignment they were clearly told which websites they should avoid, yet many of these students still chose to include that information as one of their "sources." Instead of fact-based sources, some students included merely quotes from other writers as "evidence" in their research, even though they were taught that this did not constitute evidence. I found myself highlighting this book over and over again on my Kindle; it was that good. In fact, whoever chooses to read the book after me might turn off the highlighting feature, and he or she might find my highlights annoying. One last note: E.D. Hirsch of the Core Knowledge Curriculum strongly endorses this book. I have read, indirectly, that Hirsch is also a proponent of the Common Core State Standards. What is odd is that the author, Daisy Christodolou, seems to be less-than-enchanted with England's National Curriculum. When she quotes supposed standards from the National Curriculum, they really sound very much like the CCSS that have been adopted by American schools. I can't comment beyond that, not having done extensive research into either, but Ms. Christodolou believes that the National Curriculum does not address specific competencies. One final thought: In my opinion, in this short book, Ms. Christodolou, perhaps inadvertently, makes what I would consider a strong case for a return to a traditional and more classical education.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Isabel Khine

    I'm not really sure of how to review Seven Myths about Education because my frame of reference for books on pedagogy / education is fairly limited. I did find it to be an insightful and clearly written introduction into the traps that newly qualified teachers can get swept up in. Christodoulou makes a brilliant case for the necessity of teaching facts, and for direct instruction as being at the heart of what bridges gaps in achievement within the classroom. I'm sure I'll revisit specific points I'm not really sure of how to review Seven Myths about Education because my frame of reference for books on pedagogy / education is fairly limited. I did find it to be an insightful and clearly written introduction into the traps that newly qualified teachers can get swept up in. Christodoulou makes a brilliant case for the necessity of teaching facts, and for direct instruction as being at the heart of what bridges gaps in achievement within the classroom. I'm sure I'll revisit specific points with regularity over the course of the next year. I had (and most definitely still have) some deeply held misconceptions about teaching and how to teach, so Seven Myths was a great primer for the oscillating process of un-learning and learning. More than anything, the constant reference back to key educational theorists in Seven Myths has given me a lot more reading to do!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vesa Linja-Aho

    Great and well-backed criticism on ”modern ways of teaching” This fluent and well-cited criticism challenges the ”modern ideas” to refurbish schooling. Student-centered projects are not always as effective ways of learning as the traditional teacher-led instruction is.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aidan McDonagh

    Excellent summary of seven common and pervasive myths that still exist in the education system today. Food for thought as the new academic year gets underway.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Seán Mchugh

    The nature of my work as a Digital Literacy coach made me naturally curious to see what her issues were with Myths 3 & 4. I read this book in many ways to try and keep an open mind; instinctively I’m very suspicious of her arguments, particularly because she’s only actually worked for three years in the classroom before leaving and becoming a consultant who feels she can effectively dismiss most of the educational progress of the past few decades in favour of a reductionist traditionalist relian The nature of my work as a Digital Literacy coach made me naturally curious to see what her issues were with Myths 3 & 4. I read this book in many ways to try and keep an open mind; instinctively I’m very suspicious of her arguments, particularly because she’s only actually worked for three years in the classroom before leaving and becoming a consultant who feels she can effectively dismiss most of the educational progress of the past few decades in favour of a reductionist traditionalist reliance on content. That said the focus on a “concept based curriculum“ where I work (with little to no support in the literature from what I can see) has done a great deal to undermine my confidence, and I do find myself in a position where I’ve become much more circumspect about some of the assumptions behind the abandonment of a content focused curriculum. This does feel like another pendulum swing, I’m hoping that as someone who is fundamentally inclined towards a concept driven curriculum, reading this book will help me to rationalise some of my concerns and find some sort of appropriate balance between the extremes. Update: I have to say, the more I read it the more I like it, I wish we more books were as succinct and to the point as this one. I could feel my position shifting as I read through each myth, I’d love to read a response by an authoritative (ie research based) proponent of concept based curriculum, but from what I can see they just don’t exist which tells you probably all you need to know. From what I can see, the idea of a “concept based curriculum“ is a complete misnomer, as education/language is concept based, you literally couldn’t teach anything without it being concept based. So what they are probably really selling is an enquiry-based curriculum which is exactly what this book takes square aim at. P47 “As far as I know, there is no such thing as 21st-century knowledge.” I have to say on Myths 3 & 4 I think she has some profoundly mistaken assumptions, probably partly to do with her lack of experience of teaching in one-to-one environment based on the anecdotes she relies upon. She is not convinced that any such thing as a 21st-century skills exists, and yet on page 54 she says, 54 …if anything, the sheer proliferation of knowledge should lead to selective bodies of knowledge becoming more important, as mechanisms for separating the wheat from the vast amounts of chaff. Considering the exponential exposure to information that students and adults routinely navigate every day, surely that have to be seen as a 21st-century skill? Of course if you’re going to insist on only using 19th-century assessment methods to assess students then you would be quite right in thinking that there is absolutely no need to change anything about how we teach, but therein lies the rub; why are we still assessing students using me models from 200 years ago, when there are far better ways to assess students and when we know that these models of assessing are utterly incoherent and irrelevant once students leave school. Why can’t we assess students using methods that are used by the rest of the world in all workplaces and that will be used to assess these students for the rest of their lives? ... But it’s an important and interesting question, the first thing that comes to mind in terms of a true 21st-century skill is the ability and the capacity to navigate the myriad of online content that vie for our attention on a daily basis. Before the Internet huge amounts of information like this were only read or accessible via libraries, in which case at least we knew that the sources were authoritative and reliable. The unique challenge facing citizens of the 21st-century is that the vast majority of information that available online is not created by experts, and while it’s never been easy to access knowledge, it’s never been more difficult to determine what is trustworthy and what is certainly not. This is why we are living at a time when someone like Donald Trump can be elected president of the United States, and when an entire nation can exit the European Union primarily based on non-expert opinions. Of course this entire facet/challenge is one that is completely bypassed by most of our schools mainly because they relying on methods of teaching that prepares students for assessment models that are 200 years old, models that predate the Internet. What would schools look like if we actually took this truly 21st-century skill seriously? What about the knowledge of how to utilise digital devices effectively and skilfully? Arguably these devices have been in circulation for at least two decades at the end of the 20th century so in that aspect alone I could can technically cede this point, but not her overall implication. I would still argue that the skills of using digital devices are unique and certainly present us with unique challenges that did not exist in the 19th century, or indeed most of the 20th century, which is why they are quite rightly called 21st-century skills. Myth 1: facts prevent understanding Myth 2: teacher-led instruction is passive Myth 3: the twenty-first century fundamentally changes everything Myth 4: you can always just look it up Myth 5: we should teach transferable skills Myth 6: projects and activities are the best way to learn Myth 7: teaching knowledge is indoctrination

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vito

    As someone committed to professional growth and constantly on the lookout for material that will get me there, I was excited to pickup this book. From the onset, I made the assumption I would largely be agreeing with Christodoulou’s arguments and it was partially true. The backbone of the entire book is Myth 1: Facts Prevent Understanding. Twenty years ago (further if you count the outlier teachers who were early adopters), the push for education in Canada was to move from knowledge based to skill As someone committed to professional growth and constantly on the lookout for material that will get me there, I was excited to pickup this book. From the onset, I made the assumption I would largely be agreeing with Christodoulou’s arguments and it was partially true. The backbone of the entire book is Myth 1: Facts Prevent Understanding. Twenty years ago (further if you count the outlier teachers who were early adopters), the push for education in Canada was to move from knowledge based to skills based education. Knowledge based education was (and still is) looked upon with serious disdain. Of course the common argument about moving away from knowledge based education is the average student will never need to memorize some random fact they’ll never use again. This is true. However, what Christodoulou brilliantly points towards is knowing one random fact on its own isn’t useful, but knowing many is crucial to making connections. Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on a Wittenberg Church door in 1517. The town had approximately 2000 people in it at the time. Based on that bit of information, it’s difficult to answer why the Reformation even happened. However, when you add the following two facts: Gutenberg invents the printing press in 1440. Explosion in literacy because of easy and cheap access to printed materials. Connections can be made. The people of the town reprinted those theses and distributed them far and wide across the continent. In essence, Martin Luther created a viral post that spurred the masses. After the first myth, I was committed to reading the rest. Unfortunately, each subsequent myth pointed towards many common education reform ideals (teacher led instruction is bad, project based learning is best, etc.) but still fell back on the first myth. There wasn’t enough in each to follow the depth of argument I was already primed to hear. This may have been a case of Christodoulou trying to get her thoughts packaged together, but it may have been more beneficial to focus on her primary point and use those other myths as extensions. In her mission to get me thinking, however, she succeeded.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Pestana da Costa

    The field of education is a minefield of apparently reasonable or even great principles and ideas that turn out to perform rather poorly, if at all, in practice. Unfortunately, and in line with the kind of pseudoscience practiced by many (although by no means all) education "specialists", those failures do not preclude those principles and ideas (or myths...) to be redressed and presented again as new (like is happening at present, in this second decade of the 21st Century, with the so called "2 The field of education is a minefield of apparently reasonable or even great principles and ideas that turn out to perform rather poorly, if at all, in practice. Unfortunately, and in line with the kind of pseudoscience practiced by many (although by no means all) education "specialists", those failures do not preclude those principles and ideas (or myths...) to be redressed and presented again as new (like is happening at present, in this second decade of the 21st Century, with the so called "21st Century skills"). The book of Daisy Christodoulou lists seven of those myths and debunks them mercilessly, based on serious published research and practice. The seven myths considered are: "1. Facts prevent understanding", "2. Teacher-lead instruction is passive", "3. The 21st century fundamentally changes everything", "4. You can always just look it up", "5. We should teach transferable skills", "6. Projects and activities are the best way to learn", and "7. Teaching knowledge is indoctrination". All chapters have the same structure: a first part with the theoretical evidence for the myth and how it has affected the education practice in the classroom (in order to defuse criticism that nobody really thinks or acts as the myth states), and then a second part where she explains why is it a myth by examining the scientific literature so often ignored by education experts and practitioners. All chapters have an extensive reference list to the research literature and relevant documents. Overall, this book, with little more than 130 pages, is a real gem that all teachers should read and ponder carefully to get themselves extricated from the spell of myths that dominate present say Western thought and practice about education but that, as E.D. Hirsch states in the Foreword, "have one enormous drawback. They are empirically incorrect".

  11. 5 out of 5

    Guyada

    So.. where to begin? Essentially the book is right, there is no form without content and likewise, no thinking without thinking something. The pendulum is now simply too much to one side and is likely to swing back. On the other hand, the criticized concepts, policies etc. were selected very carefully to make it quite easy to attack and disprove them. Many people like Sir Ken Robinson never said we do not need knowing facts. I do not like when knowledge is presented as the ultimate goal, when it So.. where to begin? Essentially the book is right, there is no form without content and likewise, no thinking without thinking something. The pendulum is now simply too much to one side and is likely to swing back. On the other hand, the criticized concepts, policies etc. were selected very carefully to make it quite easy to attack and disprove them. Many people like Sir Ken Robinson never said we do not need knowing facts. I do not like when knowledge is presented as the ultimate goal, when it is standardized into tests and mistaken for understanding. A lot of good stuff can come out of free play, unstructured activities, but if we expect to count how much exactly I taught each lesson, then it will fail the test. Most of the the knowledge we learn, we forget because we do not use it. Most of the knowledge we use, we learn again when and where we need it, just much faster. The goal of education is not skills or knowledge, but to be a good, brave, honest and happy person - whatever way gets you and your students there. Education (industry) is obsessed with quantifiable data, uniformity of criteria, measuring performance and a lot of damage is done in the name of that in classrooms. The '21st education' trend, in my opinion, simply reflects the society we are building with social media and FUN-ism and reacting to the market demand. What and how things are taught is nowadays decided by 'concerned' parents and bureaucrats. 'Skills' are plainly more fun and it looks better in photos. It is sad to see that this is happening in a country with the tradition of Bacon, Newton, Darwin. Sorry, now I need to end as I have a class - review of scoring goal celebrating skills and make a website about it.:-)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad A M

    It is kind of assuring to find that my own observations at times do fall quite in line with the author's. However, by the end I feel that she comes across a bit as either exaggerating or overreacting. I was a bit disappointed that the 7 myths looked provocative but weren't really distinct and did overlap quite significantly with each other. I think she could have just grouped them into addressing 2 main issues: 1. the devaluing of learned (deep and expansive) knowledge, and 2. the pursuit of ski It is kind of assuring to find that my own observations at times do fall quite in line with the author's. However, by the end I feel that she comes across a bit as either exaggerating or overreacting. I was a bit disappointed that the 7 myths looked provocative but weren't really distinct and did overlap quite significantly with each other. I think she could have just grouped them into addressing 2 main issues: 1. the devaluing of learned (deep and expansive) knowledge, and 2. the pursuit of skills development, activities and project work at the expense of acquiring knowledge. And then expand and go deeper from there with the rest of the content. I found that while the issues are pertinent they may not be as widespread, entrenched or clear-cut as she indicates from the myth titles. Some of the sample activities that she criticizes sound pretty reasonable to me actually, just perhaps poorly applied, lacking in preparing students or not emphasizing true learning objectives. Not necessarily the fault of policy or approach. I do agree with the underlying points the author raises, particularly that you need to commit stuff to long-term memory to be more creative and do more complex learning, and that way too much emphasis on learning transferable skills (especially when students aren't prepared for them) may push acquiring real knowledge aside. However, I believe that challenging as it may be, we as educators can still find that delicate balance in our teaching between the acquisition of knowledge and applying said knowledge by our students, while developing other useful skills such as self-directedness, flexible thinking and resilience along the way. Scaffolding is important as well. I think since 2013 when the book came out some of the issues she raised have been addressed and positive developments made (at least here in Singapore). But I also do think more can be done. At the very least this book is a good reminder of the need for balance and moderation, and not falling into extremes even when it comes to education.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I'm hoping to start my teacher training this September (if not, then next) and this book was truly eye-opening! I've done no formal study on education, my degree majored in literature, so this was my first peep into some of the theory behind it. I never even realised the misconceptions I had about education until I read this book! It has certainly saved me from much of the disillusion I'm sure I would have faced at some point during my teaching journey and it also confirmed to me that a lot of t I'm hoping to start my teacher training this September (if not, then next) and this book was truly eye-opening! I've done no formal study on education, my degree majored in literature, so this was my first peep into some of the theory behind it. I never even realised the misconceptions I had about education until I read this book! It has certainly saved me from much of the disillusion I'm sure I would have faced at some point during my teaching journey and it also confirmed to me that a lot of the 'I don't know what the hell is going on' moments I had in school (which I still remember quite clearly being only 23) were entirely justified. I always knew I was clever but I felt stupid at school, and this kind of explains why! I think the information in here is so important, and it's honestly put my heart at rest. I always felt like I was wasting time reading or delving deep into a rabbit hole of random non-relevant research but now I know that this is all beneficial and I can spend hours looking into whatever topic I fancy without guilt. I can't wait to bring this knowledge into my own classroom one day.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I thought this was an excellent treatise on the values of a knowledge-rich curriculum. It is well-written, well-informed, concise and progressive. Recommended to all teachers, as well as anyone else interested in modern education. I think it's best read in tandem with Willingham's "Why Don't Students Like School?", whom Christodoulou cites frequently. As she concludes: "Unless we place the powerful and liberating force of knowledge at the heart of our education system, it will continue to fail o I thought this was an excellent treatise on the values of a knowledge-rich curriculum. It is well-written, well-informed, concise and progressive. Recommended to all teachers, as well as anyone else interested in modern education. I think it's best read in tandem with Willingham's "Why Don't Students Like School?", whom Christodoulou cites frequently. As she concludes: "Unless we place the powerful and liberating force of knowledge at the heart of our education system, it will continue to fail our pupils and to deepen inequality."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marek Lisý

    Short and clear writing. The main message is that while current leaning towards teaching competencies and skills tends to disregard facts and knowledge as less important. The fact is, the knowledge is the scaffolding of all skills and competencies, and also the concept of standalone skills or competencies is wrong. They are always deeply rooted in the domain knowledge. It maybe goes a little bit over the top and I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe little bit closer to this side Short and clear writing. The main message is that while current leaning towards teaching competencies and skills tends to disregard facts and knowledge as less important. The fact is, the knowledge is the scaffolding of all skills and competencies, and also the concept of standalone skills or competencies is wrong. They are always deeply rooted in the domain knowledge. It maybe goes a little bit over the top and I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe little bit closer to this side of the argument. :) Anyways, worth a read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt Butler

    I didn’t read all the myths as they seemed quite repetitive. Although parts were interesting and I agree with her points, I found Christodoulou misrepresented her opponents. Frequently she argued against positions that few people would hold. Do many people really believe that facts are useful in learning how to learn? It seemed repetitive as she was arguing for obvious points. I found myself thinking about teaching though, in particular how I would teach.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    I liked it and felt like a good start to reading more about education, but at times I felt like the author's arguments did rely quite a lot on anecdotal evidence (despite her frequently saying it's not). I didn't come out of it fully convinced by all her arguments, but lots to think about and made me want to read more! I liked it and felt like a good start to reading more about education, but at times I felt like the author's arguments did rely quite a lot on anecdotal evidence (despite her frequently saying it's not). I didn't come out of it fully convinced by all her arguments, but lots to think about and made me want to read more!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Campbell

    An interesting approach, based around looking at OFSTED reports and using these to unpick the evidence or lack of it behind the teaching techniques and styles put forward by OFSTED. While British in tone it is probably of use for everyone in education.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Corey James Soper

    "Knowledge does not indoctrinate, it liberates." Profound, precocious, ferocious - a rigorously researched and powerfully argued critique of much educational orthodoxy. A frustrating, challenging book that makes me want to throw all my schemes of work in the bin. A must read for every teacher. "Knowledge does not indoctrinate, it liberates." Profound, precocious, ferocious - a rigorously researched and powerfully argued critique of much educational orthodoxy. A frustrating, challenging book that makes me want to throw all my schemes of work in the bin. A must read for every teacher.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    Really enjoyed this- thought provoking!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alan Chadwick

    Excellent book describing how knowledge transmission has been neglected in schools.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    A well rehearsed argument against progressive educational ideas mixed with scientific evidence about learning and teaching methods from which she draws dubious conclusions.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Very useful for my teaching practice. Every teacher should read this and use it in their teaching!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Almachius

    Absolutely blooming spot on and very well written. Essential reading. More, please.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Gamble

    I didn't like the way it was read. There were some interesting points but it was a bit repetitive and very out of date now. I didn't like the way it was read. There were some interesting points but it was a bit repetitive and very out of date now.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

    Carries its point, as far as I can tell! Largely a repetition of Hirsch, but this stuff needs to be repeated.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    Coming from a background in physics instruction at the college level I was still able to take away a few salient points made about misconceptions on the nature of teaching and learning. The author is writing from the perspective of a grade-school teacher in the UK and often gets bogged down wrestling with the swamp-creature that is government mandated teaching standards, but she also tackles some features of modern teaching which I have unconsciously bought into and others that I can certainly r Coming from a background in physics instruction at the college level I was still able to take away a few salient points made about misconceptions on the nature of teaching and learning. The author is writing from the perspective of a grade-school teacher in the UK and often gets bogged down wrestling with the swamp-creature that is government mandated teaching standards, but she also tackles some features of modern teaching which I have unconsciously bought into and others that I can certainly relate to when thinking back on my education. Cognitive skills are necessarily linked with background knowledge. A few days ago I would have certainly agreed that transferable skills such as reading comprehension, collaboration in a group, research techniques, etc. were well worth pursuing independently of any particular collection of facts. But the argument made in this book is that those skills are irrevocably tied to the background knowledge necessary for a specific task. Good readers are good readers because they have at least a passing familiarity with a breadth of topics. No amount of scientific problem solving training in biology is going to automatically make a student good at solving complicated projectile motion problems. The moral of the story: transferable skills are actually a breadth of knowledge. Foundational knowledge is what is taught in schools while cutting edge knowledge is learned on the job. The fact that modern information is growing and changing faster than we can reasonably track it as educators is beside the point, the job of educators is to provide the broad foundation of knowledge necessary to be literate on cutting edge topics later. It is a fair point that forcing students to engage in group work for the sake of group work itself is meaningless. To learn effective collaborative techniques, there must be an actual need for group work in the context of building applicable knowledge. What are effective collaboration techniques anyway? Clear communication, civil argument techniques, knowing how to apply ones strengths while recognizing the strengths in others, etc? Great, teach philosophy and meditation while funding youth debate teams. Group history posters are a waste of everyone's patience. One topic this book touched on but is slightly outside of its scope is the difference between intelligence and simply knowing facts. This book has challenged my previous inclination that these two things are rather separate; I'll have to think on that some more!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    “Whilst some institutional and structural reform may be valuable, what needs to change most of all is our reliance on defunct ideas. At stake is the education of all our pupils, and particularly the education of our least advantaged pupils. Unless we place the powerful and liberating force of knowledge at the heart of our education system, it will continue to fail our pupils and to deepen inequality.” I want to preface this by saying I whole heartedly believed in many of these myths before I read “Whilst some institutional and structural reform may be valuable, what needs to change most of all is our reliance on defunct ideas. At stake is the education of all our pupils, and particularly the education of our least advantaged pupils. Unless we place the powerful and liberating force of knowledge at the heart of our education system, it will continue to fail our pupils and to deepen inequality.” I want to preface this by saying I whole heartedly believed in many of these myths before I read this book, to the point that I was even a bit dismissive when I read the blurb. The thing is, that is the problem with beliefs. They are just sometimes… wrong. As a science teacher I should have been more suspicious of my beliefs but I was headstrong. I liked the ideas and the feeling of being right too much. There are grains of truth at the heart of each of these myths (that’s what makes them alluring) however, Daisy’s framing of these myths within modern cognitive science allows even the most headstrong to take a step back and reconsider what made you hold these beliefs in the first place. Daisy Chrisodolou argues against the prevailing myths of education today (e.g. education needs to be student led; facts prevent understanding; we should teach practical skills; we should teach through projects / activities; the internet / 21st century changes everything). She is ABSOLUTELY clinical at debunking each myth. She first examines the theoretical evidence for each myth, then proves that it actually has widespread support in modern education and then subsequently explains why it is defunct using our modern understanding of cognitive science. Central to a lot of the ‘myths’ is the false-dichotomy that knowledge and skills are separate things that can be taught in isolation and that facts and knowledge are ever-changing and thus unteachable. This goes up directly against what cognitive scientists actually know about how the brain learns, builds mental models and applies them; Simply put, as the cognitive scientist Dan Willingham puts it, "memory is the residue of thought". Only what is thought about will be remembered and only what is remembered can then be recombined into any sort of 'higher order' skill (like critical thinking or problem solving). Lots of current ‘best practices’ are focussed around putting the cart before the horse, teaching abstract skills BEFORE concrete knowledge Case in point, the holy grail of '21st century skills' - scientific thinking - requires you to have a large knowledge of scientific facts to formulate a hypothesis, the central idea of scientific investigation... Without a HUGE body of knowledge we would not know how to start an experiment. Even if you somehow did get one going and obtained results, you would have no knowledge of the fundamental scientific facts to compare your findings to. Therefore you need a solid understanding and grounding in the facts of the matter before you are able to critically analyse anything. This same problem is found with teaching any abstract skill in isolation - problem solving, communication, critical thinking - we need to teach ACTUAL knowledge FIRST to drive these skills successfully. In comparison to their wealthier peers, Daisy raises the point that students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds may not have the cultural capital in their home life to learn the critical information about the world anywhere else but inside schools. THis is why it is so important that teaching everywhere is effective and not led by defunct beliefs - one of the prerequisites for success in education is opportunity; we cannot deprive this from more-disadvantaged students. This was nothing short of enlightening for me and I couldn’t recommend it higher for anyone currently in or about to enter education.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris Parkinson-Best

    Some good bits and some not-so-good over generalisations. I guess you can’t agree with everything someone says, right?

  30. 4 out of 5

    James Carter

    Seven Myths About Education doesn't add anything new and is mostly a rehash of E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s ideas. That's why you are better off reading his books including The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them, The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, and The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. I am a fan of his work, and what he says makes total sense. Hence, I am a Seven Myths About Education doesn't add anything new and is mostly a rehash of E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s ideas. That's why you are better off reading his books including The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them, The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, and The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. I am a fan of his work, and what he says makes total sense. Hence, I am a proponent of his education theory that being culturally literate is the key to unlocking knowledge. I've taught for a few years and left the profession for good because I've concluded that schools are doing it the wrong way and I want no part of it. Daisy Christodoulou is sometimes repetitive, verbose, and convoluted in her writing. She doesn't get to the point clearly enough to explain her positions and relies too much on anecdotal experiences to back up her statements. At times, the book is very British, leaving me feeling a bit out of it. All in all, you are better off going straight to the source than Seven Myths About Education authored by somebody who basically copied off the ideas that were originally from the source.

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