(I’m republishing posts on my My All-Time Favorite Posts list. This one appeared in 2022. You can see them all here)


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I understand that research should be challenged – more than once – to see if its findings are accurate.

I wonder, though, why some in education spend so much time challenging individual studies – ones that have been successfully challenged time-and-time again – yet spend little time acknowledging that the main findings of that research have been corroborated by other research without those shortcomings?

Three immediately come to mind:

There are lots of questions about the famous Marshmallow Test, and today these were brought up again by a blog I really like, Teach Learn Grow. I’ve shared many of those concerns myself at Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.  However, as education researcher Daniel Willingham explains, even without The Marshmallow Test, “the evidence of an association between self-control in children and positive outcomes in teen years and beyond is extensive.”

Given that, it’s perplexing to me how much energy people prefer putting into beating up The Marshmallow Test instead of highlighting other evidence that supports its conclusions.

The so-called “Dale’s Cone of Excellence” is another “finding” I wonder about (see NO, THE “CONE OF EXPERIENCE” IS NOT “RESEARCH-BASED” & YES, SOME PEOPLE DEBUNKING IT HAVE WAY TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS). The “Cone of Experience” has been endlessly debunked, but its conclusion that people are more likely to learn by doing instead of listening is well-founded in research (see the post I link to).

But so many people continue to focus their energy into beating up on the “Cone Of Experience” instead of highlighting other evidence that supports its conclusions.

Then, of course, there are the thoroughly discredited “learning styles” (see The Best Resources For Learning About The Issue Of “Learning Styles”).   Yes, “learning styles” are bogus, but it is true that we have to personalize our teaching in order to reach many of our students.  “Learning styles” might not be the way to frame the challenge, but they point to the bigger need for differentiated instruction. As Heather Wolpert-Gawron wrote, Studies Find There’s No Such Thing As Learning Styles – As Teachers, Should We Care?

Every week – and that’s not much of an exaggeration – I see another article criticizing learning styles and not highlighting the need they sought to meet.

In many cases, of course, this need to beat dead horses is a political tactic to push against the broader education perspectives they represent.

Though that doesn’t seem to be the case in other situations, and I truly don’t understand why.

What do you think?

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.