Monday, May 28, 2007


I’m all for experimenting and trying out new ideas, the problem is when you get a ‘magic bullet initiative’, that everyone is expected to implement. In many cases they haven’t been subject to peer review or tested in schools.

Howard Gardner’s theory of ‘Multiple Intelligence’ is based on the idea that everyone has different styles of learning – principally Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic (VAK).

This theory was embraced by the proponents of ‘Accelerated Learning’. All the teachers in our borough went to a lecture by the guru of the movement, Alistair Smith. It was an interesting day, he had a teacher-friendly approach with lots of school-based jokes and digs at Ofsted. Just… at the end of the day apart from knowing that we had to give children lots of water to drink, some teachers went away asking, ‘Where’s the Beef?’ Not that we were allowed to ask any questions during the day of lectures and films.

Some schools adopted ‘Accelerated Learning’ whole-heartedly, children had labels on their desks with ‘Visual’, ‘Auditory’ or ‘Kinaesthetic’, planning had to include provision for the different learning styles and posters were situated to stimulate a certain side of the brain.

A report this week, ‘Neuroscience and Education’ from the Teaching and Learning Research Programme says that dividing pupils according to learning styles could be detrimental to their education and that scientific evidence for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning is limited.

Andrew Pollard, director of the programme, spoke to an eight-year-old boy who told him, ‘I’m not good at writing. I’m a kinaesthetic learner.’

That’s the danger, take a theory, simplify it, change it into a rigid code or dogma and then enforce it onto other people. As they used to say the problem wasn’t Marx but the Marxists.


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