Assertions & belief. Why is evidence so often the elephant in the class room?

I know it’s the scientist in me, but before I can totally accept an idea I like to read for myself some evidence supporting an assertion. Otherwise, I am operating solely on belief, and that’s a whole new set of dilemmas.

As the summer holidays start to take hold, I thought I’d revisit some of the beliefs that seem to be proliferating through educational circles at present.

.Upfront, I’m not taking a stand here, just making an observation that evidence is either lacking, thin on the ground or (I accept that this might be my issue) that I can’t find much to go on.

So, in no particular order:

1. iPads (or other tablet devices) improve educational outcomes

For sure, I can find details, blog posts and “literature" that links these devices to engagement (especially for boys) but I can’t actually find any hard evidence that links uptakeof these devices to actual impact on attainment or outcomes. Now, that might be because these devices have not been in the class for all that long, but nevertheless, investing in such technology solely because it appears to improve attainment, seems to be insufficient evidence.

In a similar vein, the following articles class in this category:

  • 1 to 1 deployment of iPads boosts literacy
  • Tablets support maths development

My favourite one in this category is “Our learners prefer to use tablet devices". Fair enough, but equally, I’m sure learners would prefer to eat chocolate all day or have a 3 hour lunch break.

2. Kids need to learn how to code

(Declaration of conflict of interest here. I buy into this one, even though I know it’s an assertion, based on belief not evidence.)

Linking coding and computation skills to potential future employment (as in “they will need these skills later") seems self evident, but where things move strongly into belief, is when coding gets linked to wider school attainment. Where is the evidence that teaching kids to code or think in a computational manner is linked to wider school/life success?

This assertion seems to fall back into the “engagement", “boys like it" category of evidence, but I have to admit that equally for this one, I can’t find any evidence to support my personal belief.

In a similar vein, the following articles class in this category:

  • Teaching kids how to be entrepreneurs
  • Raspberry Pi / Makey makey / Arduino and their impact in class

3. Solo taxonomy improves meta cognition

About 3 years ago, Solo taxonomy burst onto Twitter and teachers seemed spell bound by the inevitable piles of hexagons. Does it actually achieve anything? For sure (as mentioned above) kids like it and can seem to offer engagement in the class. But does it actually lead to attainment improvement or a step change in pedagogy?

In a similar vein, the following articles class in this category:

  • All things “Kagan"
  • Purple pens of progress or not marking in red ink

4. VLEs and Learning Platforms

(Again conflict of interest here as I like the idea / concepts)

Sure, it seems self evident that VLEs and Learning Platforms can make things easier (for staff and teachers) and can improve engagement, but it there any evidence that these things make an impact/difference to the outcomes of our young people?

5. Flipping the class

As a long term advocate of this, I’ve found myself questioning my reason for this recently. Have I confused the benefits of flipping the class on myself (better prep, reusable resources) and the engagement increase (watch videos at home, do homework exercises in class) with the need for actual evidence that my learners are actually achieving more as a result?


I’m not being negative in any of these 5 examples above. In fact, just the opposite. I’m looking for evidence to support the use within the class.

For sure, any initiative that inspires teachers and pupils, makes life easier and doesn’t have a detrimental impact could be seen as a success. But to be honest, I’ve not really seen that evidence either.

Just a series of anecdotes, beliefs and assertions.

Now, off to work through my justification for a PLC.

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