False Prophets

prophetThe world is full of false prophets.  Not those religious types that predict the world’s end, but those that have lots to say about all manner of other things. People have access now to so much information – information that was once locked in books or only a few had access to. To find out about something, you only have to “google it”.

 One of the tell-tale signs of a false prophet is the inability to tell facts from theory.  Of course as a reader, you may not know the difference yourself so you may succumb to the persuasiveness of the writer.  Take H1N1 Influenza A for instance (Swine flu).  I have never heard so many all-knowing everyday people with opinions about something that the real experts are only just getting to grips with.  Yet where would they get their information from? 

Mostly, people have an opinion on swine flu based on their own experience – everyone has had flu, they watch the news and if they want to know more, then can google it.  But are they making qualified decisions?  

 The free access to information appears to have created a situation of self-reliance, perhaps reducing the opinion of experts to be just another opinion.  This phenomenon is also evident in education.  Somehow theories become facts dependant on who is presenting them.  Everyone has an opinion on education or teaching.  Like the flu, everyone either went to school or had some experience of education of some sort – feeding their opinions based on their own experiences. There are many false prophets in education.

 How can you tell a false prophet in education? It’s just like the flu – an inability to tell facts from theory. They talk of constructivism, experiential, positivist, differential, accelerated, integral, authentic, e-learning, flexible, discovery, cognitive, behavioural, multiple intelligences, whole brain learning, kinesthetic, blooms, solo, facilitation  …… as if they are facts.  Theories may never become facts.  Evidence and data can lend themselves to supporting theories which may predict outcomes, and theories can provide framework for action, but in the end they are just theories. So, what are facts then?

Normally, for a practicing teacher, facts arise from reflection. Analysing information about what worked and what didn’t and why is of course, useless without further action. A false prophet will deliver a lesson based on learning theories but will not examine the evidence afterwards and learn with the benefit of hindsight. Those are the facts – the outcomes of the lesson. It’s the same for the flu – while experts use knowledge, theories and experience to try and predict what will happen, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that they will know if they were correct or not with their predictions or theories.  In education, experts teachers are continually open-minded and self-correcting, utilising learning theories as frameworks but most importantly, adjusting those theories depending on facts.

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