Professor Guy Claxton kicked bogus learning styles theory into touch. He heard one teacher pointing to a hapless lad at the front of her class, "This is Brendan, our kinaesthetic learner. Aren’t you Brendan”. ‘Kinaesthetic’, he said, was teacher code for naughty! He abhorred this pseudo-academic talk in the classroom. True to his word he gave a lovely, relaxed talk around the language of learning. In a fascinating observational study, teachers were found to use the word ‘work’ far more often than ‘learning’ (98% to 2%). By simply shifting towards the language of ‘learning’ (learnish) you can see a whole change in attitude by teachers and learners.
He is right on all of this. There's too much bogs theory and language floating around in our schools. Learning is getting the brain to do something it often doesn't want to do. This needs the language of encouragement and persuasion, not the language of 'work'. He was a joy to listen to.
Professor Frank Coffield
Frank Coffield is a hero of mine, as he swept the whole ‘learning styles’ obsession into the dustbin with a brilliant research project that brought the whole house of cards tumbling down. Then there’s his brilliant critique of educational policies and organizations, where he laid bare the whole Byzantine mess. He is a great speaker and very good writer. Just a few of his bon mots:
DIUS – Department for Ingenious but Unworkable Schemes
ALL principals should teach
Have a definition of learning
Understand learning theory
WhiteBoards – 2 major studies (
Get back to teaching and learning
We all got a very positive response and as the excellent organizer, Jo Trump, reported by email, ‘a terrific day yesterday. Staff went away buzzing and are fired up to examine practices and assumptions and to make some changes’. She was absolutely right, the chair couldn’t get the audience to stop talking to bring the event to a end.
I knew we had hit the right note when one teacher, during my Q&A, stated that I shouldn't be allowed to speak at such conferences. Now, as I put forward some radical ideas around the use of technology in learning, I've been heckled and had some pretty aggressive 'baby boomer' reactions, but complete censorship has never been suggested. Should someone like her, so unwilling to learn and listen to the views of others, really be allowed to teach? Luckily her colleagues came to my defence in their droves. They were pretty much a fine bunch all round.