Archives for category: Education

The most useful thing I learned in my early years of teaching was that more and faster talking leads to less learning. The next most useful thing I learned was that the less I talked (within some limits), the more students learned.

What misconception about learning does this comic highlight?



Here’s an unoriginal idea: we know a lot about how children learn; let’s all think about how we can apply this to how adults learn.


We still need to teach kids how to read and process text and other media critically. There is not yet a tool that can read a text critically for a student, and even if one existed, could we trust it?


Whenever I hear someone use the phrase ‘deliver a lesson’, I cringe. Lessons are not things to be delivered to students! When we use this language it implies that the construction of the lesson is independent from the immediate experiences of the children for whom the lesson is intended, and that the students have no input into the lesson itself.

Contrast this to a lesson designed with actual children in mind, who bring their own experiences to each day. When I start my lesson, I may have in my mind a direction I would like it to go, but this direction is likely to change depending on my interactions with my students. As a result, I do not so much design full lessons so much as experiences I want my students to have, and then have resources available so that if I see a need for the day to go in a particular direction, I have the resources available to take us there.

I know that there are plenty of people who question everything their doctor says. However, most people will accept the advice their doctor gives them, even if many of them will question it and do their own research. Why is it that so many people think that educators, even ones who have spent as much time learning their craft as a doctor does to learn theirs, know little about learning? What makes everyone think they are an expert on learning?

As distance increases, so does expertise.


Why do we treat out-of-town, and potentially expensive expertise as being more trustworthy than expertise in our own schools?

Gary Stager recently suggested that we move away from the phrase “high stakes testing” which he thinks much of the US public loves, and move toward the phrase “constant testing” which is perhaps a better descriptor of the problems the US education system faces. I agree! In fact, I’ve made this comic to highlight this issue. I am not completely opposed to students taking tests (although I’d sure like to see them improved, many of them are just awful), but I am opposed to students losing almost a year’s worth of instructional time during their k-12 experience to take these tests.

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” Henry Thoreau, Walden, chapter 1, p. 67 (1966)

Cartoon by Jeff Branzburg

Practising math facts non-stop certainly makes students better at math facts, but one must not forget that one of our goals in math education is to help students improve their mathematical reasoning, and this ALSO requires practice. When you see students’ scores go way up on an assessment that measures their ability to remember math facts, you should also ask, “What have we lost?”