This week I tweeted a thread that started with this learning pyramid:

For anyone who didn’t know already, everything about the Learning Pyramid is fake (Letrud & Hernes, 2018). There have been numerous iterations of it passed around at education conferences and, yes, Twitter too, for more than 160 years! Do a Google image search of “How do we learn” and you get the Learning Pyramid:

Screen Shot 2020-05-20 at 4.29.22 PM
Many, many fake pyramids

It’s obvious that peddling something that is as fake and inconsistent with cognitive science research as the Learning Pyramid could be very damaging because it persuades teachers to dramatically alter their practices to fit an inaccurate model of how we learn. I’m not lying when I say that even hearing mention of the Learning Pyramid makes my stomach turn a bit. This is because just a few years ago I used that same pyramid as evidence for what teaching and learning should look like in a “21st century” school.

Numerous times on this blog I’ve made claims that I’ve had to walk back. Most of these were made before I started reading widely, which corresponded with my decision to pursue a PhD in Education, and was exposed to evidence that challenged the beliefs I previously held. It might cause me to cringe when I think back to the days that I thought the Learning Pyramid was true, but at the time I was simply writing about the things I knew about.

A combination of embarrassment and (crappy) CPD has made me passionate about how our profession can evolve from a “Learning Pyramid Profession” into one that is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of scientific knowledge about how kids learn. One way is to improve pre-service training for teachers, something that I aim to do at some point in my career.

For inservice teachers, a way forward is to create teacher-led institutions at the national and international level, and teacher-led book clubs and research groups at the school-level. At the individual level, I encourage teachers to read widely and to take advantage of free online PD opportunities such as the Division 15 sponsored webinar that my tweet thread was based on. Deciding to engage with this research, despite the time commitments I have to my students, my 11 month old daughter, Stephanie, and my dissertation, has brought me so much joy over these past few years.

I’ll leave you with the video recording of Dan Willingham’s Division 15 sponsored webinar to get you started:

– Zach Groshell | Follow me on Twitter @mrzachg

Reference

Letrud, K., & Hernes, S. (2018). Excavating the origins of the learning pyramid myths. Cogent Education, 5(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2018.1518638

One thought on “A Learning Pyramid Profession

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