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Education Bookcast

May 25, 2020

Earlier in the life of this podcast I was experimenting with discovery learning. I was even something of a fan. I tried out "Maths Circles", a form of discovery- and inquiry-based teaching, with students aged 16-18 and 10-11, and even went on a course in the USA to try to learn more about it. My exploits are recorded in previous episodes. I could hardly call them a great success.

Subsequently, I tried to find research on Maths Circles. The Internet didn't bring anything up. Eventually I put that obsession away and focused on other books and research in education and cognitive science.

After much rummaging about the literature reading whatever I thought was interesting, I found this article, or perhaps it found me, and it was difficult for me to face it at first. I was already so strongly bound to my way of thinking that it was too much cognitive dissonance to read this. I had serious confirmation bias. It took me a while before I was brave enough to actually read it and shatter my illusions.

It turns out that this kind of teaching has been shown many times over to be ineffective. My failures with my experiments weren't just because I was doing it wrong, it was because the whole approach is flawed. Evidence has been mounting about this for over half a century, I just didn't know about it.

This was certainly an eye-opener for me. I hope that it inoculates you against something that could waste your time - or convince you to stop doing what you're doing, if you are currently using these inefficient and ineffective methods.

Enjoy the episode.