Dr Denry Machin
Apr 5, 2019 · 3 min read
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Your inbox is probably full of them.

Every day you probably receive e-mails about the latest educational topic du jour.

Some new technology is that latest breakthrough in #edtech, some new pedagogy the latest innovation in #nomoremarking or some new website the latest solution to #recruitmentcrisis.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff and the nonsense from the makes sense can be challenging.

Over time schools leaders develop increasingly sophisticated filters. They know what works, what has been tried before and what is just sales pitch. Wise school leaders remain open to new ideas, but they have developed systems and tools for identifying myths, fallacies and fads.

In the words of the Heads, some of the biggest myths, fallacies and fad in teaching and learning include:

“Unmitigated, feverish and blind believe in IT. The use of IT won’t solve the issues facing education in the 21st century.”

“That conventional teacher evaluation (pre-observation conference, full-lesson visit, lengthy write-up, and post-conference) actually improves teaching and learning.”

“I don’t believe that teachers should teach in one defined and dictated way’. Just as pupils learn in many different ways, so teachers teach in many different ways. We should embrace this diversity, not quash it.”

“That skills can replace knowledge entirely. We must have a depth of knowledge and understanding to be able to assess and judge. The two aspects are indivisible.”

“Don’t believe that every new study equals truth.”

“Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) — Kids need to practice writing if exams stay pen to paper.”

And, in school leadership generally:

“That the leader alone can fix things — only the team can do that.”

“That the leader has all the power.”

“The persistence of the myth of the messianic leader.”

“Not sticking to your core beliefs and allowing fads and fashions to dictate development priorities always leads to lack of cohesion. Always keep the courage of your convictions whilst listening to those around you to sense check decisions.”

“Believing PD improves teaching and learning. A very weak correlation if any. Better hiring is the way to go.”

“That educational leaders are experts.”

“That leadership can be learnt from going on courses or reading books.”

“For me you have to be very careful when employing consultants. In essence, they are sales people; often selling you and your school what you already know. So, use them wisely. Try to do as much as you can within the school and with your current resources. Only go outside when they really do add value.”

“That all problems are solvable. Some are not.”

“The belief that by hard work alone you can change a school for the better.”

“That everyone is truly there due to their passion for student success — it was a sad day when I realised that this is not always true.”

“That school leadership is lonely. It doesn’t have to be.”

“The belief that being young means you can’t be experienced and vice versa.”


Reflect on the current educational agenda (locally, nationally or in your school), identify one current issue you think is a myth, fallacy or fad.

To move your reservations beyond cynicism, try to codify at least three tangible and defensible reasons why you believe the issue is more hype than help. Imagine you were about to debate the issue with an evangelical colleague, what would your counter-arguments be? How would you defend your position?

School leadership is, of course, about having opinions. As a leader, you will need to do your fair share of chaff sorting to get at the wheat. But, it isn’t enough to just be dismissive. You don’t want to throw out the good with the bad, and you don’t want to demotivate staff by rejecting initiatives without good reason.

Avoiding myths, fallacies and fads is a trait of wise Heads, but so too is justifying why.

The full ‘Wisdom of Heads’ book can be purchased here (Amazon US), here (Amazon UK) or here (iBooks).


on education, by educators, about all things educational

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