The Emperor’s New Pedagogy


Vince Ulam

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The False Dichotomy

There is a modish crowd abroad who believe that psychology is the cloth of gold from which pedagogy is to be spun and tailored. While it is true that psychology informs good pedagogy, wanton appeal to it as a cover for self-promotion, private consultancy and pedagogical reform should not go unchallenged.

To give an opening example, decades worth of very significant research by leading psychologists into the role of memory in learning processes has been used to persuade hundreds of people teaching thousands of pupils across the country that a flashcard scaled to A4, laminated and called a “knowledge organiser” is the ultimate product of cutting edge cognitive science and every pupil’s passport to Oxbridge. Persuaded of this, you are claimed as a “traditionalist“, a champion of knowledge and all-round good sort. Sceptical and you are damned as a “progressive“, brainwashed by Marxist…

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