Are we doing the wrong things more right, or are we doing the right things?

Latest News Thursday, 18 Nov 2021

There are plenty of examples in just about every field of endeavour where we may ask the question: Are we doing the wrong things more right, or are we doing the right things? A very good example of this can be seen from those negotiating in Glasgow right now where some are promoting carbon sequestration (which just gives more time to keep burning fossil fuels). The general scientific consensus is that sequestration is a useless waste of money. That seems like doing the wrong thing more right and it seems like a ‘die slowly’ approach if you look at the following matrix. Every company currently doing the right thing well has risen out of the former experience of doing the right things poorly or doing the wrong things more right!  

In education, Hattie refers to the ‘effect size’. He ranked 138 influences that are related to learning outcomes from very positive effects to very negative effects. Hattie found that the average effect size of all the interventions he studied was 0.40.  

The above shows, for example, that one of the highest effect sizes is the teacher having realistic and expected estimates of achievement. It would be doing the right thing to focus energy on this. The full 138 effect sizes can be seen here. 

Some of the minimal effect sizes include:

  • Class size – this has minimal effect on student outcomes,
  • Single-sex schools – have little effect on student outcomes,
  • Music being played softly in the classroom - this has minimal effect on student outcomes.

It would not be efficacious, and most likely doing the ‘wrong thing more right’, to focus loads of energy and money on class sizes or piping music through to classrooms in the hope that it soothes the learner. So often, we are trying to make better practices or innovations that would be best jettisoned. I wrote recently about many of the confusing trends and fads in education and some of these would be good examples of educators doing the wrong things more right instead of doing the right things.

It is a question we ask ourselves often. And we need to continue to ask ourselves this question if we want to be in the THRIVE quadrant as per the matrix above. 

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