Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Pseudoscience Has Nested in Schools'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Pseudoscience Has Nested in Schools'

Article excerpt

Teachers must demand evidence, says former parapsychologist

When Nick Rose worked as a parapsychologist, his job was to investigate why people believed they had been haunted by ghosts or abducted by aliens. When he became a teacher, he expected that all this would be replaced by hard facts and a rigorous curriculum - but teaching is "rife" with myths and pseudoscience, he believes.

At a major conference on the use of research in education, Mr Rose said schools had "very little immunity to nonsense" and urged teachers to have the confidence to ask "impertinent" questions about approaches that had no scientific basis.

Many teachers still believed that dominance of the "right" or "left" brain could explain variations among pupils and were too ready to adopt concepts such as "learning styles", he added.

Mr Rose singled out the Brain Gym programme, which claims to boost brain function through a series of physical exercises and has been widely criticised for being based on pseudoscience. He said it was still popular in some primaries.

"These pseudoscientific ideas, the ones with no scientific founding and quite often disconfirming evidence, have rattled their way through a school, having been ousted out of other disciplinary areas, and have nested and taken root," Mr Rose told the ResearchED conference in London. "In order to move forward as a profession, we really need schools to develop a herd immunity...If half the staffroom are challenging things, it's going to be much harder for this kind of thing to take root."

Mr Rose, who was a postgraduate researcher in parapsychology at the University of the West of England before becoming a psychology teacher, said the "weak point" of education was that teachers were overly focused on what was happening in their own classrooms and what appeared to work for them. …

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