Cognitive biases screw up everyone’s thinking. They make us more afraid of flying than driving. They stop the U.S. enacting universal health care. And they convinced Tony Blair and George W. Bush that the Iraq War was a great idea, even when we knew it wasn’t. In short, cognitive biases make us less logical, less rational and less efficient decision makers. All of this applies to teachers too. Here are five cognitive biases that screw up your thinking in the classroom and why they stop you from being a better teacher.
When I was a first-year teacher, my lesson plans looked like this.
Games were great at entertaining my classes. Much later I realized that some games were also great for learning English. The challenge was figuring out which games.
If you want your games to be more than a break between grammar drills and book work, check your games against “GAMES” (Group, Appropriate, Motivating, English, Skills).
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln (via Penny Ur),
You can teach some of the students all of the time, or all of the students some of the time. But you can’t teach all of the students all of the time.
Why not? Because most classes are mixed level. Some students learn faster than others, some write better than others, some are quieter than others. So the question we need to ask ourselves is…
How can we teach more of our students more of the time?
We can teach more of our students more of the time by making our mixed level classes “MIXED” (by using Materials, Instructions, eXpectations, Evaluation, Discipline).
If you have, you’ll know one of the reasons that Fight Club is great is because of the ending. Ed Norton and Helena Bonham Carter look out over a sea of destruction while Black Francis croons and creams an apocalyptic tribute to mental illness. Brilliant. But what does this have to do with teaching English?