200 Words: Lethal Mutations of the Educational Kind

A ‘lethal mutation’ – within the context of education – is an idea or activity based on entirely reasonable and worthwhile principles that, over time, evolves into something unproductive or actively harmful.  Several notorious examples from the past spring easily to mind, and yet we can conveniently forget how beguiling concepts like learning styles and 21st century skills once were.  Hindsight and hedonic editing are wonderful things.  The trouble is, of course, that new ‘mutations’ continue to emerge.  The exuberant application of dual-coding is perhaps the most obvious one.  But there are others, too.  And most of them are undoubtedly the unintended consequences of good intentions.

We’re clearly in a moment where it’s important to experiment with new pedagogical approaches.  However, just be mindful that the fundamental principles of online learning are the same as those in the classroom.  Engagement alone will never be enough: students will always need to think hard in order to learn.  In time, we’ll have a more rounded understanding of what actually works and what simply appears to work with remote learning.  For now though, keep going and keep the conversations going.  And if in doubt, keep it simple.