What Are the Worst Educational Fads?

We’re on the warpath! Whether you agree or disagree there are nuggets of gold here as we explores the strengths and weaknesses of teacher habits.


Admittedly, I didn’t stick teaching out for quite as much time as I’d have liked, but in my few years on the chalk face, I definitely dealt with my fair share of fads coming and going… and I don’t mean the kids dabbing, bottle flipping or parroting the latest meme. So… what are the worst educational fads that we, as the responsible adults in the room, are guilty of following without question?

Fad 1: Lollipop Sticks

For a few months, every single teacher I knew went mad for lollipop sticks. If you check your desk drawer, you might even have a pack that you never got around to writing student names on. Fortunately for me, I never finished a full set. My Sharpie bled into the wood, thus rendered illegible.

Why I Dislike This Fad:

Some teachers argue that lollipop sticks keep students on their toes and encourage even the quietest students to be ready, but I never liked the idea of posing a question to a random student and blaming fate for the result! I even had one teacher tell me that they never even used the name on the stick anyway, instead choosing a student themselves! Why bother with the prop?

Fad 2: The Three-Part Lesson

On paper, it makes total sense to organise your time and it shows an observer that you have a clear vision for the lesson from its onset – sounds great! Every teacher has done it, and we will squeeze that plenary activity in come hell or high water!

Why I Dislike This Fad:

Teaching this way can be rigid and stifling if you let it. You’re pitting yourself against the clock. Your lesson plan is now in charge and instead of making sure the students have actually produced enough worthwhile writing in the belated ‘middle’ of your lesson, you’re watching the clock thinking, ‘I must move on to the plenary otherwise I’m not sticking to the plan.’ Not good.

Fad 3: Group Work

Let’s get this out of the way first: I am not saying group work is without merit. Far from it. Collaborative learning is truly a marvel and it’s a genuinely lovely moment when you bring a class back together to share new and interesting ideas. It’s all about how and when.

Why I Dislike This Fad:

I recall a time where every lesson needed group work in order to be deemed a success. Successful education relies upon imparting and embedding knowledge and skills. Sometimes group work isn’t right for the class. Sometimes group work takes much more planning and forethought. You can teach a successful lesson without a carousel activity. Honest.

Fad 4: Verbal Feedback Given Stamps

You know exactly what I mean. Those little stamps. Those. With the words ‘Verbal Feedback Given’ on them. Everyone had one and for some reason, we all used one when we were done telling a student that they’d misused a semicolon.

Why I Dislike This Fad:

Who benefits from this one? Your student knows you’ve spoken to them. You know you’ve spoken to the student. This one felt like collecting evidence for the sake of evidence – but for who? Even Ofsted said they don’t “expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers.” Ditch the stamp. For good.

Fad 5: Seating Plans

Seating plans, on the whole, are fantastic for setting routines, establishing boundaries and challenging difficult or undesirable behaviour. I’m not saying your kids should have a free-for-all every lesson. I am referring to the specific situations where a school or department policy dictates that a teacher isn’t allowed to arrange their seating as they wish – usually because someone prefers rows to groups. Or the other way around.

Why I Dislike This Fad:

Your classroom is your space. One of the best parts about being a teacher with your own classroom is the chance to create a learning environment that’s engaging and exciting for the people who come to it to learn. Being able to arrange your tables to suit your style of teaching will means your students will get the best out of you, and in turn, you’ll get the best from them.

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