Five Big Ideas in Education That Don’t Work

Every now and then, an absolutely great idea comes along.  When it does, and it’s brought to the marketplace, the market (that is, the audience it is released to) will ultimately decide if it is a great idea, or if it’s not.  If it’s a great idea, like the iPhone, it will be embraced, and eventually become part of the fabric of our existence.  But even great ideas and best practices, however, can disappear or change over the course of time when a better idea comes along, or the best practice is replaced by an even better practice, which then becomes the new best practice…at least until the next one comes along.  This is why if you’re looking to implement “best” practices, or looking for “best” practices that you can implement, you’re probably too late to the dance because you should already be doing them, and, by the time you get around to implementing them (or even getting them approved to be implemented), they “next” practice will already be developing a foothold in the market.

Recall the words of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who said, “Good players go where the puck is; I go to where the puck is going to be.”

Then there are those other ideas that seem great, but just don’t have what it takes to make it in the market.  They could, however, be great in another market vertical, such as the technology developed to assist in hospital billing which became a way for schools to improve their tuition capture, or the super strong adhesive that 3M was trying to develop that turned into an adhesive that didn’t adhere very well, which became the genesis for Post-It Notes.

This story from NPR spotlights Dr. John Hattie, an educational researcher with a Ph.D. in statistics and measurement.  While big ideas might sound like they could be “the next big thing” for learning, Hattie says the statistics tell the real story.

Visit for the complete article.  Even though it was written in 2015, those ideas are still talked about as goals that need to be achieved.  It’s another example of the “pervasivity” of the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mindset, and as we’ve learned from our pandemic, that’s a mindset that doesn’t work anymore.

For a compilation of works by Dr. John Hattie, visit