Tuesday 1 December 2015

The Seven Alternatives to Evidence-Based Teaching - A Christmas Tale

As we approach the end of the autumn term and now that we have entered the month of December, it seems time for a more upbeat and hopefully humorous blog.  Although, I trust still getting across a serious message.  Shamelessly borrowing from the work of Isaac and Fitzgerald (1999) who wrote a tongue in cheek article on the alternatives to evidence based medicine, I'll use the seven 'evidence-based medicine personality types' identified by Scott and Fitzgerald to classify types of evidence-based teachers within school staffrooms.

Eminence-based teaching  - often associated with seniority and the amount of grey-hair and a dismissive attitude to research evidence - and which results in the same mistakes being made year after year - but with increasing levels of confidence.

Vehemence-based teaching - sheer loudness and repetition is used as a substitute for evidence and is exhibited by colleagues incessant posting and hectoring on social media and which reduces colleagues resistance to these loud but ultimately unfounded ideas.

Eloquence-based teaching - these colleagues look the part, smooth, cool and hip - the articulateness and eloquence of their 2000 word blogposts hiding a complete lack of evidence supporting their well written and argued, but ultimately deeply superficial point of view.

Providence-based teaching - these colleagues have no idea of what to do next to help disadvantaged pupils heading for a life on benefits - and their inaction merely increases the certainty of an increased welfare bill.

Diffidence-based teaching - these are colleagues who see a problem but do nothing, making no attempt to try and generate a well formulated and answerable question which might help solve the problems at hand.

Nervousness-based teaching - these are colleagues who are constantly worried about the next lesson observation or OfSTED inspection - and who are testing, oops I mean assessing, students at every opportunity to demonstrate the teacher's commitment to both marking and stress testing the' bag for life'

Confidence-based teaching - reserved for headteachers and other members of the senior leadership team who just walk in and door handle a lesson.

These personality types can be scientifically identified by the use of markers, measuring devices and the appropriate unit of measurement.

Again borrowing shamelessly from Isaac and Fitzgerald the following table should help you identify the various personality types to be  found in your staffroom (and especially last weekend on Twitter)

Table 1 : Basis of teaching practice
Basis for teaching decisions
Measuring device
Unit of measurement
Has read Visible Learning by John Hattie
Number of Hattie references in normal conversations
Radiance of white hair
Optical density
Level of stridency
Number of tweets and unfollows
Still wears a suit and tie
Adhesion score
Level of expertise
Number of bottom sets taught
Level of gloom
Coffee consumption 
Number of sighs per coffee
Requires Improvement Phobia
Every conceivable measure of progress
Number of nights per week seen taking home the bag for life full of marking
No sweat

And me

Over the course of my career I clearly have had multiple personalities: I write blogs about evidence informed practice; what's left of my hair is increasingly grey, no is grey; I constantly tweet; to my everlasting shame there were some students who I did not have the skills or wherewithal to help; I could be miserable; I lived in fear of OfSTED even though I lived and worked in a jurisdiction where OfSTED did not prevail; and, I was a senior leader who at times just got away with a sharp suit, matching shirt, tie and highly polished shoes.  And I can provide evidence for all of them!


Isaacs, D., & Fitzgerald, D. (1999). Seven alternatives to evidence based medicine. Bmj, 319(7225), 1618.


  1. Is this limited to the above? I can't see where I fit in the spectrum: my FE (not schools) research is evaluation of longitudinal online-learning experiences and so-called 'affordances' conducted between classroom, home study analysis and the online network (often made in a dressing gown). I blog and Tweet, albeit reluctantly..

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