Don’t try this at school: the attraction of ‘alternative’ educational techniques

Stuart J. Ritchie, Eric H. Chudler and Sergio Della Sala

in Neuroscience in Education

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600496
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739187 | DOI:
Don’t try this at school: the attraction of ‘alternative’ educational techniques

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A variety of ‘alternative’ educational techniques are being used in classrooms worldwide, and it is often unclear whether or not they are supported by anything other than vaguely ‘neuroscientific-sounding’ rationales. This chapter reviews the evidence for a sample of these techniques — the classroom use of Brain Gym, drinking water, brain training games, fish oil supplements, and chewing gum — a selection of ‘alternative’ educational techniques that are either already popular, or becoming ever-more popular in schools worldwide. The evidence is mainly found wanting; what links these techniques, and to some extent explains their popularity, is a common flaw in reasoning referred to as the ferrous fallacy. Before critically reviewing the evidence for the efficacy of each of these techniques, the chapter first describes a particular logical fallacy that is commonly used in support of them. It then describes the characteristics of reliable evidence, giving advice about how to evaluate controversial claims. It explains the attraction of these techniques and provides some recommendations for what should be done about them.

Keywords: alternative educational techniques; Brain Gym; drinking water; brain training games; fish oil supplements; chewing gum; ferrous fallacy

Chapter.  11829 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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