Does Education Reject New Evidence?

IGNORING THE FACTS: Though it’s no longer the 1800s and schools aren’t exactly like hospitals, one researcher proposes educators can learn a thing or two from the Semmelweis Reflex. The concept refers to people’s tendency to reject new evidence because it goes against established beliefs.

The story in 1846 originates from Ignaz Semmelweis, a doctor at Vienna’s general hospital, who explored why two maternity wards saw such different infant mortality rates. He eventually discovered that doctors at one clinic weren’t washing their hands when moving from helping patients and deliveries to performing autopsies. But Semmelweis was mocked and his claim was met with resistance from the medical community.

Carl Hendrick, head of learning and research and Wellington College, believes a similar reaction is happening in education. Despite findings in areas of brain development, teacher trainings and different learning styles, education seems to ignore new evidence in the name of protecting teacher and student autonomy, Hendrick writes.

He cites, for instance, Sarah Jayne-Blakemore’s findings that disorders like depression and eating disorders onset during the teenage years. So should we not take this into consideration as teachers working with children? Learning from other fields is the one of the ways educators can do a better job of embracing new ideas and discoveries, Hendricks says.

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