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The Biz About Buzz Words

I am fed up with some of the words/phrases that have been used repeatedly, in the wrong context so that they have lost all meaning. So I am starting a list of buzz words and their (rather tongue in cheek) definitions/comments. Please feel free to add to the list!.

“Evidence based”

I read something somewhere on the net and liked what I read: That’s good enough evidence for me.

“Best practice” (Thanks, Sally)

“Best practice” really means, “We all thought it was good”, “That’s what so and so have been doing for years” or “I read about it somewhere on the internet”

“Brain based learning” (Thanks, Nathalie)

‘Cause most people learn in their big toe?

“Expert” (Thanks, Deb)

“I have a child who has dyslexia or I have done a course on dyslexia. I know my child, so I must be an expert on dyslexia.”


“I have a brain, so what I do must be based on neuroscience”

“Brain plasticity or brain training” (Or “learning”, as we like to call it.)

“I changed my brain today as did the kids I work with, by learning something. So I used “the amazing capacity of the brain called brain plasticity”.”

“Left brain-right brain: A tale of two brains”

“The brain is highly integrated with all parts of the brain being used.”

“In this age of wisdom, many of us still believe in the foolish idea that rationality, logic and verbal skills are located in the left hemisphere of the brain, while creativity, emotions and visuo-spatial skills are located in the right hemisphere.”


The left brain/right brain neuromyth.


“Learning styles” – another, potentially dangerous, neuromyth


“When something is so pervasive it doesn’t even occur to people to challenge it. We need to be willing to critically reflect on beliefs even if they are commonly believed. Another reason why this persists is quite frankly: The idea of learning styles is sexy. It sounds good. It feels good. Saying that people have different learning styles is another way of acknowledging that people are different, and differences are important, especially when it comes to the classroom.” BUT…

This neuromyth is also debunked in the MUSEC briefing issue 30 (see appendix for the full article)

Also here http://www.dyslexics.org.uk/learning_styles.htm


Multi-sensory strictly means ‘using more than one sense’, so it is difficult for any communications between people NOT to be multisensory as when we talk to another person we look at them and listen to them. It is a weasel word that means different things to different people.

Some people say that multisensory means using concrete materials, others disagree and use V-A-K. This stands for Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic. You see someone (V), you say “Hi’ (auditory-A), you shake hands (touch-kinesthetic, K). So if someone uses the word multisensory ask then what it their interpretation of the word means for them.


“Multisensory concrete materials”

These are materials such as Cuisenaire rods, paddle pop sticks or Numicon (ten frames), commonly used to help dyscalculic kids to understand the basics of Arithmetic.


This term is dead, deceased and deleted. It’s history! It used to be promoted on the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), website and stood for Multi-Sensory Structured Language. (The IDA was formerly called “The Orton Dyslexia Society”). In 2009 the IDA said:

Even so, we find ourselves in an ironic, if not dicey, position.   In this era of evidence-based instruction, citing clinical intuition and testimony may not suffice, even when authoritative and compelling. We risk criticism of the sort directed at whole-language and other unfounded or discredited approaches. Worse, without evidence of efficacy, we risk the wellbeing of students with dyslexia who might not receive instruction they need (a point that rests on the premise that the multisensory component is indeed vital for these students). Lack of scientific evidence can be misconstrued, particularly as public-education policy makers, leaders, and teachers struggle to implement daunting federal regulations while juggling formidable competing priorities. In this pressure-cooker climate, unsubstantiated practices risk being overlooked, if not dismissed outright.

The IDA deleted ‘MSL’ from their website in 2014.

Also see here http://www.dyslexics.org.uk/room_101.htm

“Specialist dyslexia teaching and programmes/Orton-Gillingham”

According to Steve Dyktas who is an international expert on the science of reading ‘The goal is not to be multi-sensory. The goal is to get the kids reading. Sometimes I think the sensory stuff generates a near religious fervour that isn’t justified’.

Further information about structured synthetic phonics (SSP) as opposed to multisensory can be found on the Five from Five website http://www.fivefromfive.org.au/

what isAppendix

MUSEC briefing Issue 30, Learning Styles

© Kevin Wheldall, 2011

MUSEC Briefings are offered in good faith as a service to the community by Macquarie University Special Education Centre

This MUSEC Briefing may be copied or otherwise reproduced for not for profit purposes by individuals or organisations on the understanding that it is reproduced in its entirety and that Macquarie University Special Education Centre is clearly indicated as the source.

Statement of the Problem

It is claimed that many students are not learning to their full capacity because the instruction they are receiving is not being adequately tailored to their learning needs. Specifically, students may be disadvantaged if the instruction provided favours one learning style more than another.

Proposed Solution/Intervention

Teachers should assess the preferred learning styles of the students in their classes and thereby ensure that the instructional needs of all learners are met.

The theoretical rationale – how does it work?

The idea behind learning styles as an educational concept rests on the intuitively appealing (and seemingly obvious) notion that different people tend to learn differently. The theory argues that students’ learning will be optimized if their learning styles are taken into account by their teachers. A variety of taxonomies of learning styles have been proposed, a particularly common and popular one being the distinctions between auditory, visual and kinaesthetic (or tactile) learners. The theory suggests that teachers should assess their students to determine their specific learning styles and then to structure their instruction to meet the specific learning needs of their students. So, for example, teachers should ensure that kinaesthetic learners have the opportunity to handle and manipulate curriculum materials employing such media as clay.

What does the research say? What is the evidence for its efficacy?

There has been a huge amount of research conducted on learning styles over many years, in many parts of the world. Researchers have sought to demonstrate that learning styles can be adequately assessed and that if students are subsequently taught in a manner capitalizing on their assessed learning style, then they will learn more efficiently. The technical quality of much of the research on learning styles, however, in spite of its profusion, has been seriously questioned, so that it has proved difficult to find sufficient numbers of well-designed studies that put the theory to the test. Expert reviews of the research have concluded that there is no convincing evidence to support the idea that children learn better if taught by methods consonant with their assessed learning styles.


In spite if its popularity with both researchers and teachers, learning styles as a construct appears to have little to offer classroom practice. There is little or no evidence to support the notion that taking learning styles into account actually improves student learning. Skilled teachers will often need to adjust instruction in response to data on learner performance but learning styles assessments do not appear to provide useful guidance in making such adjustments. Moreover, a preoccupation with learning styles may prove distracting to teachers and thereby reduce the likelihood that they will address aspects of the teaching context over which they have real control using methods for which there is scientific evidence for efficacy.

The MUSEC verdict

Not recommended


Macquarie University Special Education Centre

Building X5A, Macquarie University NSW 2109

Ph: 9850 8691 Fax: 9850 8254

July 2011


Key references may be found at:


Ann Williams


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