A cheering thought for a Monday morning

By Gordon Rugg

Just in case you were wondering whether traditional education and traditional values are still alive, here’s something that might set your mind at rest.

petrarch greyv2

Opera vita aeterna?

Anyone who would mix the neuter plural and feminine singular like that should be whipped down the street by a man dressed as Petrarch.



In-groups, out-groups and the Other

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a quick overview of some long-established and useful concepts from sociology and related fields.

It’s mainly intended as background for another article that I’ll be posting soon, about how most systems treat people who don’t fit neatly into pre-established pigeonholes.

If you already know about in-groups, out-groups etc you might still find this article interesting, because I’ve included some thoughts about cognitive load as a factor in group dynamics.

header  Continue reading

The quick and dirty approach to meta-analysis

By Gordon Rugg

In an ideal world, everyone would always do everything perfectly. However, it’s not an ideal world.

So what can you do when you’re trying to make sense of a problem where there’s conflicting evidence, and you don’t have time to work through all the relevant information?

One approach is simply to decide what your conclusion is going to be, and then to ignore any evidence that doesn’t fit. This is not terribly moral or advisable.

Another is to do a meta-analysis, to assess the quality of the evidence as a whole. This sounds impressive; it also sounds like hard work, which it is, if you do a full-scale proper meta-analysis. Most academic researchers therefore use two types of meta-analysis.

  • The first is the quick and dirty type, which normally gives you a pretty good idea of whether the topic is worth spending your time on.
  • The second is the proper type, which is time-consuming, and requires sophisticated knowledge of research methods, including statistics.

This article, as the title subtly implies, is about the quick and dirty approach. It’s a flawed, imperfect approach, but it’s a good starting point in a flawed, imperfect world.

Continue reading

Hunting stuffed moose in Norway

By Gordon Rugg

Today’s post shows a little-known Norwegian activity: Hunting the stuffed moose.

Yes, it’s a real, old, photo. Yes, that really is what the caption for the photo said. No, I don’t know the background story. Sometimes, Lovecraft was right about there being things that human minds were never meant to know…

I hope this image brightens your life.



“Natural” and “artificial” learning

By Gordon Rugg

There’s a widespread belief that there’s a useful distinction between “natural” learning and “artificial” learning.

There’s also a widespread belief that Elvis is still alive.

In this article, I’ll explain why the natural/artificial distinction is worse than useless in the context of education, and I’ll describe a more useful, solidly-grounded set of categorisations.

Natural and unnatural skills: The handaxe and the razor


Continue reading

Are writing skills transferable?

By Gordon Rugg

The short answer is: “Not really”.

The reasons for this answer take us through the literature on expertise, and through some little-known byways of history, including Caesar shouting “Squirrel!” and the strange case of the mesmerised trees.

Those byways should be a lot better known, because they have deep implications for education policy in theory and practice. This article unpacks the issues involved, and some of the implications.

Caesar, a squirrel, a tree, and Mesmerheader pictureImages from Wikipedia and Wikimedia – details at the end of this article

Continue reading

Herodotus on the phoenix, on the horned serpent, and on winged snakes

By Gordon Rugg

Just in case the earlier article about Caesar on the unicorn and Roosevelt on the moose left you hungry for more, here’s Herodotus demonstrating that his mastery of colourful travel writing is on a level that can only be matched by Jennifer Lawrence’s mastery of photobombing. And of tripping over at award ceremonies. And of devastating one-liners…

Anyway, here’s Herodotus, writing about Egyptian wildlife.



Continue reading