The Iron Laws of Pedagogy
By Bryan Caplan
Everyone who’s ever been a student can vouch for what I call the Iron Laws of Pedagogy:
First Iron Law: Students learn only a small fraction of what they’re taught.
Second Iron Law: Students remember only a small fraction of what they learn.
Third Iron Law: Most of the lessons students remember lack practical applications.
Research on Transfer of Learning strongly confirms a fourth, less obvious conclusion:
Fourth Iron Law: Even when students remember something with practical applications, they still usually fail to apply what they know… unless you explicitly tell them to do so.
If you’re tempted to yawn at these truisms, reread the Fourth Iron Law. Anyone who jumps through the hoops of formal education witnesses its multiplicative inadequacies. Yet when former students argue about education policy, most fail to apply their first-hand knowledge – precisely as the Fourth Law predicts! What do they do instead? Give in to wishful thinking and Social Desirability Bias – and hail education as the the key to the universe.