David C Geary


David C. Geary is Curators’ Distinguished Professor and Thomas Jefferson Fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri. In this episode, he talks to Greg Ashman about his influential theory of evolutionary educational psychology that categorises knowledge as biologically primary or biologically secondary. Along the way, Dave and Greg discuss knowledge transmission in traditional societies, some common criticisms of the biologically primary/secondary distinction and both the artificality and importance of school.


Paul Ayres


Paul Ayres is Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia. In this episode, Paul talks to Greg Ashman about his journey from classroom teacher in the UK to education professor in Australia. Along the way, Paul and Greg discuss models of human cognitive architecture, mirror neurons, embodied cognition, goal-free problems, what makes a Pythagoras problem difficult and measuring cognitive load. They also discuss the recent review of the Australian Curriculum and what we can do to break the cycle of bad ideas.


Mandy Nayton


Mandy Nayton is the Chief Executive Officer of The Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation and President of AUSPELD, the Australian federation of SPELD Associations (SPELD is short for Specific Educational Learning Difficulties). In this episode, Mandy talks to Greg Ashman about her journey from governess on an outback station to where she is today. Along the way, Mandy and Greg discuss the factors that affect children’s engagement with education and the barriers presented by reading failure. They discuss the process of learning to read, vocabulary, morphology and etymology, before chatting about an upcoming researchED conference in Perth and looking to the future for evidence-based education.


John Sweller


John Sweller is Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and is probably best know for his work on Cognitive Load Theory. He is also one of Greg Ashman’s PhD supervisors. In this episode, John talks to Greg about the development of Cognitive Load Theory, its implications and some of the common criticisms levelled at the theory. Along the way, they discuss biologically primary and biologically secondary knowledge as well as their thoughts on the draft new Australian Curriculum.


Jenny Donovan


Dr Jenny Donovan is head of the newly formed Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO). Prior to that Jenny has had an influential career in education which has included the founding of the Centre for Education Statistics (CESE) in New South Wales, Australia. In this episode, Jenny talks to Greg Ashman about her journey into education, the work of CESE, including its review of Reading Recovery and its publication of resources on cognitive load theory. Jenny and Greg then discuss AERO and its plans for the future.


Sonia Cabell


Sonia Cabell is an Assistant Professor in the School of Teacher Education and the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University. Sonia started out as a second-grade teacher trained in whole language reading instruction before making the move into research. In this episode, Sonia talks to Greg Ashman about her journey, the effects of the U.S. National Reading Panel report on schools, the ‘science of reading’ and what we mean by that term, academic language development and her recently published paper, co-authored with HyeJin Hwang, on attempts to boost reading comprehension by building children’s knowledge.


Ollie Lovell


Ollie Lovell is a teacher, author, podcaster and entrepreneur. After studying physics and economics, Ollie became a maths teacher in Melbourne where he fed a passion for education research. Recently, Ollie Has written a book on cognitive load theory, Cognitive Load Theory in Action, part of the ‘in action’ series published by John Catt. In this episode, Ollie speaks to Greg Ashman about cognitive load theory, its implications for teachers and some of the controversies surrounding the theory.


Why Scott Alexander is wrong about schools

This is your periodic reminder that my new blog posts are over at Substack. You can sign-up for a free subscription.

Scott Alexander has been in the newspapers recently – specifically, the New York Times. Alexander (a pseudonym) was the author of Slate Star Codex, a popular blog that I used to dip into and that I have recently learnt was part of a some ‘rationalist movement’ about which I know little. Last year, the New York Times decided to write an article on Alexander and told him that as part of it, they would disclose his real name for lols. Alexander, a practising psychiatrist at the time, concerned about how the publicity may affect his work, complained about this doxing threat and closed down his blog and the New York Times then sat on the story. Now, Alexander has re-emerged on Substack under his real name and the New York Times have finally published their piece which turns out to be something of a hatchet-job, weakly attempting to link Alexander to the alt-right and everything that’s considered bad in their weird universe (you can read Alexander’s rebuttal here).

Continues at Substack


Academic wellbeing

This is your periodic reminder that my new blog posts are over at substack. You can sign-up for a free subscription.

A recurring motif in the world of the international education consultant is the diagram that opposes one set of ideas against the other – good versus bad.

I was struck by this when I read a new paper for the Australian Centre for Strategic Education by Michael Fullan, a Canadian educational consultant, and hit upon a diagram listing ‘drivers’ for whole system success. The right drivers are called, ‘the human paradigm’ and include, ‘wellbeing and learning’, ‘social intelligence’, ‘equality investments’ and ‘systemness’. How nice! The wrong drivers are apparently, ‘the bloodless paradiagm’ and include ‘academics obsession’, ‘machine intelligence’, ‘austerity’, and ‘fragmentation’. These wrong, rather pale-looking, drivers sound rather bad.

Continues at Substack


Paul Kirschner


Paul Kirschner is Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the Open University of the Netherlands and Guest Professor at Thomas More University of Applied Science in Belgium. In this episode, Paul talks to Greg Ashman about his long career in educational psychology, the key distinction between epistemology and pedagogy and that Minimal Guidance paper he wrote with John Sweller and Richard Clark. Paul and Greg also discuss Paul’s new book co-authored with Carl Hendrick, How Learning Happens. Unfortunately, Paul and Greg run out of time before all of Greg’s questions are answered and so Paul has agreed to return in the future.