No panacea garden

Sigmund Tobias


Essay Excerpts

Three of the seven distinguished researchers whose autobiographical chapters (Berliner, 2016; Sternberg, 2016; Sweller, 2016) I edited, and one that is in process (Gordon, in press), indicate that they were poor or indifferent students early in their academic careers. That is also true of me; so five of the first seven scholars in the Acquired Wisdom series were poor students. I did not explicitly mention my studying difficulties in this chapter because they had already been described in my memoir about how my family found safe haven from the Holocaust in Shanghai, China, during World War II (Tobias, 2009). It may be useful to examine my difficulties and how they relate to educational practice and concepts in the contemporary educational psychology literature.


The late Dick Snow, a friend and colleague at Stanford, once commented that research on instructional innovations seemed to him like a random walk through the panacea garden. I have become sceptical of any instructional development, theory, or instructional method that is expected to improve learning for all students in all subjects. I have lived through prior panaceas like programmed and computer assisted instruction, multimedia education, computer games, and educational movements such as progressive, competency based, open corridor, and inquiry education, and the current panacea - constructivist instruction - from all of which I learned something. There are no panaceas that will easily improve learning for everyone, because good instruction is hard work and difficult to do. [Download the PDF ]

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Copyright (c) 2016 Sigmund Tobias

Education Review

A multilingual journal of book reviews

ISSN: 1094-5296