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Education Myths

I ran across this blog post about myths that persist in education a couple of days ago. It raises some good points; there really are a lot of notions that, despite being discredited or without evidence, nevertheless remain prevalent in education. She identifies 6 culprits:

  1. duck-quackThe Cone of Learning / The Learning Pyramid
  2. Learning Styles
  3. Right-Left Brain
  4. Brain Gym
  5. Brain-Based Learning
  6. Multiple Intelligences

Interestingly, we discussed multiple intelligence theory in my ICELT class a couple of weeks ago. My impression of the topic was that sounded more or less like astrology: vague, broad statements that could easily apply to almost anyone. While its primary proponent, Howard Gardener, has research to support his claims, and it may well be real, the only practical consequence for the classroom, I feel, is to make sure your lessons are varied and utilizing multiple modalities. Which, as we know, is just good practice anyway.

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The Learning Style Myth

Ask many teachers and parents, and you’ll likely find a great deal of belief in learning styles, or more accurately, learning preferences. It’s an appealing, intuitive idea: when learning some new material, different students will respond better to differentiated lesson styles. Yet, the evidence for this is surprisingly thin. In fact, a number of studies have found quite the opposite.

Most relevant studies show that while students may indicate that they have a learning preference (audio, visual, kinesthetic), that preference has little relation to their learning outcomes. In fact, most people benefit for a variety of different lesson modalities; retention is much better when more than one method is used to reinforce a lesson’s objectives.

This week’s episode of the Skeptics Guide the Universe discusses some of the issues in the topic, in their “Spot the Logical Fallacy” segment. Of particular interest here is how so many trained educators are willing to ignore observational-based research in favor of their own anecdotal evidence, which unfortunately is subject to confirmation bias.

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