11 Edu Myths I Encounter

As I continue in my learning “travels”, I am noticing some reoccurring “myths” about students, teaching, learning and schooling.

Here is short list of  “11 Edu Myths” that I continue to personally encounter:

Myth #1: Lectures

I continue to encounter many teachers who are somewhat “meek” to admit that they use lectures in their classes.   I hear teachers sometimes declare – “this may not be a good class to visit – I am only lecturing. You should have come last week when students were presenting…”

To be clear, direct instruction (Hattie) and the use of clear instructions by teachers is a legitimate pedagogical tool when it comes to teaching.  However, not all lectures are created equally and a good lecture must be also matched with a teacher’s ability to capture student voice in the learning process.

 Myth #2: It’s all about technology

Wrong.  It starts with good pedagogy.  The teacher matters.  Increasingly, technology can be used to engage students in their thinking.  Teachers have a role to play in triggering learning and thinking.  Technology increasingly has a powerful place in that process.

Myth #3:  Students are Internet savvy

Perhaps one of more dangerous myths in education is that students are “digital natives”.  I would argue that this type of thinking gives too many adults a certain “crutch” to abdicate their ethical duty to teach digital citizenship.  I have written about this here: Scarcity at the Table of Abundance

Myth #4:   Public vs. Independent 

As a someone who has worked in the independent school system (in British Columbia) I have seen too much rhetoric “pitting one side against the other” often with stereotypical, misinformed comments  .  The more I work with folks from both the public schools and independent schools the more optimistic I am that EVERYONE is working to serve all students.  At the end of day, they are all our children.

 Myth #5: Teaching to a Preferred Learning Style

As a beginning teacher, I remember the emphasis on teaching to a preferred learning styles of our students.  The modern research has now completely debunked the idea of teaching to students  “preferred” learning styles.  A study of the proliferation  of “neuromyths” in education explains the learning style myth this way:

 An example of a neuromyth is that learning could be improved if children were classified and taught according to their preferred learning style. This misconception is based on a valid research finding, namely that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information is processed in different parts of the brain. However, these separate structures in the brain are highly interconnected and there is profound cross-modal activation and transfer of information between sensory modalities (Gilmore et al., 2007). Thus, it is incorrect to assume that only one sensory modality is involved with information processing. Furthermore, although individuals may have preferences for the modality through which they receive information [either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (VAK)], research has shown that children do not process information more effectively when they are educated according to their preferred learning style (Coffield et al., 2004). 

 Myth #6: Boys and Girls

Below is a 3 minute YouTube clip from a researcher from the University of Notre Dame talking about the impact gender segregated classes have on academic achievement.  Bottom line?  Boys and girls are different in many physiological and neurological ways (duh!).  While there is no academic harm in gender split classes, the overall effect on achievement is “neutral”.  A better approach may be to identify the individual learning needs of each student – beyond gender.

(I have little experience in this area so I welcome comments from those who have more insights)

Myth #7: More is better

More homework?  More school days?  More school hours?  More awards?  It seems that many want to equate “more” with “better”.   There is a growing amount of research about the effects of homework,  year round schooling and longer school days.  My travels have told me that more is NOT necessarily the total solution in any of these areas.

Myth #8: Educators are using Social Media 

The more I visit with educators, the more I realize that I am in a bubble when it comes to the use social media to share, learn and grow.   As  a profession we need to continue to be more vulnerable with our own learning and network with others.

Myth #9: Faith & Reason

I increasingly see how many want to divorce all matters of faith from reason.  My personal belief is Catholic, K-12 schools can learn from the Catholic Intellectual Tradition that forms the foundation of many Catholic Universities and Colleges.  A definition of this tradition that resonates with me is as follows:

Perhaps the most fruitful way of thinking about the Catholic Intellectual Tradition is in terms of two aspects: the classic treasures to be cherished, studied, and handed on; and the way of doing things that is the outcome of centuries of experience, prayer, action, and critical reflection.” The treasures …include certain classic texts, art and architecture, music, as well as developments in science and technology. When these things are appreciated as part of the Christian intellectual heritage, they are studied in a way that tends to integrate the disciplines by relating everything to the meaning of human life in its relationship to the transcendent.  

The other aspect of this tradition is the way we have learned to deal with experience and knowledge in order to acquire true wisdom, live well, and build good societies, laws, and customs. Fundamental to this process is the understanding that faith and reason do not conflict. Rather, the continued pursuit of understanding leads ultimately to wisdom. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition invites us out of isolation and into a community whose cumulative efforts contribute to the construction of a whole—a wholeness that is a Catholic hallmark. (Monika Hellwig)

Myth #10: School is not “real world”

I hear many folks talk about preparing students for the real world.  I often greet this statement with a few questions:  What is the “real world”?  What is that makes school “not real”? How can we make it “real”?  So often schools and teachers create policies, procedures and cultures on a false sense of what the “real world” actually is.  Any discussion of preparing students for the real world requires a genuine understanding of that the current “real world” actually is.

Myth#11: Recognizing winners and losers helps motivate students

I am not an expert in human motivation and/or psychology.  As an educator and a parent I have witnessed situations where publicly pitting one student (child) against another in the highly personal and “messy” act of learning has caused alienation, disengagement and embarrassment.

Please feel free to comment and add some of your own “Edu Myths”……

6 comments for “11 Edu Myths I Encounter

  1. December 16, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I’m going to politely and respectfully disagree that #10 is a ‘myth.’ Much of what we ask students to do is bound within the artificial constraints and mindsets of schools. When students do math, writing, history, science, etc., it’s rarely like what actual mathematicians, writers, historians, and scientists do. Thus the call for more ‘real world’ work – work that is more authentic and embedded in genuine, not artificial, contexts. Students of all ages can do more of this than they currently do, particularly with the advent of powerful digital tools to help them. The challenge is that many (most?) educators don’t actually have deep understandings of what professionals in their subject areas do or how they use their skills on a day-to-day basis.

    • Johnny Bevacqua
      December 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Scott
      I really appreciate your comment. I think we are actually in agreement on this one and perhaps it is my lack of clarity in the post that is coming through. I, too often, hear educators comment on how we must prepare students for the “real world” to justify practices that are anything but “real world”. (Homework/busy work & certain grading practices are two examples that come to mind).
      I struggle with the idea of “real world” because for our students – that is their real world. When run the risk of devaluing them as real people when when treat school as anything but real.
      I totally agree that as educators we have an ethical obligation to find out what the professionals in the various subject areas actually do!
      Again, thanks for the comment

      • December 17, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        I want students’ ‘real world’ to be different. I know you do too, Johnny. Let’s make it happen. They deserve a better day-to-day educational ‘real world’ than boredom.

  2. December 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Johnny,
    The myths you address really resonated with me. I think many of these are the result of believing at face value, forcing them to “fit” a mold, or not taking the time to make connections and to be reflective. Two that I want to comment specifically about are #4 and #9. As a Catholic school administrator, these especially spoke to me. I, too, tire of the public vs private mentality when we all truly want the same thing and are actually stakeholders for one another. Both public and independent education needs each other. There are students who are served well and actually better in each setting. Each can offer resources that cannot be offered if only one setting existed. Ultimately, when you follow the truths of #9 and look at the wisdom of experience and the bigger picture of the transcendent, it is easy to put differences aside and view the dignity of the human and the greater good at the center – which is the purpose for all of us.

  3. Chris
    December 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Johnny,
    I really enjoyed reading the myths you addressed and your have given me quite a lot to ponder. Our ultimate goal as educators is to do our very best to reach our students. We must be of the mindset that all children can and will learn. An area that does require a great deal of focus, in my view, is that of digital citizenship. Yes, our students do have access to a great deal of information at their fingertips, but are they using it appropriately and respectfully? It is our duty to help students understand the digital world we are in.

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