Posts tagged ‘Learning styles’

October 23, 2014

Educators still believe in the myth of learning styles

by Grace

The vast majority of teachers refuse to give up the myth of learning styles and other fallacies about how the brain operates, even though these beliefs hurt students.

The idea that we only use 10 percent of our brains has been roundly debunked — but, according to Paul Howard-Jones, an associate professor of neuroscience and education, teachers don’t necessarily know that. In an article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, he reveals the disturbing prevalence of this and other “neuromyths” in classrooms around the world, and explains why they can be so damaging.

In one study Dr. Howard-Jones cites, 48 percent of British teachers agreed with the statement “We mostly only use 10 percent of our brain.” Ninety-three percent believed that “individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (for example, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic)” (research actually doesn’t support this), and 29 percent believed “drinking less than 6 to 8 glasses of water a day can cause the brain to shrink” (it can’t). Sixteen percent thought that “learning problems associated with developmental differences in brain function cannot be remediated by education.”

 A few years ago one of my children filled out a learning styles questionnaire at school, presumably so that the teacher could tailor instruction in the classroom.

… Myths about how children should be taught can be counterproductive in the classroom, said Dr. Howard-Jones. Surveys designed to determine kids’ learning styles (visual, auditory or kinesthetic) can reveal how students would prefer to receive information, he explained in a phone interview, but “the problem is that there’s no evidence to suggest there’s any benefit in teaching them in that way, and in fact psychological research has shown even that some students appear to benefit more from receiving information in the style that they do not have preference for.”

I suspect these myths are still being taught in college education courses.

Daniel Willingham explains that “Learning Styles Don’t Exist”.


Anna North, “How Brain Myths Could Hurt Kids”, New YOrk Times, October 20, 2014.

November 28, 2011

Khan Academy classroom pilot declared a ‘success’ based on no data

by Grace

A frothy piece in the Utopianist* declares that a Khan Academy pilot to teach math to 5th and 7th grade students in the Los Altos School District of California is a “colossal success”.

Their test run has so far yielded nothing short of colossal success, with both students and teachers alike more engaged and fulfilled.

The problem is that the article presents nothing beyond abstract anecdotes of exaltation.  It’s fine that students are engaged and fulfilled, but are they learning?  Where’s the evidence?  Where’s the data showing improved achievement levels?  Instead, the basis for declaring success is stuff like this.

  • It’s meaningful Khan hopes to “humanize” education by providing students and teachers with the opportunity to spend some meaningful time together
  • Kids teach each other, replacing expert teachers – students better at one subject can tutor their peers who are struggling with the same concept
  • Remember, it’s meaningful… meaningful classroom time will do more … than the ritual of silent students …
  • Fun tools with cool names the Academy has recently introduced badges … The badges have cool names like Sun and Black Hole.
  • Students love it Students are raving about the Khan Academy’s videos
  • A famous billionaire approves Bill Gates makes an appearance … applauding Khan’s program …
  • As long as it’s fun …  will allow classrooms the time to finally spend on those fun educational projects … 
  • Teachers approve because kids have fun Teachers also talk about how they love the program because their kids are having fun 

The clincher is that they label daydreaming as a learning style, especially laughable given that the very concept of “learning styles” is a myth.

Students also love that the program supports individual learning styles – like daydreamers.

I am a big fan of Khan Academy, but give me data before you jump to hasty conclusions  and promote the use of yet another unproven educational experiment on our public school children.

* In fitting with this article, utopia is defined as  an imaginary and indefinitely remote place.

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