Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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 minutes YouTube clip is 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"......


  1. Hey Johnny, I like this thought provoking list a lot! It seems often times that before we are ready to embrace change we have to go into our own "mental space" and identify the sometimes long standing and outdated perspectives. Sometimes it takes serious mental work to get to the root of why you have adopted certain teaching practices in the first place. I know for me some of my myths were equally hard to admit that I was holding on and to let go of.
    I read with interest the neuromyths article, it is interesting how in education we adopt one idea and hang on tight.

  2. Hello Johnny

    My name is Kevin Hoang and I run the Hot Topics blog for Microsoft in Education. We would like to warmly invite you join our network. This year was special to us. At our 2014 Global Forum in Barcelona, we've invited 250 school leaders from Microsoft’s Mentor Schools to join us learn, share and collaborate with the best of the best from all over the world. These mentor schools are subject to a robust selection process where over 10,000 school leaders compete the join annually.

    As a school leader yourself, we would be honored to have you join our community and add further into the thought leadership by writing blogs as we would like your community to learn from the best and brightest.

    If this opportunity speaks out to you, please feel free to write back so we can continue our discussion.

    All the best,

    Kevin Hoang
    Program Manager
    Hot Topics | Microsoft in Education
    M: 425 615 9200