Educational Myth Busting…

In the world of education, like all areas for all time there have been many rumors, and worse yet myths that have been purported. Numerous articles have been written on this topic one intriguing one was written from a site called edutopia by a teacher named Mark Phillips.   The article is called “8 Myths that undermine educational effectiveness”.  Though I could approach the subjects in this article, the bigger question is how can we as educators speak up effectively against educational myths that are being pushed in to our school district?

I will return to that question later, but one such myth that I have heard for numerous years and even been tested for in middle school is the learning style myth.  I had always been skeptical and came to totally disagree with the idea that each person learns most effectively in a certain style, so their educational experience should be tailored to their learning style(I was an Auditory Learner).  As many people have pointed out and are pointing out there is not an effective body of evidence to support the proposition that students have learning styles: kinesthetic, visual-spatial, or auditory that when tailored to allow them to best to thrive in the classroom and succeed in school.  The most surprising myth I have heard recently is that Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence is not valid.  As a psychology major I have not really heard much evidence that dismisses his arguments.  The theory certainly seems that it could be stronger, but I would just argue that Gardner’s theory is not very useful for educational instruction.

Like any other type of discussion with conflicting viewpoints, teachers need to approach authority figures in their district with gentleness and respect when they disagree with a district’s policy.  If a school district is pouring money in to a method supported by an educational myth teachers need to seek out effective means of communication with their administrators.  The most important step to having a discussion that brings truth to a well touted fallacy is to listen to the leader that is tailoring class instruction to the myth and to hear their motives for doing so.  Then, and only then, once a teacher has listened to the myth promoting leader should a teacher speak up and share their research supported and valid argument against the purported myth.  This is a simple method for having an effective educational discussion about policy, and obviously not the only method.  Please let me know your thoughts on confronting ineffective school policy by commenting below!

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10 comments

  1. I agree that the most surprising myth was Gardner’s multiple intelligence myth. I too do not understand how his view would be useful in an educational instruction.

    I think in mathematics, we do hear a lot about the learning style myths. It seems to me that this subject is either loved or hated by students. For the students who hate math, it can be difficult to get them to understand many concepts but it will not help if are teaching towards their learning style.

    Finally, what are some good and creative uses of Google Docs for a mathematics lesson?

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  2. When did you get tested as an auditory learner? I took the test in college. I don’t remember what I got, but I was shocked that I didn’t get mathematical logical. I was always pretty good at math and I the style seemed to fit my personality.

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  3. Back when I was tested the main categories were auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learner. I was tested in seventh grade which would have been in the Fall of 2006. The learning styles I think do sometimes connect to the way people prefer to learn, but the way that we prefer to learn is not always the best way for us to learn. People learn in a variety of ways, and learning styles are just a way to put someone in a box. Unfortunately the learning style boxes are too small and often times inaccurate like in your case. Do you think learning has improved since the introduction of computers and more specifically ipads? Is it a huge advantage for a school district to have 1:1 devices another district with access to the same resources, but no 1:1 system in place? Is the technology worth the cost?

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  4. I think a great use of a google doc is for collaboration on a group research project. Another excellent use that is transformative is to have students provide each other feedback as they explain particular mathematical concepts. A google doc may be a great way for students to submit their work and see your comments quickly as a teacher. Google docs are also great for students to include pictures in of something they have learned about in your course, and to demonstrate their work at home thinking about mathematics.

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    1. Those are great examples! In some of my math ed classes, we used google doc to create lessons. We were all able to participate in creating the lesson but also comment on other students input. I think that was a really cool aspect because we were able to ask questions and communicate with our peers on different peoples work. It was also really cool because the professor would comment too! I think you could definitely do something like that in a math class. Do you think there are any flaws in using Google Docs in a math classroom?

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  5. I agree with you Kevin that learning styles really are more like learning preferences and it isn’t always the best way to teach something.

    GoogleDocs are amazing. I have had so many group projects using GoogleDoc. It makes it easier to have group projects because not everyone is in the same room. One of the problems I see with math specifically is that it is hard to write formulas into them.

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  6. Yes, writing formulas into google docs can be difficult, and also converting google documents to word documents can sometimes be painful for those who need to make a better submission as the formatting is close, but not identical. I think the flaws are far outweighed by the positives of quick feedback and feedback in a spot where you do not need to rewrite your whole lesson plan to apply the feedback neatly. This is perhaps one of the most transformative aspects of a google doc is that you can provide feedback that does not require a rewrite, but rather a revision regardless of how intense the feedback. I guess you could do that with a word document to, but the difference is that other students can provide feedback and edit a paper more efficiently in a google doc, so it is transformative from pen and paper feedback, and amplification of word documents. What do you think about formatively assessing students in google forms vs. socrative?

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    1. Also it is pretty much available to everyone. There are some students who don’t have Microsoft Word at home. I agree the positives out weigh the negatives.

      I have never heard of socrative before now. From what I see it I would use them both for formative assessments depending on the assignment. Socrative looks like a good snapshot of a student, but GoogleDoc could be deeper.

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    2. I really enjoyed reading both of your inputs on Google Doc. I too think there are some flaws in this tool but the positives definitely out shine the negatives!

      I have actually used Socrative before to create an “exit slip” quiz. It was easy to use because all you had to do was have the students go to a particular website and they were ready to take the quiz. I have not used Google Forms (aside from this class) so I am not familiar with the process of setting up the assessment, but I love how it gives a spreadsheet of the students answers. That makes it very easy to quickly observe what the class is or is not understanding. I do believe Socrative gives you some form of assessment results but I can’t remember if it was as “friendly” as Google Forms. Have you used both tools before? Do you prefer one over the other?

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  7. The main thing to consider, particularly with Google Docs (or any product in the GAFE suite) is the underlying instructional strategies. You mentioned peer feedback specifically, which is a high-leverage strategy. Regarding the primary question about how to push back on bad fads, the main thing is to ask politely for research – REAL research that lacks bias or ulterior motives – that supports a change. And ask for more than just one study, as you can find a study that supports about anything in education. Also, ask if there’s another strategy that is more effective, or one that is similarly effective and uses fewer resources (time/money/equipment/etc.).

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