The Popular Misconceptions of Learning

What does it look like when students are learning? Are they sitting quietly at their desks, listening to the teacher lecture, and scribbling notes? According to a recent article in the Washington Post, those are three of seven misconceptions people have about how students learn.

The Independent Curriculum Group believes teachers need to reevaluate their idea of best learning practices and update them for the 21st century student. Many schools and their educators are stuck on old ideas of the best way students learn, even as studies reveal there are better ways to engage students, with or without the use of technology.

The following are seven of the biggest myths about learning as decided by the Independent Curriculum Group:

  1. Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning. This means students must put in the time doing boring learning tasks before deep learning can occur. Studies show that this mode of thought is untrue. When students are engaged in a lesson they are more likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts. Engaging lessons can include gaming, group projects, or student-led lectures.
  2. Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking. As we’ve watched the flipped-classroom model blow up, we know that for some students, a self-paced, virtual environment is the best way to learn information usually reserved for a teacher’s lecture. In the article, the ICG says learning is also more likely to result when students talk, create, and integrate knowledge into meaningful projects.
  3. Covering It Means Teaching It. How many classes have you taken in your life where you know you went to class, took extensive notes, and still walked away feeling like you didn’t learn anything? When a teacher lectures about a certain concept it does not mean that students have fully comprehended the concept. New concepts should be reinforced with a student-centered activity, according to the article.
  4. Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down. New learning always builds on what is already knows. Teachers must create lessons that relate to something else the student is familiar with. “Teachers who fail to do so, whether due to ignorance or in pursuit of a false idea of rigor, are running afoul of a biological reality,” according to the article.
  5. Acceleration Means Rigor. When students understand a subject, should they quickly be advanced? Not necessarily. After students master the basics of a new concept, they have the foundation to dig deeper.
  6. A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning. It also might mean you have a class of zoned out kids, says the article. Classrooms should be active and filled with discussions. It might not sound like your traditional classroom, but even libraries are shifting toward making a learning environment that encourages “constructive loud.”
  7. Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life. “Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work,” says the article. Internships, service-learning, volunteering, and even jobs in the service industry teach students the skills they need for the real world. A student can’t sit in a classroom and read about how to be successful if they want to become successful.

Have you encountered other misconceptions about learning in the classroom? How do you learn best? What is your best practice learning example in school or your professional life?

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