Numerous myths surrounding education continue to emerge over the years. Myths like “teachers only take up teaching for the summer holidays” or “more homework means higher grades” are all too easy to believe; however, these myths, and many others, might be based on opinions that aren’t true. Today, we will touch upon five myths about learning and teaching that many might not know have been invalidated through research.
Myth #1: class size does not matter
Teachers normally teach 20-30 students per classroom. When multiplied by the few different classes they teach in a week, a teacher is responsible for more than 150 or more students. This means that many students are not getting the attention they need. In some countries, private schools have smaller class sizes but it comes with a price that only wealthy families can afford, which can be disproportionate to public schools. As a result, smaller class sizes are more beneficial and positively impacts students’ learning, since students are getting the necessary guidance and instruction needed to help them succeed.
Myth #2: students learn best when their learning styles are catered to
Catering your teaching to a student’s learning is beneficial in many ways; however, with a class size of 20-30 students, this won’t be easy. Instead, Shulman’s theory (1987) suggests that “the key to characterising the knowledge base of teaching lies at the intersection of content and pedagogy in teachers’ capacities to transform content knowledge into forms that are pedagogically powerful and yet adaptive to the variety of student abilities and backgrounds” (Brant, 2019). Essentially, delivering information to students in multiple ways can help them engage with the topic at hand and enable easier retention. For example, if you expose students to a combination of different learning styles, like visuals and spoken texts, their learning will be successful (The Learning Hub). Though students might have different learning styles that depend on the subject matter, teachers must remember that their strategies can change, and they might learn new ways of thinking that meet challenges in learning.
Myth #3: re-reading important passages helps students retain crucial information
When I was in school, I was always told to re-read my notes and textbooks and highlight important information to prepare me for upcoming tests. A couple of days after the test, I would forget what I learned. Memorization is passive learning in which you are simply doing the act of learning without fully understanding the information. Now I tell my students before they read a text to ask themselves the following questions based on the chapter and titles: What do I already know? What information is new? How does this information relate to what I already learned about this topic? Then, I have my students either read the information out loud or silently while submersing themselves with the text. Doing this engages them with new material actively rather than passively.
Myth #4: direct instruction is bad for learning
Many perceive direct instruction, when teachers tell students what to do and students follow through, as passive learning. However, this is not always the case. “Direct instruction involves teachers instructing, demonstrating, explaining and illustrating a particular concept and then getting students to actively engage in learning through questioning and discussion” (The Education Hub). Direct instruction from teachers provides students with a base level of knowledge on a subject, which gives them opportunities to learn more efficiently. With active engagement, students can set their own independent learning and construct concepts for themselves.
Myth #5: students learn best from independent work
Independent work requires skills and knowledge. You cannot assign a project to students without explaining what is expected of them. You need to show them what successful work looks like and how to aim for it. Hattie (2009) states that “similar to direct instruction, teachers need to provide students with the information needed for them to gain knowledge” (The Education Hub). With the skillsets acquired, knowledge of various subjects will come easy. For example, teaching students how to understand a difficult math concept will allow them to be more knowledgeable with future math problems. Skills aren’t transferable, but it does make knowledge easier to attain and put into practice. Additionally, supporting and teaching your students how to manage their own learning and set their own goals for success will enable them to be highly effective in the classroom. It will even set them up for success in their careers.
These are only a few of the myths I have stumbled upon throughout my teaching career, but I’m sure there are many more. If you yourself have stumbled upon any, please comment below.
- Brant, Jacek Wiktor, Dr. 2019. ‘Chapter 4: Knowledge and Teaching’ in Subject knowledge and pedagogic knowledge: ingredients for good teaching? An English perspective. London: Institute of London, University of London. 2019. Accessed via https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/82407.pdf on September 14th, 2021.
- The Learning Hub. Five myths that limit your teaching potential. [no date] Accessed via https://theeducationhub.org.nz/five-myths-that-limit-your-teaching-potential/ on September 14th, 2021.