A recent survey reveals that teachers’ beliefs about learning do not always match the findings of cognitive scientists. Of the 200 educators surveyed, 97% agreed that people have different learning styles, an idea that has been debunked by scientists. Another myth that teachers endorsed was the idea that people are either right- or left-brained, a belief held by 77% of respondents. Teachers were more skeptical about such myths as the idea that certain kinds of learning are impossible after a certain age, the idea that education cannot help students overcome developmental differences in brain function, and the idea that experience cannot alter a person’s mental capacity because it is a genetic trait.
What about learning strategies that have been endorsed by scientists? A majority of teachers (around 60%) recognized that elaboration (linking new information to old); spacing (spreading out study time, as opposed to cramming the night before); and metacognition (understanding one’s own learning) were effective strategies. However, only 20% of respondents agreed that interleaving (working on a sequence of different types of problems) would be more effective than working on a block of similar problems. Only 31% said that retrieval practice is more effective than rereading, but when presented with a specific classroom scenario almost 60% preferred the retrieval practice option over rereading.
According to the report, these findings suggest that findings from cognitive science are not being effectively transmitted to teachers. Because teachers stated on the survey that they get most of their information from professional development courses, conferences, and peers, these avenues are important for sharing the latest science related to learning.
Source: Boser, U. (2019). What do teachers know about the science of learning: A survey of educators on how students learn. Washington, DC: The Learning Agency.