Busting 2 Common Neuromyths about Learning

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January 21st, 2021

 

 

Once something is learned, is it retained forever? Do students learn best when taught according to their learning styles? The answers seem to be held by the majority in the affirmative—until recently. 

The good news is there’s a lot of great research coming out of neuroscience that is providing new information, along with insights that could be unpacked and translated into actionable practices for the classroom. 

Let’s address these two myths head on.

 

Myth: There’s no such thing as “using” or “losing” learning

One of the biggest neuromyths in education is that once something is learned, it’s there forever (or “learning is maintained”). However, that’s simply not true. 

Time and time again, research has proven that learning is very similar to walking in a trail in the woods. If you walk on it every day, the pathway is going to get clear and it’ll be much easier to stay walking on it. If you don’t walk on that path for a year, you’re probably not even going to find that path ever again—you’ll have to start all over. 

Learning is the exact same way. The more often we engage in learning, the more we’ll be involving certain neurons within the brain. (This is called neuroplasticity.) In certain learning tasks, when we use that skill over and over again, repetitively—that’s when learning occurs. This is how we know that pathway will be permanent.

 

Myth: Students learn best when taught to their learning styles

Another common neuromyth in education is that learning styles are a really effective strategy, or in other words, teaching to a learning style is effective because everyone has a specific learning style or way of learning best. It’s simply not true. There has never been research that definitively proves that teaching to a learning style is an effective strategy. 

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Oftentimes, there are scenarios in which either students misidentify their learning own preferences, or teachers misidentify the students’ learning preference. Furthermore, when a teacher instructs according to a single learning style, it might actually impede the students’ ability to learn in other ways and prevents them from being able to compensate accordingly.

 

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