wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Local

Answer Sheet
Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 02/14/2012

Seven misconceptions about how students learn

Will Rogers once said, “It isn’t what people don’t know that hurts them. It’s what they do know that just ain’t so.”

That’s the introduction to a list of seven myths about learning on the Web site of the Independent Curriculum Group, which is part of a movement of leading private college preparatory schools with teacher-generated curriculum.

Many people — educators included — still cling to some of these misconceptions about learning because they base what they think on their own experiences in school, ignoring what 21st century science and experience are revealing.

Here are seven of the biggest myths about learning that, unfortunately, guide the way that many schools are organized in this era of standardized test-based public school reform. The list is from this page on the group’s Web site:

Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning

This one translates roughly as, “Students must do the boring stuff before they can do the interesting stuff.” Or, “Students must memorize before they can be allowed to think.” In truth, students are most likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts in the context of engaging, student-directed learning.

Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking

Teachers have knowledge to impart, but durable learning is more likely when students talk, create, and integrate knowledge into meaningful projects. The art of a teacher is to construct ways for students to discover.

Covering It Means Teaching It

Teachers are often seduced by the idea that if they talk about a concept in class, they have taught it. At best, students get tentative ideas that will be quickly forgotten if not reinforced by a student-centered activity.

Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down

If we could somehow see inside a student’s brain, its circuitry would correspond to its knowledge. Since new learning always builds on what is already in the brain, teachers must relate classroom teaching to what students already know. 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.

Acceleration Means Rigor

Some schools accelerate strong students so that they can cover more material. Schools in the Independent Curriculum Group are more likely to ask such students to delve deeper into important topics. Deep knowledge lays a stronger foundation for later learning.

A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning

Students sitting quietly may simply be zoned out -- if not immediately, then within 15 minutes. A loud classroom, if properly controlled, includes the voices of many students who are actively engaged.

Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life

Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work. People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate.

-0-

Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarking http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet.

By  |  04:00 AM ET, 02/14/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company