Washington: A new survey examining teacher beliefs reveals educators need more support and critical information to ensure they are teaching in research-driven ways.
The research finds that almost all K-12 educators believe in myths about learning. For example, more than three-fourths of teachers surveyed believe that people are either right-brained or left-brained and that this difference impacts how they learn, despite the fact that neuroscientists have debunked this idea.
And nearly every educator surveyed endorsed the idea of “learning styles”—that students can be categorized into styles like “auditory,” “visual,” or “kinesthetic” and that student learning improves when teachers tailor material to the students’ individual style. Research, however, simply does not back up this idea.
Moreover, many survey respondents could not reliably identify research-backed teaching strategies that promote long-term learning. Respondents answered fewer than five out of eleven questions about research-supported learning strategies correctly on average.
The good news is the majority of teachers do recognize some lingering myths about learning as false and can identify some research-supported learning strategies. For example: 80% percent of survey respondents disagreed with the idea that learning differences associated with developmental differences in brain function cannot be remedied through education. And 60% of teachers could identify several research-supported learning strategies over strategies shown to be ineffective.
Teachers are not to blame. Most of the public believes in such myths, and the research suggests that teachers could benefit from more support during pre-service training and on-the-job professional development to gain a deeper understanding of learning science principles and how these principles can apply in the classroom.
These results are consistent with recent surveys of undergraduate instructor knowledge and recent research on how little learning science makes it into teacher training programs. It speaks to the need to incorporate learning science into teacher training programs generally, but also to the potential benefit to teachers, students, and researchers of forging deeper, richer collaborations between teaching and research communities.