Taylor & Francis Online :: Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education – Educational Psychologist – Volume 48, Issue 3

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Taylor & Francis Online :: Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education – Educational Psychologist – Volume 48, Issue 3.

Digital Natives, Learning Styles, Self-Educators.

Yup. None of these are backed up by any data. I have great respect for Marc Prensky, but the more we learn about living and learning with technology, the more I realize that most tech is magic to most people. Sure, kids may know how to take selfies and post them Facebook, but most of them really don’t know how anything works.

I would argue against the claim that learning styles don’t exist at all – it seems pretty clear that people have preferences and find some ways of approaching things easier than others, but perhaps a person’s preferred style changes depending on what they’re trying to learn. AND, while I usually try to provide a variety of ways to look at any topic I teach, I do not think we should pander to the students preferences, at least, not all the time.

I did have some fun mapping various learning styles and personality types onto games some years ago:

Becker, K. (2005) Games and Learning Styles Presented at the Special Session on Computer Games for Learning and Teaching, at The IASTED International Conference on Education and Technology ~ICET 2005~ July 4-6, 2005 Calgary, Alberta, Canada (accessible on ReaserchGate & Academia.Edu)

As for the final one, people don’t know what they don’t know. I am all in favour of giving my students all kinds of choices, but still guide them through it to make sure they meet up with the important parts.

This article takes a critical look at three pervasive urban legends in education about the nature of learners, learning, and teaching and looks at what educational and psychological research has to say about them. The three legends can be seen as variations on one central theme, namely, that it is the learner who knows best and that she or he should be the controlling force in her or his learning. The first legend is one of learners as digital natives who form a generation of students knowing by nature how to learn from new media, and for whom “old” media and methods used in teaching/learning no longer work. The second legend is the widespread belief that learners have specific learning styles and that education should be individualized to the extent that the pedagogy of teaching/learning is matched to the preferred style of the learner. The final legend is that learners ought to be seen as self-educators who should be given maximum control over what they are learning and their learning trajectory. It concludes with a possible reason why these legends have taken hold, are so pervasive, and are so difficult to eradicate.

Curiously both the first and last myths were very popular at the school where I did my PhD. Given that we still effectively have the same people running the Ed Tech area, I would imagine they still are.

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