January 2010

The Problem with Education Today is Not What We Know but Rather Too Much of What We Know isn’t So

I just read an excellent paper about the validity of what we know about the Learning Styles Hypothesis and I strongly recommend it to others (Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119.) The reason I think the paper is so important and applicable to our view of what education should be (be it technology-enhanced educational environment or not) can be captured in the following quote (p. 117):

“There is a growing evidence that people hold beliefs about they they learn that are faulty in various ways, which frequently lead people to manage their own learning and teach other in non-optimal ways. This fact makes it clear that research – not intuition of standard practices – needs to be the foundation for upgrading teaching and learning. If education is to be transformed into an evidence-based field, it is important not only to identify teaching techniques that have experimental support but also to identify widely held beliefs that affect the choices made by educational practitioners but that lack empirical support”.

I think this quote perfectly captures my personal struggles with what is going on with the use of technology in education. A lot of what we do (I am talking about myself as well) is NOT BASED on SOLID EVIDENCE, but is largely influenced by our prior-beliefs (in the physics context, I would have called it misconceptions). Unfortunately our prior beliefs about learning are OFTEN FAULTY and this is often what drives instruction. So this all makes me think about EXAMINING TEACHERS’ PRIOR BELIEFS ABOUT THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY. There has been a lot of research done on examining student science misconceptions and prior knowledge. The same in my view should be done with regards to our teaching practices. How do we know that what we “KNOW” is true? What is it based on? I have heard read somewhere that the late US President Ronald Reagan once said, “The problem with our nation today is not what people know but rather too much of what we know isn’t so.” It is interesting how it applies to education today…

1 Response to The Problem with Education Today is Not What We Know but Rather Too Much of What We Know isn’t So

  1. Bev Knutson-Shaw

    Interesting post. My husband and I were just talking about this idea tonight. The leader of one of the new opposition parties( Wild Rose Alliance) here in Alberta was talking about global warming to a group of petroleum people. The main thesis of her talk was that the science on global warming is all over the board-from “it’s a myth” to “it’s the end of the earth”. She said we need to stop taking costly measures until we know what is true. So how does one ever decide what to believe and when to act on those beliefs? Is it better to act on what makes the most sense, or sit and wait for empirical evidence? Perhaps that is why so many people don’t do anything- they don’t know what to do.

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