Neuromyths-research: teachers find it hard to recognise pseudoscience

Sanne Dekker, Nikki C. Lee, Paul Howard-Jones and Jelle Jolles published an interesting research article this week about neuromyths. The article doesn’t add something new to our knowledge about those neuromyths but on how teachers find it hard to recognise pseudoscience.

Abstract of the article, that you can download here:

The OECD’s Brain and Learning project (2002) emphasized that many misconceptions about the brain exist among professionals in the field of education. Though these so-called “neuromyths” are loosely based on scientific facts, they may have adverse effects on educational practice. The present study investigated the prevalence and predictors of neuromyths among teachers in selected regions in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. A large observational survey design was used to assess general knowledge of the brain and neuromyths. The sample comprised 242 primary and secondary school teachers who were interested in the neuroscience of learning. It would be of concern if neuromyths were found in this sample, as these teachers may want to use these incorrect interpretations of neuroscience findings in their teaching practice. Participants completed an online survey containing 32 statements about the brain and its influence on learning, of which 15 were neuromyths. Additional data was collected regarding background variables (e.g., age, sex, school type). Results showed that on average, teachers believed 49% of the neuromyths, particularly myths related to commercialized educational programs. Around 70% of the general knowledge statements were answered correctly. Teachers who read popular science magazines achieved higher scores on general knowledge questions. More general knowledge also predicted an increased belief in neuromyths. These findings suggest that teachers who are enthusiastic about the possible application of neuroscience findings in the classroom find it difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from scientific facts. Possessing greater general knowledge about the brain does not appear to protect teachers from believing in neuromyths. This demonstrates the need for enhanced interdisciplinary communication to reduce such misunderstandings in the future and establish a successful collaboration between neuroscience and education.

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