Neuromyths, a defense of teachers

I’m writing a lot about urban myths in education (I won’t be pushing our book 😉 ) and this week a new study in Nature showed – sadly enough, again – how many teachers believe neuromyths such as left-right brain, learning styles,…

If I seen the press coverage on this and the report itself blames wishfulness, anxiety and a bias towards simple explanations as typical factors that distort neuroscientific fact into neuromyth. Actually, by stating this you could view this as blaming teachers.

The first phrase of our book is an important one:

Many teachers do good work, but all too often on the basis of incorrect theories.

You can’t expect teachers to follow everything that is being published on every single topic in education. You can’t blame them for being professionals looking for solutions for problems they encounter. If there is a situation at hand, they can’t tell their class to wait a couple of weeks until they found a solution. As a good professional a teacher will try, and use what works for them. The irony is that sometimes it works for a different reason they might think. E.g. a teacher adopting learning styles will sometimes be more concrete in his or her teaching (which is good for learning) and will probably be a teacher who is motivated to try new things (which is also good for learning).

This is not blaming teachers, it is telling researchers, people who are supporting teachers, people who are training teachers,…that they have more work on their plate.

I know these people are also very busy and so much under pressure. Researchers are often only rewarded by the studies they publish in journals only other researchers read. I’m a teacher trainer myself and it’s only because my public speeches buy me time, that I can keep working on this blog and that I can keep up with the research being published. My other colleagues don’t have this opportunity.

Still, I think that it’s important to get the correct information, also the correct information on what we don’t know or don’t know for sure, to teachers. They are our front desk, they need it so they can keep doing their great job.

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