Five Commonly Held Educational Beliefs Without Research Support

Not all learning misconceptions demand a complete reset for teachers. There exist several widely-held myths that contain valuable insights but require some adjustment to align with scientific understandings of learning.

At times, you may be closer to the right track than you think. Here are five myths, ranging from the significance of doodling to the impact of grades, that educators can swiftly adapt and leverage to benefit their teaching.

1. Redefining the Benefits of Doodling

When discussing the merits of sketching for learning, many individuals defend doodling as a means of staying attentive. However, doodling, typically characterized as aimless or casual scribbles, differs from what researchers define as “task-related drawing.” Engaging in doodling, as per research, does not lead to improved academic outcomes.

Both cognitive load theory and experimental studies generally cast a negative light on doodling. Drawing complex scenes while trying to grasp a lesson can result in cognitive overload, hindering overall performance. Drawing entails intricate processes involving various brain regions, and attempting to draw and learn simultaneously can overwhelm cognitive capacities.

Studies support this notion. A 2019 study compared off-task doodling with task-related drawing and writing, demonstrating that the latter two methods significantly outperformed doodling in terms of retention. To enhance learning, sketch what you are learning, create concept maps, or encourage students to submit annotated sketches to deepen their understanding.

2. Rethinking Reading Aloud Practices

Commonly known as “round robin reading,” this practice persists in classrooms despite critiques from literacy experts. While round robin reading seems to engage students and gauge oral fluency, research indicates its ineffectiveness in enhancing reading skills.

Experts highlight multiple drawbacks of round robin reading, including limited oral reading time for each student, subvocalization that slows individual reading speed, and the neglect of comprehension strategies. Instead, teachers can conduct read-aloud sessions themselves and implement partner reading activities to improve fluency and comprehension.

Furthermore, a 2011 study on choral reading emphasized group reading and discussions to boost students’ decoding and fluency skills.

3. Debunking the Primacy of Talent

While natural talent often garners praise, research emphasizes the importance of effort in achieving expertise. Studies reveal that hard work and perseverance overshadow innate abilities in fostering success.

High school GPA has been found to be a better predictor of college completion than standardized test scores, emphasizing the significance of self-regulation and effort. Teachers can advocate for effort, praise improvement, and educate students on the value of persistence to foster a growth mindset.

Encouraging rough-draft thinking, discussing growth experiences, and demonstrating tolerance for errors can help students understand the importance of persistence in achieving their goals.

4. Exploring the Impact of Background Music on Learning

The influence of background music on learning outcomes varies and depends on several factors. Music and language share cognitive resources, potentially leading to interference when lyrics are involved in learning tasks.

Contrary to the general belief that background music hinders learning, catchy melodies can enhance mood and positively impact learning under certain conditions. To optimize the impact of background music, educators can select instrumental or familiar tunes to minimize cognitive load.

5. Reassessing the Motivational Value of Grades

While grades are commonly seen as motivators, research suggests that grades do not necessarily enhance learning or performance. In fact, grades may even reduce motivation compared to written feedback or no grading.

Teachers can focus on providing actionable feedback, emphasizing growth over grades, and delaying the release of final grades to promote academic improvement. Implementing strategies that de-emphasize grades while maintaining assessment standards can enhance student motivation and performance.

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