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First, we have to say that we wish we’d come up with the concept of calling them zombie ideas — those “undead” ideas that have been discredited by research but that persist in the neuromythology with which many educators grew up.

A recent article published in Educational Leadership explains how six persistent but incorrect ideas have been debunked:

  1.  Learning Styles.  Catering to perceived learning styles is not helpful and may be counterproductive.  (Note:  understanding students’ cognitive skills is another matter.)
  2. Unguided Discovery.  While hands-on experiences enhance learning, asking students to experiment or solve complex problems with minimal guidance does not lead to better learning, especially for less strong students.
  3. Teaching Reading without Phonics.  Most students won’t learn to read without systematic direct instruction in sound-symbol correspondence.
  4. Content Knowledge.  The notion that students just need critical thinking skills because they can look facts and information up so easily ignores the the evidence that subject-matter expertise is necessary fodder for critical thinking.
  5. Grade Everything.  Just because it’s worth having students do doesn’t mean it’s worth grading.
  6. Smaller Classes. Teacher quality is more important than class size and other factors.  What the article didn’t address is that other factors, especially students’ cognitive skills have an even greater impact, predicting 50% of the variance in academic performance, more than many other factors believed to have a bigger effect.

Read the Article




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