“Digital natives,” and “learning styles:” Urban legends in education

23 Aug

Chances are you have seen some version following claim:

“It has been said that on average, we remember:
20% of what we read
30% of what we hear
40% of what we see
50% of what we say
60% of what we do
90% of what we see, hear, say, and do”

In 2004, I published a paper demonstrating that this claim was an urban legend. Now, a paper, by Kirschner and van Merrienboer, published in the journal Educational Psychologist, takes on other educational urban legends. Here is the their abstract:

“This article takes a critical look at three pervasive urban legends in education about the nature of learners, learning, and teaching and looks at what educational and psychological research has to say about them. The three legends can be seen as variations on one central theme, namely, that it is the learner who knows best and that she or he should be the controlling force in her or his learning. The first legend is one of learners as digital natives who form a generation of students knowing by nature how to learn from new media, and for whom “old” media and methods used in teaching/learning no longer work. The second legend is the widespread belief that learners have specific learning styles and that education should be individualized to the extent that the pedagogy of teaching/learning is matched to the preferred style of the learner. The final legend is that learners ought to be seen as self-educators who should be given maximum control over what they are learning and their learning trajectory. It concludes with a possible reason why these legends have taken hold, are so pervasive, and are so difficult to eradicate.”

This is an important article for anyone involved in education. You can read the full text here.  Educators have a responsibility to ground their practice in actual research, not unsupportable clichés.


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