Bruno: "Learning Myths" Neither Real Nor Widespread
Reading them I was struck by how little these "biggest myths" resonated with my own experience as a teacher because, almost to a one, these supposed misconceptions seemed to me to be either not very widespread or not actually wrong.
I don't think that the Independent Curriculum Group has identified many important myths, and they may be promoting a few misconceptions of their own. Here are my very brief thoughts on all seven:
1. Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning - Teaching has actually made me suspect that the difference between "basic" and "deep" learning is exaggerated, but even if we accept that distinction this "myth" isn't all wrong. Yes, you can do some "higher-level" thinking and learning while acquiring basic facts. It is, however, also often the case that familiarity and automaticity with basic facts facilitates deeper, more complex thinking. My experience is that teachers are just as likely to neglect the "lower-level" thinking as they are to spend too much time on it.
2. Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking - I don't know any actual teachers who think this, so I doubt it's much of a "myth". At the same time, the ICG's proposed alternative conception of teaching - that "The art of a teacher is to construct ways for students to discover" - is too vague to really agree or disagree with. At a minimum, I think it is safe to say that both research and experience suggest the existence of an important educational role for direct, guided instruction, and it would be wrong to suggest otherwise.
3. Covering It Means Teaching It - The specific objection here from the ICG is that "Teachers are often seduced by the idea that if they talk about a concept in class, they have taught it." I don't know any actual teachers who think this, either. I do, however, know many very thoughtful teachers who deliberate carefully on the trade-offs involved in spending more time on a concept at the expense of other, potentially important concepts. Such deliberations seem worthwhile, and I think this "myth" doesn't give the issue fair treatment.
4. Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down - This does strike me as a misconception that is at least moderately widespread. My experience also suggests another, closely related myth, however: that making the content interesting requires teaching to the student's pre-existing interests. In some ways I think we risk limiting our students, and underestimating their capacities, if we assume that they cannot be intrigued by ideas that are somewhat beyond their previous experience or interest. I'd go so far as to say one of the purposes of education is precisely to expand students' interests.
5. Acceleration Means Rigor - I'm not completely sure what this one means, or how it's different from #3. Accelerating advanced students through additional content may or may not be the best thing for them, and I'd be uncomfortable making sweeping generalizations about what happens in "some schools".
6. A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning - Again, I don't know any teachers who do not understand, as the ICG suggests, that students "sitting quietly may simply be zoned out." The authors are, in my opinion, correct to point out that a "loud classroom, if properly controlled, includes the voices of many students who are actively engaged". When thinking about the volume in my own classroom, though, I can't help but be concerned about how difficult it is to allow many students to engage equitably in class discussion without letting harmful, pre-existing social dynamics and hierarchies creep further into school. I also worry about privileging those students who do not need a quiet environment in which to process at the expense of those who do. It is not obvious to me that teachers, as a whole, are erring too far on the side of "quiet."
7. Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life - While I don't think many people would disagree that traditional schooling could better prepare students for life, I also don't think this counts as a "myth", at least not for the reason given by the ICG. "Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work," they say. "People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate." But is it actually the case that traditional schooling doesn't involve all of those things? That isn't my experience at all, either as a student in "traditional" schools or as a "traditional" teacher. Moreover, I am not aware of any professions in which workers just, for example, "communicate"; rather, they communicate about things and that process is aided by knowing about things. One way I hope to prepare my students for those professional processes is by having them listen or study, but also by having them do all of those other things - like communicating - that the ICG advocates. Where we differ, then, is that the ICG seems to believe that critical thinking tasks, like evaluating, depend primarily on context-independent skills and abilities. That is largely a myth in its own right.
To be clear, I do believe that our educational systems could be improved by addressing very real misconceptions about how students learn. However, I don't think that the Independent Curriculum Group has identified many important myths, and they may be promoting a few misconceptions of their own. - PB (@MrPABruno) (Image source)