If you approach anyone and ask about teaching or education they are more than likely to have an opinion. It is difficult not to for we have all experienced education in one form or another. For some it was the best of times and for others it was the worst of times. Our experience colours what we think is the best way to teach and to learn. Some time ago I came across an article by Barbara Prashnig headed “10 False Beliefs About Learning ” (1). The article went on to make a link between what she referred to as the ten fallacies and the link to burnout and high stress in teachers. Here is her list of fallacies:
1) Students learn best when seated upright at a desk or table
2) Students learn best when in well illuminated ares and damage their eyes when they read in low light.
3) Students learn more and perform better in an absolutely quiet environment.
4) Students learn difficult subjects best in the early morning when they are most alert.
5) Students who do not sit still are not ready to learn.
6) Whole group instruction is the best way to teach.
7) Effective teaching requires clearly stated objectives followed by detailed step-by-step, logical, sequential explanations until all students understand what is being taught.
8) Eating should not be permitted in classrooms.
9) Generally, the older the student is the easier it is for them to adapt to the teacher’s style.
10) Truancy is related to poor attitudes, home problems, lack of motivation, and other factors which have nothing to do with students’ preferred learning time.
Before I tell you when this list was published how many would you consider truths rather than fallacies? If you consider any of them truths then I would argue that is because that is how you learn best, the type of learning environment you prefer. What about the claim of the link between these fallacies and teacher stress and burnout? Is it a case of the teacher trying to achieve a learning environment that actually works against learning taking place rather than promoting it? Could it be that this conflict is the cause of the stress? Something to think about.
The article was published in Education Today in 1994. Does that surprise you? What if they are indeed fallacies and for the last 20 years we have been promoting them! So next time you get frustrated because a student in your class won’t sit still, or gets bored and appears distracted as you carefully and logically spell out what they will be doing that day give some thought to this list.
(1) You can download the complete article using this link:10 Flase Beliefs