Have you ever thought of yourself as a right brained person? Has a school ever used marketing centered around “learning styles” to sell its curriculum or methodology to you? Do we use only 10% of our brain, like the movie Lucy had us believe? All these three ideas are not really backed by science.
Last year, The Guardian published many articles disproving many of the common myths in neuroscience or “neuro myths,” as neuroscientists called them. It is simple. There is not enough evidence to back these ideas. Here are 2 of the commonest neuro myths in education and how they narrow our learning.
The Neuro Myth of Learning Styles
Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences gained so much popularity. The flipside is that most people never realize that it is not validated. Gardner himself has objected to the idea of different intelligences being straightjacketed into ‘learning styles.’
For instance, I always thought that my daughter is a “visual learner.” She only needs to look at a pattern or a picture to internalize it. She has a sharp understanding of how a room looks, what is missing in it (even a small object), and even specific aspects of a person. When I learned about this being a neuro myth, I took a totally different view of how I worked with her.
A self-fulfilling prophecy
There are two problems with this idea of calling a child a ‘visual learner.’ One, a ‘learning style’ is not backed by any scientific evidence whatsoever. Two, by labeling a child as being a specific type of learner, you are in a sense closing off other forms of learning. A better way to look at it would be this: my daughter observes and retains information through visual cues. She has great observational skills, especially when looking at objects or people. This is just one of her many strengths.
The idea is to expose a child to various ways of learning about the world and absorbing information. If we only categorize a child as being a specific type of learner, other skills don’t get harnessed.
To prove how one-track my ‘learning style’ approach was, I discovered that my daughter was pretty good in phonics and sound sense, which I always thought she lacked. She just needed exposure to different skills.
Read more here.
The Left and Right Brain Neuro Myth
I am sure you think you use one side of the brain more than the other. You may believe that you are hence more creative and less logical. This is another myth, one that was recently busted in 2012. A two-year study was published in the Plos One Journal at the University of Utah, where neuroscientists scanned and studied the brains of more than 1,000 people, from children to 30 year olds. According to the study, “They found no evidence that the study participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network.” This is one of the commonest neuro myths in the world!
The left and right brain myth dates back to the 1800s. According to Jeff Anderson, who led the study, “The neuroscience community has never accepted the idea of ‘left-dominant’ or ‘right-dominant’ personality types. Lesion studies don’t support it, and the truth is that it would be highly inefficient for one half of the brain to consistently be more active than the other.”
It’s a multidisciplinary world
Last year, I was part of a science program in a school in Bangalore. The program urged young and bright science students to look beyond theory and knowledge. It wanted them to become little kids again. It prompted them look at scientific inquiry as a form of creative play. Example, why do certain objects float in water and some don’t? Does a pin float on water? Can we try and change its shape to see if it can float then? Scientific inquiry involves creativity and problem solving too.
So the next time you think you use your right brain more and are less logical than creative, think again. Challenge yourself. Read more about the neuro myths. The minute I let go of the left and right brain myth, I began to embrace and do well in all skills. Thinking that way can really boost your productivity and broaden your scope! The same applies to our children.
Read more about the “right brain and left brain” neuro myth here.
Featured image credit: TheDyslexicBook.com