Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Analysis Shows the Public Believes Many Myths About Great Teaching and Learning, Preventing Effective Education Policy
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Analysis Shows the Public Believes Many Myths About Great Teaching and Learning, Preventing Effective Education Policy

Press Contacts

  • Devon Kearns

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that people vastly overestimate their ability to identify quality teaching and learning, and this disconnect prevents the implementation of effective education policies.

The study calls for policymakers at all levels to do more to promote the science of learning, from supporting demonstration projects to modernizing the teaching workforce. The study was written by Ulrich Boser, CAP Senior Fellow and the author of Learn Better, a new book on the science of learning.

“Learning myths are a problem for educators—and policymakers. They prevent thoughtful efforts at school reform,” said Boser. “If large segments of Americans believe in passive forms of learning, then they won’t support initiatives to make learning more active. Similarly, if people believe that it’s easy for someone to perform well in the classroom, then they won’t support efforts to modernize the teaching workforce. The nation must take focused steps to elevate the science of learning and communicate the findings to the public.”

Highlights of the study include:

  • 71 percent of respondents indicated that teachers should motivate students by praising them for their smarts. But research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and others has shown that such an approach can have negative effects on student outcomes.
  • Almost 90 percent of the public believed that students should receive information in their preferred learning style, though there’s almost no research support for learning styles.
  • More than 80 percent of respondents believed that rereading is a highly effective way to learn, though studies suggest the approach is ineffective.
  • Members of the public also seemed somewhat skeptical of the value of students mastering basic content, and 36 percent of the public believed that facts prevent effective learning, despite the reality that researchers believe that students need to know facts in order to reach deeper levels of understanding.
  • The public also underestimated the amount of knowledge and practice that it takes to become an accomplished teacher. More than 40 percent of respondents believed that teachers don’t need to know a subject area if they have good instructional skills, despite evidence to the contrary.

Read the full issue brief here.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Devon Kearns at dkearns@americanprogress.org or 860.977.1928.