Do Urban Myths About Learning and Education Influence Students and Teachers at Chalmers?
Övrigt konferensbidrag, 2019


There are a number of persistent myths about learning and education that could be important to be aware of as a student or teacher at Chalmers. For example, “learning styles” reflect preferences but not what really works best for learners. We will explore a few myths together in this workshop.


Introduction to the workshop topic

The title of this presentation is a question, to which we ought to be able to answer an emphatic “no – of course not!”  However, a more reasonable answer might be “probably now and then, but let’s systematically reduce the probability!”

The purpose of this workshop is to relate and explore a few myths about learning and education taking our starting point from a recent book by de Bruyckere, Kirschner and Hulshof (2015). I have made a selection of three groups of myths I deem relevant for students and teachers at Chalmers to be aware of, and have designed a set of workshop activities to highlight and discuss.

For each group of myths, the original (false) statements and the debunking of the myths will be followed by a structured group discussion. After the completion of the workshop, participants will hopefully have a nuanced view of the relevance of these myths for teaching and learning at Chalmers, and an understanding of suggested replacements for these myths using recommendations from evidence-based research.

Relevance for quality of education

Students and teachers have a tacit understanding that the most effective learning and teaching methods will be used in designing a high quality education at Chalmers. Allowing myths rather than evidence-based recommendations to guide choices is not going to provide the best possible educational quality, even though those involved are earnest in their belief in such myths.

Workshop activities

For each of the myth groups in the table below, the participants will explore the material in plenum and then small groups according to the following steps:

1. Plenum introduction to the pair of myths in the myth group at hand.

2. Small group discussion of examples where this might be relevant to teaching and learning at Chalmers.

3. Group discussion of what needs to be investigated in order to make an informed choice as to teaching and learning methods that work.

4. Plenum discussion of points 2 and 3 above, followed by a short overview of relevant evidence–based research results.

Points 1-4 will be repeated for each of the three myth groups.

In a concluding small group discussion, participants will be invited to articulate their own standpoints and how they intend to apply the insights they may have gained in the workshop.

Documentation of a summary of discussions and personal standpoints will be collected electronically and anonymously after permission from the participants.

Selected groups of myths for this workshop

The following list covers the most important myths which participants will explore during the workshop. Each myth is described and debunked in the book by Bruyckere, Kirschner and Hulshof (2015).  The phrasing of the myths as a postulation is used as subchapter headings in this book, and tabulated below for reference, along with the relevant page number in the book. I have also included a keyword phrase for each, and a short note on the debunking of the myth.

Table headings (Note that table formatting is not available here.)
Myth keywords
Postulation of myth
Debunking of myth

Myth group 1: Myths about learning styles and quantitative learning pyramids

Learning styles
People have different styles of learning.
People may prefer different ways of learning, but this does not correlate with what works best. No evidence supports the grouping of people in learning styles.

Learning pyramid
The effectiveness of learning can be shown in a pyramid.
The even percentages attributed to activities such as 30% retention from demonstration is a tell-tale sign of a myth. Origin not based on sound evidence.

Myth group 2: Myths about discovery and problem-based learning

Discovery learning
You learn better if you discover things for yourself rather than having them explained to you by others.
This is often ineffective, especially for the novice without prior knowledge of the subject matter. Low ability students enjoy it but learn very little. With the right guidance and support the method works better.

Problem-based learning
You can learn effectively through problem-based education.
This is not effective for learning new content, but rather for applying previous knowledge.

Myth group 3: Myths about ICT in education and reading of course literature

Digital natives
Today’s digital natives are a new generation who want a new style of education.
Neither educational content nor learning methods need be changed for the generation who grew up with the internet.

Reading habits
Young people don’t read any more.
This is not true, although reading for pleasure is declining.


de Bruyckere, P., Kirschner, P. and Hulshof, C. (2015). Urban myths about learning and education. London: Academic Press.

Problem-based learning

Myth persistence

Learning styles

Learning pyramid

Myth busting


Sheila Galt

Chalmers, Vetenskapens kommunikation och lärande, Avdelningen för ingenjörsutbildningsvetenskap (EER)

KUL 2019, Chalmers Conference on Teaching and Learning
Gothenburg, Sweden,





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