International Study: Dispelling Neuro-Myths & Examining Neuro-Pedagogical Beliefs & Practices within Higher Education

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

This presentation will highlight research from a 2018 international study that examined neuro-pedagogical beliefs held by instructors, instructional designers, and professional development administrators at four-year and two-year institutions across the United States and worldwide. Awareness of evidence-based practices from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and learning sciences will also be shared.

Presenters

Dr. Betts has 20 years of experience in higher education serving in key leadership positions within private, public, and for-profit institutions as a program director, Senior Director for e-Learning, Director of Online & Blended Learning, and Chief Academic Officer. Dr. Betts has expertise is in higher education, online and blended learning, curriculum and instructional design, strategic planning, and evaluation. Her research focus is on online and blended learning, Online Human Touch/high touch, Brain-Targeted Teaching, 21st century skills, workforce/career development, student retention, and faculty development. Dr. Betts is a Middle States peer evaluator and Quality Matters peer reviewer. She is also an instructor for the Online Learning Consortium Advanced Certificate program. Dr. Betts has also been a keynote speaker at conferences and government-supported events in Sweden, South Korea, Canada, and across the United States.
Prior to joining the Online Learning Consortium, Dr. Buban was the Assistant Provost for Research & Innovation at Post University. In this role, Buban instituted university-wide initiatives with a forward thinking, student-centered focus. These initiatives included, but were not limited to, the university’s transition to digital course materials, the creation of an online academy for high school students, competency-based learning initiatives, professional developing credentialing, articulation agreements, enrollment management, oversight of all academic publications, as well as a variety of teaching and learning initiatives. Prior to joining Post University, Buban worked in Academic Affairs at SUNY Empire State College. She collaborated on a variety of online learning initiatives including the implementation of ePortfolios, open learning access and opportunities, and prior learning assessment. Dr. Buban continues to study and present on topics surrounding effective technology use for adult learners in online environments. She is a member of the SSEA Communications Committee, an organization for which she was named an Emerging Scholar in 2012. Given the opportunity, Buban continues to teach in the areas of adult and online learning.
Brian Delaney is a doctoral student in Educational Leadership and Learning Technologies and a Research Assistant in Drexel University’s School of Education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ithaca College in 2004, and a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in e-Learning Technologies and Instructional Design from Drexel in 2016. He spent five years as an adjunct lecturer at the Ithaca College Park School of Communications, teaching journalism courses, and was an award-winning journalist in newspapers and radio over a career of 16 years. His research foci include: journalism and mass communication education, online and blended learning, educational technologies, experiential learning and e-learning, instructional design, and Mind Brain Education sciences. In February 2018, he was selected Co-Editor of the Emerging Voices in Education Journal for a two-year term. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Stefanie, and their two children, Eamonn and Brynn.
Tracey is currently an educational researcher affiliated with FLACSO in Quito and teaches a course at the Harvard University Extension School entitled The Neuroscience of Learning and Achievement: An Introduction to Mind, Brain, and Education Science. She has taught Kindergarten through University and is the former Dean of Education at the Universidad de las Américas in Quito, Ecuador and ex-Director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning (IDEA) in the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. She is a former member of the OECD expert panel to redefine Teachers’ New Pedagogical Knowledge thanks to contributions from Technology and Neuroscience. Her office seeks to improve the quality of education through research, teacher training and student support. Tracey’s vision is to better the social, democratic and economic structures of countries through a better educated population. She strongly believes in the active role of universities as change agents to influence public policy. She is a Professor of Education and Neuropsychology and has extensive experience in online education and is the former Director of Online Learning at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

Additional Authors

Tracey is currently an educational researcher affiliated with FLACSO in Quito and teaches a course at the Harvard University Extension School entitled The Neuroscience of Learning and Achievement: An Introduction to Mind, Brain, and Education Science. She has taught Kindergarten through University and is the former Dean of Education at the Universidad de las Américas in Quito, Ecuador and ex-Director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning (IDEA) in the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. She is a former member of the OECD expert panel to redefine Teachers’ New Pedagogical Knowledge thanks to contributions from Technology and Neuroscience. Her office seeks to improve the quality of education through research, teacher training and student support. Tracey’s vision is to better the social, democratic and economic structures of countries through a better educated population. She strongly believes in the active role of universities as change agents to influence public policy. She is a Professor of Education and Neuropsychology and has extensive experience in online education and is the former Director of Online Learning at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

Extended Abstract

Over the past decade there has been tremendous growth in publications on the human brain both in academia and in popular media. While refereed publications provide evidenced-based research and use rigorous review protocol, popular press publications may not provide the same rigorous review prior to publication. It is necessary to be able to critically evaluate relevant information sources and their impact on the formation of one’s knowledge of and beliefs about the human brain (Dündar & Gündüz, 2016).

One of the challenges within the growing literature is the preponderance of neuromyths relating to teaching, learning, and the brain. Neuromyths have been described as misconceptions that arise from misunderstanding, misquoting, or misreading information about the brain (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2002; Geake & Cooper, 2003; Goswami, 2006). Examples of some neuromyths include the belief that  people are either “left-brained” or “right-brained, that we regularly use 10 percent of our brain capacity, or  that there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners (Geake, 2008). 

An educator’s conceptualization of knowledge can greatly impact her/his pedagogy.  To improve learning outcomes, it is important to understand the pedagogical beliefs of instructors, instructional designers, and professional development administrators within higher education. It is also important to understand their awareness of evidence-based practices that build upon the literature and advancements in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and learning sciences.

Previous research has shown a relationship between an instructor’s beliefs and her/his instructional practices in general (Knapp, 2013; Hattie, 2012 & 2016; Youyan, Tan, Liau, Lau, & Chua, 2013; Stein & Wang, 1988). However, this connection has mainly been established with regards to teacher self- efficacy and primarily within K-12 education (MacDonald, Germine, Anderson, Christodoulou  & McGrath, 2017; Papadatou-Pastou, Haliou & Vlachos, 2017; Dündar & Gündüz, 2016; Dekker, Lee, Howard-Jones & Jolles 2012; Herculano-Houzel, 2002). While the belief in neuromyths has been studied extensively in over 200 books and articles at the K-12 level there is little research at the university level.

 

 

Thus, this study had three objectives. First, this study examined and compared neuro-pedagogical beliefs held by instructors, instructional designers, and professional development administrators at four-year and two-year higher education institutions across the United States and worldwide. Second, this study investigated the prevalence and predictors of neuromyths in higher education. Third, this study examined the level of awareness of findings from empirical  research within neuroscience, psychology, and education (Mind, Brain & Education and learning sciences) among these educators across online, blended, and onsite learning environments.

 

A survey was designed for this study and piloted over a 15-month period. The survey included three sections. The first section included 24 questions of which 23 questions were general statements about the brain. The second section included 29 questions of which 28 questions were general statements from neuroscience, psychology, and education. The third section included 21 questions which included demographics, professional experience, and professional development as well as experience and interests related to education and brain.

 

Section 1 of the online survey was adapted from MacDonald et al. (2017) which was adapted from Dekker et al. (2012). Both the MacDonald et al. (2017) and Dekker et al. (2012) surveys included 32 statements. Since the focus of this study was higher education and not K-12 education, 10 questions were removed and one question was added from Herculano-Houzel (2002). Nine of the questions were modified for this study that came from the MacDonald et al. (2017) or Dekker et al. (2012) surveys. The answer format for Section 1 reflected the format used by Dekker et al. (2012). Section 2 included 30 questions of which 29 were from Mind, Brain & Education science and learning sciences. Section 3 included 21 questions. The questions focused on the participant’s primary role within a higher education institution, level(s) of teaching and course design (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, professional), experience with teaching and course design formats (onsite, online, hybrid/blended) and demographics. Questions also focused on professional development (e.g., training, reading, etc.) and participant experience and interest in education and the brain.

 

The survey was developed and administered through Drexel University using Qualtrics. Convenience and snowball sampling were used for this study. The Online Learning Consortium sent an email invitation with the survey link to its list of approximately 7,000 members. The study researchers also shared the invitation email with their contacts including several high-profile organizations involved in various facets of higher education and/or online learning. The invitation asked those who received the email to share the invitation with contacts they have who work as instructors, instructional designers, or professional development administrators in two-year and four-year higher education institutions in the United States and worldwide that offer on-campus, blended/hybrid, or online courses/programs.

In our review of the study findings, we will contrast patterns of neuromyth acceptance in higher education professionals with those previously found in studies focusing on K-12 education, as well as differences across professional roles (instructor, designer. professional development administrators) and among types of institutions. We will also discuss the effect of professional development and training experience on neuropedagogical beliefs in terms of susceptibility to believing neuromyths and awareness of evidence-based practices. The panel discussion will also highlight the implications for practice specifically within higher education contexts. In particular, we will consider which aspects of neuroscience, psychology, and education (Mind, Brain & Education science and learning sciences) seem to be the most poorly understood among higher education professionals, and what types of professional development activities and resources would be best suited for addressing these areas of need.