International Study: Dispelling Neuro-Myths & Examining Neuro-Pedagogical Beliefs & Practices within Higher Education
Concurrent Session 2
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.
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.