8 Fake News


Author: Celia Popovic

We have called this section 'Fake News' initially as a nod to today's zeitgeist - hence the illustration. However this levity masks a potentially serious issue. In a time of easy access to information and the ubiquity of Google and similar search facilities, it can be difficult to separate the authentic from the fake, the evidence from opinion. In this chapter we address some of the more commonly held misconceptions that arise in educational development and explore strategies to help practitioners distinguish the real from the suspect.

Educational development and teaching and learning in Higher Education do seem to be susceptible to many myths and misunderstandings. In early 2020, we asked SEDA, SHED and EDC members to share their favourite/most detested 'fake news' items.

Not surprisingly, the debate was sidetracked by a heated exchange regarding the suitability of the term 'fake news' in this context. I don't intend to rehearse the discussion here, save to say that for some the term is misused because while actual 'fake news' implies a deliberate attempt to mislead, myths and misunderstandings in teaching and learning are not usually made with malicious intent. Below is an overview of some of the more commonly cited examples of misuse in the field of teaching and learning, but is by no means considered to be exhaustive.

To avoid falling into the trap of 'fake news' in this, or other contexts consider following the advice offered here:

Evaluation Information: Fake News, Queens University, Charlotte

Myths and Misunderstandings

The myths and misunderstandings commonly agreed upon by the SEDA, SHED and EDC members are identified in relation to the five themes below.  Follow the links for more discussion of each of the bullet points.

8.1 Overused theories and ideas

  • Learning Styles
  • Dale's Cone of Learning
  • Management theories apply to learning
  • Left Brain Right Brain
  • High Impact Practices (HIPS)
  • Active learning
  • HR Professional Development is the same as Educational Development
  • Gibbs' Cycle for Teaching Reflection
  • IQ Tests

8.2 How to teach

  • Teaching involves only covering content.
  • Being an expert is both necessary and sufficient to be a good teacher.
  • University is just about learning.
  • There is only one correct way to teach.
  • A teacher's role is to deliver learning.
  • Traditional lectures are good and the default mode for teaching.
  • My discipline is special.
  • A teacher can tell a good student from a bad one.
  • Writing Centres can fix students' bad writing.
  • Androgogy is different from pedagogy.

8.3 Feedback and Assessment

  • Assessment always drives learning.
  • We can meaningfully mark/assess to 1%.
  • Expect a normal distribution of grades.
  • Negative comments should be surrounded by positive comments in a Feedback Sandwich.
  • Feedback is useful after summative assessment.

8.4 Technology

  • Technology solves everything.
  • Technology equates to innovation.
  • Lecture recordings cause low attendance.
  • Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants.
  • Handwritten notes are better than using a laptop.

8.5 General issues

  • Innovation is good and there is no need to find out what others have already done.
  • "X" is a universal panacea.
  • 'Excellence' is appropriate as a measure or a label.
  • The student experience/engagement is a helpful construct when discussing teaching.
  • Employability is conveyed through a university education.
  • Constant review and inspection improves standards.
  • Student evaluation of teaching is effective.
  • There is such a thing as "Best Practice".
  • Better to be a specialist than a generalist - 10,000 hour study vs the sports gene.

Bev Bramble's summary of the text: Urban Myths about Learning and Education by Pedro De Bruyckere, Paul A. Kirschner, and Casper D. Hulsof  Elsevier, 2015

Resources for further reading on myths and how to counter them:

De Bruyckere, P., Kirschner, P. A., & Hulshof, C. D. (2015). Urban myths about learning and education. Academic Press.

De Bruyckere, P., Kirschner, P. A., & Hulshof, C. (2019). More Urban Myths about Learning and Education: Challenging Eduquacks, Extraordinary Claims, and Alternative Facts. Routledge.

Haggis, T. (2006). Pedagogies for diversity: retaining critical challenge amidst fears of ‘dumbing down’. Studies in Higher Education, 31, 5, 521-535.

Kirschner, P.A., and van Merrienboer, J.J.G. (2013) Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education. Educational Psychology, 48,3, 169-183

Leckie, G.J. (1996). Desperately seeking citations: Uncovering faculty assumptions about the undergraduate research process. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 22, 3, 201-208.

Jarry, J. (n.d) McGill Learning to Stop Teaching Learning Myths.McGill University. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/learning-stop-teaching-learning-myths

Online Learning Consortium has published an international report: Neuromyths and Evidence-Based Practices in Higher Education (2019).

Popovic, C. and Green, D. (2012) Understanding Undergraduates, Routledge, London.


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