27 minutes | Mar 15th 2020

EP 023: L&D Myths

Myths in Learning and Development There are many pervasive myths in the field of learning and development. Despite most being disproved, some continue to be promoted as fact. Some are even dangerously counter-productive to learning. In this episode, Cara and Joe discuss some of these common myths and share their perspectives. Connect with Cara & Joe Support the show Music created by Jahzzar. Show Transcript: North, Cara A.  0:01  They tickle our imagination. They invite others to make their own. They even create community around those who appreciate them. So why is it that myths in learning and development space aren’t as beloved as tall tales, folklore and pop culture? Well, the answer is quite simply that they are dangerous to the profession that many of us love. Welcome to the Instructional ReDesign Podcast, stories and conversations about the modern learning experience. Suarez, Joseph  0:30  Is that the right one, about designing? North, Cara A.  0:42  I’m Cara North and today Joe and I are going to dive headfirst into some of these pervasive myths and explore their origins and what can be done to slay them. Now want to start with one that I kind of fell across in 2014 when I took a graduate class called adult learning. Now you have to remember, this was my first graduate class in the master’s program, and I was eager to learn all about it. Now, about halfway through the course, I learned about a gentleman named Malcolm Knowles, who explained this term called andragogy. And andragogy is essentially kind of like the opposite of pedagogy. Andragogy is about how adults learn. And for him, this breakthrough was kind of again about that the adults do learn differently from children. Now, he used this approach of self directed learning. And he said that that was kind of the way that you should implement andragogy. He helped groups of students kind of take responsibility for their learning, they were able to be a part of the subject matter for the course. And he kind of had these four principles of andragogy that I just want to touch on really quick. So the first is basically that the adult learner needs to be involved. So they need to be involved somehow and kind of the planning and evaluation of their instructio. Two would be that adult learners experience also comes into play in the way that they learn. So experience and that can include, you know, good or bad provides kind of the basis for learning activities. Three would be relevance and impact into their lives. This would be classified as the what’s in it for me effect. So why should adult learners care about this? And four is problem-centered. And so how is it that they’re going to learn through a problem centered curriculum versus a content oriented. So this is more about applying what they already kind of have in their brain. Now, again, kind of going through this, there’s kind of two ways to kind of understand this. So there was kind of these different resources and studies that were done that basically said the andragogy is more like the science and art of helping adults learn whereas pedagogy is like the art and science of teaching children so it’s more on kind of your spoon fed you’re telling of you know, this is the way this is. Two plus two equals four versus in an  adult classroom it’s more, okay, two plus two equals four. Why is that? Like, why do you think that is? How do you know that’s true? So more kind of critical thinking cap is kind of the way that it was initially kind of put out there. So I’m in this class, Joe, and I’m like, okay, sure. I think that makes sense. I mean, it’s coming from, you know, scholarship. It’s coming from all of this Suarez, Joseph  3:25  Sounds logical. North, Cara A.  3:26  Yeah, seems logical, right? But let’s think about this a little bit further. So for me, a couple things that I want to talk on about why this maybe shouldn’t be as embraced as much as it is the number one what defines an adult learner? What in the heck does that mean? Does that is that their age? Is that how many hairs they have on their chin? Is that if they’re living on their own? I mean it it doesn’t really operationalize and say what an adult learner is. So Joe, what do you think an adult learner is? Suarez, Joseph  3:56  I guess legally you become an adult learner at the age of 18. So that would make a bunch of high school seniors adult learners, right? North, Cara A.  4:01  I think so. And then also, I think that would put our college population, our college students, the folks that are considered the traditional, if you will, college students are definitely adults as well as the non traditional college students, which I absolutely hate that term and can’t believe I said it. But that’s a horse of another color. And two, I want to talk a little bit more about the self directed learning piece. So let’s talk begin about like, what does that mean? So first of all, if adults are naturally self directed, does that mean that they’re always coming in with a great attitude ready to learn? No, I mean, there’s a lot of different bags, that we all kind of carry in our own environments of what that looks like. Second is the way that it is kind of put into the literature about the self direction. It’s kind of all or nothing. Either you got it and you are self directed, or you’re not. It’s kind of on this continuum of extremes. We all know you may be in a learning environment, you might be briefly distracted, but then you can get your mind back in the game to make it happen of whatever it is that you’re trying to learn. So there’s that. And then kind of like the last one is that self directed learning means learning in isolation. That is not true. And I know that a lot of us know the benefits of social learning. Being able to bounce ideas off people is super important. So again, there’s kind of this dimension of the self directed learning, and that it’s adults only. But fundamentally, I mean, can we really say biologically, that adults and children learn differently? Suarez, Joseph  5:41  Yeah, that’s a tough one. I mean, a lot of what you mentioned about what defines an adult learner comes down to previous experience and not just being a blank slate that you can kind of cram information to. It’s like, well, I’ve already learned something. So how does this new piece information fit within what I already know and also how is that going to apply to me in my life? Those are the things, the assumptions that I see from the principles you mentioned. But I also think that those are traits that people start to develop probably in like junior high, or even sooner, where they’re already starting to look a little more critically at the information that teachers are presenting to them in school and say, Well, what does that have to do with me and, and my desire to go out and skateboard and be a rebellious teenager? Well, maybe that was just me. North, Cara A.  6:31  No, I know, I agree with you. And going back to the principles if you remove adult out of there and add in, let’s say, dog, so, you know, dogs want to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their own instruction. Yeah, dogs want to do what they want to do, right? You know, dogs, learning experience provides the basis for learning activities. Yeah, if you crack their hind end if they’re not doing something right, and then a dog is probably going to remember that right? So that’s kind of my problem with it. I don’t think it is just about adults. Do I believe that experiences matter in learning? Do I believe that motivation matters in learning? Absolutely. But just to say that adults are the only ones that are impacted by that, I think is just a little bit limiting to kind of, again, our audience in learning and development, we want to make sure that we’re inclusive of everybody and not just say that adults do this. And adults do that. That’s just kind of one of my little soap boxes. Suarez, Joseph  7:34  Yeah, it’s one of your soap boxes. I think you have many soap boxes. So what’s your next soapbox there? North, Cara A.  7:40  My next soapbox is learning styles. Now I’m sure if you’ve taken any kind of education class ever, you’ve likely heard of learning styles. And if you haven’t, basically, it’s a theory that kind of gained popularity I believe in the 1970s here in the United States. Basically the crux of it is that all students can be classified according to their style of learning. So in other words, individuals learn differently. Now again, on the surface, if you think about it maybe doesn’t sound too outrageous as you may like to listen to podcast, or maybe you want to read a text to learn new information. Now, the primary flaw here for me is that it assumes that the fundamental process of learning where the brain codes and recalls information is different from person to person. Now, if they would have changed it from learning styles to learning preferences, I think that might have avoid some of this criticism. Now, each person has an individual preference, perhaps on what they do or don’t like when it comes to learning. But that doesn’t mean that the fundamental neuroscience of how we learn changes. Now there are many educators in the field that actually still do not realize that there is still no research evidence to back up the claims that students learn through a preferred cognitive style, which includes visual, audio, kinesthetic, and reading and writing. So there’s a gentleman that I met in my higher ed studies, his name is
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