5 Myths and misconceptions in learning theory

There are a number of common myths surrounding learning theory that arise time and time again. In this post we’ll be separating some of the facts from the myths.

Myth: Having lecture capture available decreases lecture attendance

Fact: It’s an often repeated myth that if you use lecture capture then students will simply watch that and won’t actually bother to turn up to class. However this is at odds with the researchwhich suggests that it has little to no effect on student attendance.

This is likely because the majority of students don’t use lecture capture as a substitution for attending physical lectures but rather as a supplemental way of reviewing information from lectures after attending them. In one study 74% of students said they watched lecture capture videos to revisit concepts they missed during the lecture.They can also be useful for non-native speakers who may wish to review parts of a lecture at their own pace in order to aid comprehension. International students have reported them to be extremely helpful particularly in their first year of study, whilst adjusting to a foreign language.3


  1. The Impact of Lecture Capture on Student Attendance and Results
  2. Video Lecture Capture Technology Helps Students Study without Affecting Attendance in Large Microbiology Lecture Courses
  3. Turn up, tune in, don’t drop out: The relationship between lecture attendance, use of lecture recordings, and achievement at different levels of study

Myth: Younger generations of students are Digital Natives.

Fact: The term digital natives refers to the false belief that everyone under a certain age somehow has an innate understanding of everything digital. Research has consistently contradicted the idea that any such group exists,and the idea can actively harm the learning of individuals.2

A lot of young students, even those born in the 2000’s, often cannot use technology adeptly and often struggle. Technology has in many ways become less active and more passive and while many younger students will be competent using technology to passively consume through social media, streaming services or Amazon, they may not be able to copy and paste or actively use technology for learning purposes. This means these students can often be excluded from contributing to class. Choosing to assume that using technology will automatically make things easier and more intuitive to students is clearly wrong. An approach that does not exclude anybody and makes learning an exclusive experience is the right way.


  1. The myths of the digital native and the multitasker
  2. Digital natives: where is the evidence?

Myth: Multiple choice questions are only useful to test memorisation of fact

Fact: Multiple choice questions are often only utilised as a method to test rote memorisation of facts and while that is one approach that can be used with them, they can also be very useful as a method to examine student opinion. Using a tool like PollEverywhere, for example, you can gauge a class’s opinion on a certain topic to ascertain their interest or to identify weaknesses in student comprehension and where the learning should go next.

Multiple choice questions can also be used in confidence-based testing which is a method of testing which measures not just what a learner knows, but also their confidence in that answer. This prevents multiple choice questions from just being about memorisation and random chance in a student’s answer.

Myth: Everyone has an individual learning style that works best for them.

Fact: This is the idea that everyone has their own individual learning style such as visual, auditory or kinesthetic with which they learn best.

This myth is widely believed both by the general public and those within teaching, but it’s never actually been proven to be real with current research suggesting it was never anything but a neurobiological fiction.It’s a myth that is not only wrong but that can harm future learning as it may lead to a fixed approach in the student mindset which could serve to impair their future learning by making them less likely to try new approaches to learning.

The truth is that most students benefit from a mix of tasks that force them to actively engage with the material. Focusing on one single approach can be harmful and restrict students’ learning potential. It’s also important to get students to think about how they are learning and taking in information but not to fix them to only using one particular style.


  1. Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence

Myth: Flipped learning is just watching videos

Fact:  One of the earliest examples of flipped learning was Eric Mazur’s peer instruction concept, used in teaching Physics at Harvard. Mazur did not use videos, he says: “I used the greatest invention in information technology, called the book. Essentially I had the students read the textbook before coming to class, rather than having me regurgitate the textbook in class.1
Videos are often no more engaging than a lecture, unless you regularly pause and actively think about what your learning, but with a book you have the opportunity to do this and then bring your thoughts to the class. This means less class time thinking about content individually and more time discussing and engaging with it as a group.

For more information about flipped learning, please visit the Active Learning Network website, created by University of Sussex colleagues Wendy Garnham and Tab Betts.



So what can we learn from this? That it’s worth investigating any theories we hear and that we shouldn’t accept ideas as true just because a large amount of people believe in them.  In this era of fake news it’s always worth looking into things yourself.

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