Pre-service Science Teachers' Neuroscience Literacy: Neuromyths and a Professional Understanding of Learning and Memory

Front Hum Neurosci. 2019 Feb 14;13:20. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00020. eCollection 2019.


Transferring current research findings on the topic of learning and memory to "brain-based" learning in schools is of great interest among teachers. However, numerous international studies demonstrate that both pre-service and in-service teachers do not always succeed. Instead, they transfer numerous misconceptions about neuroscience, known as neuromyths, into pedagogical practice. As a result, researchers call for more neuroscience in teacher education in order to create a professional understanding of learning and memory. German pre-service science teachers specializing in biology complete neuroscientific modules (human biology/animal physiology) during their studies because they are expected to teach these topics to their students. Thus, they are required to demonstrate a certain degree of neuroscience literacy. In the present study, 550 pre-service science teachers were surveyed on neuromyths and scientific concepts about learning and memory. Pre-service science teachers' scientific concepts increased over the course of their training. However, beliefs in neuromyths were independent of participants' status within teacher education (first-year students, advanced students, and post-graduate trainees). The results showed that 10 neuromyths were endorsed by more than 50% of prospective science teachers. Beliefs in the existence of learning styles (93%) and the effectiveness of Brain Gym (92%) were most widespread. Many myths were endorsed even though a large share of respondents had thematically similar scientific concepts; endorsement of neuromyths was found to be largely independent of professional knowledge as well as theory-based and biography-based learning beliefs about neuroscience and learning. Our results suggest that neuromyths can exist in parallel to scientific concepts, professional knowledge and beliefs and are resistant to formal education. From the perspective of conceptual change theory, they thus exhibit characteristic traits of misconceptions that cannot simply be counteracted with increased neuroscientific knowledge. On the basis of our study's findings, it can be concluded that new teacher programs considering neuromyths as change-resistant misconceptions are needed to professionalize pre-service science teachers' neuroscience literacy. For this, an intensive web of exchange between the education field and neuroscientists is required, not just to deploy the latest scientific insights to refute neuromyths on learning and memory, but also to identify further neuromyths.

Keywords: beliefs; learning and memory; misconceptions; neuromyths; neuroscience literacy; pre-service science teachers; professional knowledge; teaching profession.