Five myths about learning

One out of 11 kindergarten-age children ready for kindergarten will be held back from kindergarten each year in an attempt to make that child more ready for schoolwork and give him or her an advantage over other children.

“As it turns out, this practice is not helpful for child achievement. … Any advantages disappear by the end of sixth grade,” Wang said. In fact, children who are older for their grade level don’t do quite as well as children who are young for their grade level.

Children are social learners, Wang said, and they learn from one another and learn through play. If a child’s peers are slightly more advanced scholastically or emotionally, a child has those peers to learn from and to use as examples. Children who are young for their school year typically have more advanced peers to draw upon and learn from.

Myth 3: IQ is the biggest predictor of student achievement.

In fact, the ability to show self-restraint at an early age is twice as predictive as IQ, Wang said. Willpower and self-restraint are more important.

“It’s more important to build up self-control, and it’s more important to praise a child for trying,” Wang said. “Praise for effort, not for intrinsic ability.”

Myth 4: Learning styles are a good way to guide teaching practice.

The brain’s willpower mechanisms are expanded by practice—what brains do often, they do well, Wang said. This includes activities such as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand to build up brain circuitry.

Students can build up a brain circuit by activating it and doing that specific activity often.

Laura Ascione

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