“What I hear, I forget; What I see, I remember; What I do, I understand.” - Attributed to Confucius
I’ve seen this quote displayed prominently in classrooms, used in books, mentioned in videos, and repeated by educators at professional development meetings. What is it supposed to convey anyway? Was the ancient thinker’s intention to express that seeing is a better way of absorbing freshly received information, and that doing something with it is even more powerful when it comes to internalizing it? Whatever the intended meaning, I believe that all of these, and other, ways of learning are important. Moreover, educational research suggests that we learn best in a multitude of ways, rather than by any one dominant means; and that different subjects lend themselves to different methods of delivery for maximized learning effectiveness, regardless of how pupils taking the subject prefer to learn.
Life is multimodal and so is learning. No single learning modality can be used effectively on a consistent basis. The ever-popular learning styles inventories and assessments are continually being used in the K-12 and higher education communities, even as they are repeatedly being proven inaccurate. The idea that each person has a preferred learning modality is not supported by evidence and is poorly correlated with achievement.
So why does this myth persist in the educational circles?...