The Learning Is Fixed Myth

December 7, 2009 by Geoff Nixon

The Learning Is Fixed Myth

learning is fixedThe myth, and sadly, current conventional thinking is that learning is fixed –that learning ability is formed in the first three years of life and/or from genetics.  After that the role of educators and parents is to “work around” learning issues, to provide coping tools.

If you are told your child is a visual learner and that you need to provide visual cues to help “that kind of learner” you are basically being told that your child is a visual learner and that’s that.  It’s done.  But think about it.  What a devastating diagnosis.  Reading requires spoken language dexterity (to at first decode, then to understand language structures and vocabulary) AND for the first ten plus years of life the vast, vast majority of learning is oral –listening to the world around you as a baby, being taught by your parents and then educators.

No right thinking, self-organizing brain would choose to be a “visual” learner in a language filled world. It would also choose to be a “language” learner.

But with a learning is fixed mindset, being a Visual Learner sounds OK and nothing for parents to worry about since nothing can be done (they say) anyway.  And at least the child is some kind of learner, right?

Brain Plasticity Is Real

Despite an overwhelming and rapidly expanding body of evidence that brains should not be thought of as trapped in faulty learning mechanisms but are capable of more normal learning, this learning is fixed mindset persists.   Brain plasticity is one of the great scientific discoveries of the last decade and yet really, despite is great message of hope for all children with any kind of learning glitch, it is still largely ignored by educators and parents alike.

For children with learning issues this unwillingness to embrace science is an opportunity lost.  While the proven applications that take advantage of brain plasticity — like Fast ForWord software, BrainWare Safari and Interactive Metronome — are still relatively few, this is an emerging area of learning intervention that should be attracting more attention than it is.  Part of the reason for the slow adoption is that the underlying premise that learning change is possible is not yet widely accepted.

Next blog:  the grain of truth in the learning is fixed myth and why it persists.