Do learners really know best? Urban legends in Education

Paul A. Kirschner*, Jeroen Van Merriënboer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    This article takes a critical look at three pervasive urban legends in education about the nature of learners, learning, and teaching and looks atwhat educational and psychological research has to say about them. The three legends can be seen as variations on one central theme, namely, that it is the learner who knows best and that she or he should be the controlling force in her or his learning. The first legend is one of learners as digital natives who form a generation of students knowing by nature how to learn from new media, and for whom “old” media and methods used in teaching/learning no longer work. The second legend is the widespread belief that learners have specific learning styles and that education should be individualized to the extent that the pedagogy of teaching/learning is matched to the preferred style of the learner. The final legend is that learners ought to be seen as self-educators who should be given maximum control over what they are learning and their learning trajectory. It concludes with a possible reason why these legends have taken hold, are so pervasive, and are so difficult to eradicate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-183
    Number of pages15
    JournalEducational Psychologist
    Issue number3
    Early online date14 Jun 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Urban ledgends
    • Education
    • Learning
    • nature of learners
    • teaching
    • digital natives
    • specific learning styles
    • self-educators


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