Meta-Analysis Summary: Learning Overview


Learning Overview Meta-AnalysisAdults and traditional students often describe that they learn differently than others. For example, adults may suggest that they have specific learning styles, left brain right brain dominance, and specific multiple intelligences. However, data suggest that learning styles (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, & Beyerstein, 2010b; Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2009; Willingham, 2009b), left brain right brain theory (Alferink & Farmer-Dougan, 2010; Dekker, Lee, Howard-Jones, & Jolles, 2012; Gazzaniga, 1985, 2002; Lilienfeld, et al., 2010a; Lindell & Kidd, 2011; Willingham, 2010), and multiple intelligences (Waterhouse, 2006) do not exist. Traditional students may suggest that they that they are good at multitasking, and therefore desire to use laptops in class. Some educational professionals even claim that because of the digital revolution, Generation Y learns differently than other generations (Prensky, 2001). However, research suggests that the current generation does not learn differently than other generations (Bennett, Maton, & Kervin, 2008; Devers, 2012), that students do poorly when multitasking (Dretzin, 2010; Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009; Rubinstein, Meyer, & Evans, 2001; Tugend, 2008), and that using laptops during class hinders learning (Fried, 2008; Hembrooke & Gay, 2003; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013; Truman, 2005). Much has been written about how we learn (Blakemore & Frith, 2005; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Byrnes, 2007; Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013; Stigler & Hiebert, 2009; Willingham, 2009c), and when it comes to differences in learning, Willingham (2009a) summarized it well when he states, "there are different abilities, but really, we all learn the same way."


  1. Instructors and students should focus on learning similarities instead of differences, as the data suggest, that for the most part, "we all learn the same way."

Additional Reading

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Carey, B. (2010). Forget what you know about good study habits. The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved from

Carr, N. (2008). Is Google making us stupid? The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Chew, S. L. (2007). Study more! Study harder! Students’ and teachers' faulty beliefs about how people learn. Essays from E-xcellence in Teaching7, 22-25.

Dretzin, R. (2010). Digital Nation. Frontline. Retrieved from

Goldberg, D. (2010). If technology is making us stupid, it's not technology’s fault. Retrieved from

Green, E. (2010). Dial-a-Class. The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved from

Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age. Educational Researcher38(4), 246-259.

Jones, S., & Fox, S. (2009). Generations online in 2009. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

Warschauer, M. (2007). The paradoxical future of digital learning. Learning Inquiry1(1), 41-49.

Wegerif, R. (2002). Thinking skills, technology and learning. Harbourside, Bristo: Futurelab.


Alferink, L. A., & Farmer-Dougan, V. (2010). Brain-(not) based education: Dangers of misunderstanding and misapplication of neuroscience research. Exceptionality18(1), 42-52.

Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology39(5), 775-786.

Blakemore, S. J., & Frith, U. (2005). The learning brain: Lessons for education. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Byrnes, J. P. (2007). Cognitive development and learning in instructional contexts. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Dekker, S., Lee, N. C., Howard-Jones, P., & Jolles, J. (2012). Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers. Frontiers in Psychology3(429).

Devers, C. J. (2012). Technology for school leaders. In P. Cordeiro & W. Cunningham (Eds.), Educational leadership: A bridge to improved practice (5th edition) (pp. 230-231). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest14(1), 4-58.

Dretzin, R. (2010). Digital Nation. Frontline. Retrieved from

Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education50(3), 906-914.

Gazzaniga, M. S. (1985) The social brain. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2002). The split brain revisited. Scientific American279(1), 27-321.

Hembrooke, H., & Gay, G. (2003). The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education15(1), 46-64.

Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010a). Some people are left-brained, others are right-brained.50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior (pp. 25-28). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010b). Students learn best when teaching styles are matched to their learning styles. 50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior (pp. 92-99). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lindell, A. K., & Kidd, E. (2011). Why right-brain teaching is half-witted: A critique of the misapplication of neuroscience to education. Mind Brain and Education5(3), 121-127. Blackwell Publishing.

Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America106(37), 15583-7.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science,9(3), 105-119.

Prenksy, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon9, 5, 1-6.

Rubinstein, J. S., Meyer, D. E., & Evans, J. E. (2001). Executive control of cognitive processes in task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27 (4), 763-779.

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education62, 24-31.

Stigler, J. W., & Hiebert, J. (2009). The teaching gap: Best ideas from the world’s teachers for improving. New York, NY: Free Press.

Truman, G. E. (2005). An empirical assessment of student computer use behaviors in the classroom. In Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (Vol. 1, pp. 6a-6a).

Tugend, A. (2008). Multitasking can make you lose ... um ... focus. The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved from

Waterhouse, L. (2006). Multiple intelligences, the Mozart effect, and emotional intelligence: A critical review. Educational Psychologist41(4), 207–225.

Willingham, D. (2009a). Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham helps teachers understand why students don’t like school.UVA Today. Retrieved from

Willingham, D. (2009b). How should I adjust my teaching for different types of learners? Why don’t students like school: A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom (pp. 147-168). San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Willingham, D. (2009c). Why don’t students like school: A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Willingham, D. (2010). Left/right brain theory is bunk. The Washington Post. Retrieved from