Monday, September 26, 2016

Learning Styles

Learning styles, and their cousin "multiple intelligences", are pseudo-science at best.  I love this article, reprinted in many sources around the planet in the last few weeks, written by a Professor and Associate Dean at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia:
The theory is that if a teacher can provide learning activities and experiences that match a student’s supposed learning style, learning will be more effective.

Probably the best known are the “auditory” (learning best by hearing), “visual” (learning best through images), and “kinesthetic” (learning best through touch and movement) typologies of learners.

Learning styles has become a vast, lucrative industry with inventories, manuals, video resources, in-service packages, websites, publications and workshops. Some schools have spent many thousands of dollars assessing students using the various inventories.

Psychologists and neuroscientists agree there is little efficacy for these models, which are based on dubious evidence.

If learning styles exist at all, these are not “hard wired” and are at most simply preferences...

Professor of reading education Stephen Stahl has commented:
I work with a lot of different schools and listen to a lot of teachers talk. Nowhere have I seen a greater conflict between “craft knowledge” or what teachers know (or at least think they know) and “academic knowledge” or what researchers know (or at least think they know) than in the area of learning styles...
When I have pointed this out to educators, the usual response is that “it doesn’t matter”. But it does matter because of the problems and harm that can be caused by the categorisation and labelling. These can lead to negative mindsets in students and limited learning experiences through the continued belief in and application of so-called learning styles, not to mention the time and money wasted. We might as well teach students according to their horoscopes.
Yeah, what he said.

Sometimes I think teachers will believe anything if it will just make them (or their students) feel good about themselves, truth or reality be damned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the categories on our Ohio pre-observation form calls for the teacher to list how learning styles are incorporated into our lessons. I flatly refuse to use them, and explained to my principal my reasons why, and gave him a very good article to document my reasons. Other teachers have been "dinged" on their lack of using these in their observed lesson. I listed what I do to know my students and the list is much clearer that I spend time finding out important things. I refused to change this area on the form simply because the state says I must. Even the principal says its bogus, but he has to follow the form. I am really tired of the education field latching onto every new idea and appropriating it before there is any research proving or disproving it. We should know better!