Monday, 16 January 2012

Do Learning Styles Really Exist? | doug woods

Do Learning Styles Really Exist? | doug woods.

I get the impression that Doug is conflating 'Learning Styles' and 'individual differences' here. We all have individual differences in the way we learn, but as far as I can see no one has yet defined what a Learning Style is - genetic predisposition? Preference? Aptitude? Attitude? If you can't define what it actually is how can you measure its effect - it can have no reliability or validity.

I suppose there might be some confusion about 'learning styles' and 'Learning Styles'. It's easy to conflate 'learning styles' and individual differences, but I think many of the proponents of learning styles are actually thinking of them as 'Learning Styles' (with capitals) denoting them as actual entities that exist, which can therefore be objectified, packaged, and sold in training courses and books. These people have a vested interest in the existence of 'Learning Styles' so can't be trusted to have an objective view.

I disagree that rejecting learning styles will lead to regressive teaching - a teacher can reject Learning Styles while acknowledging individual differences, and provide a rich learning environment that calls on different modalities.  The material provided should suit the content, not an ill-defined abstract notion about how an individual learns.

What we need in teaching is evidence based practice, and so far there is no evidence to support the view that presenting, for example, visual material to your 'visual learners' is more effective and leads to better learning than other ways of presenting the material.

My view is that 'Learning Styles' inhibit good teaching, because it narrows the focus of the teacher and can lead to labelling and self-fulfilling prophesies (I can't learn this because I'm a visual learner'). It can also lead to the production of content that is inappropriate for the subject matter.

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