Image Source: www.barefoootTEFLteaher.com
How often have you heard educators and others discuss Learning Styles?
“I'm a visual learner”
“I'm a kinesthetic learner, I have to get hands-on”
Well, I know it bursts a lot of bubbles when people hear this, but the whole concept of learning styles is essentially a myth. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea of audio, visual, and kinesthetic learners.
Reluctant to believe it? Don't worry you're not alone. The idea has become so firmly ingrained in our thinking.
Here are a handful of articles from very reputable sources that explain the fallacy of the concept. Just google “scientific evidence for learning styles” to find more.
- The Problem With “Learning Styles”, Scientific American
- The Myth of ‘Learning Styles', The Atlantic
- â€˜Neuromythâ€™ or Helpful Model?, Inside HigherEd
- Learning Styles as a Myth, Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning (Yale)
- Learning Styles Debunked: There is No Evidence Supporting Auditory and Visual Learning, Psychologists Say, Association for Psychological Science
I particularly appreciated this observation, from the Center for Teaching page from Vanderbilt University:
“There are well over 70 different learning styles schemes, most of which are supported by â€œa thriving industry devoted to publishing learning-styles tests and guidebooksâ€ and â€œprofessional development workshops for teachers and educatorsâ€”
So let's try to stop perpetuating this misleading idea. While it may be well intentioned, it simply isn't valid.
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Most people tend to confuse learning styles with the meshing hypothesis. I recently recorded a podcast with Raf Dolanowski which talks about the difference and also has a closer look at learning styles, how theyâ€™ve been misunderstood, and how people are using them to inform their teaching.
Podcast on Anchor
You can join in the conversation on LinkedIn here
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Thanks Kimberly. I have no doubt that students have experienced perceived benefits from actions taken based on ideas that came out of the common misperception of learning styles. That doesn’t make the concept more accurate. As you noted, “we need to question what we are learning and why”. That is the very spirit behind this post – we should not blindly believe ideas/things we hear about or even read about, we should seek to understand what they are based on, what their source is. The idea of learning styles is something someone made up and it felt so right that many just accepted it, but there is no concrete, supportable evidence to back it up. That doesn’t mean someone can’t embrace and appreciate the idea, it just means that we should be careful about attempting to systematically apply it.
Perhaps it’s a myth, but being labeled as a “kinesthetic” learner empowered my left-handed and very tactile daughter to design her own methods of memorization which would otherwise have left her bored and feeling stupid. We don’t need to buy more learning technology. We need to question what we are learning and why.