- Feb 2022
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Another major problem with the learning styles view is that it is not sup-ported by the available research evidence.
Daniel Willingham, a Professor of Psychology at University of Virginia, has written a concise FAQ on the topic of "learning styles" that I've annotated here. In addition to providing links to research about learning styles, he also makes some key distinctions between what might be meant by "style" vs. "ability" vs. "preference".
- Jan 2022
Kristen: Well, what’s interesting, and you bring up such a great point. One of the top neuromyths out there is learning styles. And, so when you’re looking at learning styles, this is something that almost seems to permeate. It doesn’t matter when you started teaching, whether it’s K through 12, or higher education at some point if you’ve been involved in education, you’ve come across learning styles. Now there are learning preferences and there’s lots of wonderful research on that. But this concept of teaching to learning styles, I think, unfortunately… we talk about this in section seven of our report kind of got mixed in with multiple intelligences. And, that is not at all what multiple intelligence was about, but it was almost the timing of it and so, having been a K through 12 teacher, I remember going through a professional development where we learned about learning styles and how it was something to look at in terms of teaching to learning preferences. And, even to this day when I do presentations, and I know Michelle has run into this as well, especially when we co-teach some of the OLC workshops, somebody will inevitably raise their hand or type in the chat area “Are you kidding? Learning styles is a neuromyth? We just had somebody on our campus six months ago, who taught us how to do an assessment to teach to learning styles.” So, it’s still out there, even though there’s so much in the literature saying it’s a neuromyth. It’s still prevalent within education across all areas.
You don’t have to believe in learning styles theories to appreciate differences among kids, to hold an egalitarian attitude in the midst of such differences, and to try to foster such attitudes in students.
learning styles is not a theory of instruction. It is a theory of how the mind works. So when I say “there’s no evidence for learning styles” I am making a claim about the mind, not about instruction.
Learning styles is a theory of how the mind works not a theory of instruction.
(2) the fact that we haven’t definitively proven a theory wrong seems like a poor reason to advocate using the theory in classrooms. To the extent that teachers use scientific theories about the mind to inform their practice, doesn’t it make sense to use theories that scientists are pretty sure are right?
(1) it’s absolutely true that we could find out tomorrow that there are learning styles after all. Someone could propose a new theory, or we might realize that there is a different, better way to test the old theories. Note this is always the case--you can't absolutely prove a theory untrue.
there’s not much reason to think it’s because kids have different learning styles. Maybe it’s always good for kids to experience any idea in several different ways, even if all the experiences were in the same style. Maybe one of the experiences is especially well-suited to help kids understand the concept. Maybe the repetition is good. If it's a good idea to teach to all styles, great, but I'd like to figure out why kids are learning more that way, given that other predictions of styles theories aren't supported.
This description of "teach[ing] to all the [learning] styles" seems similar to some descriptions of Universal Design for Learning that I have seen.
You give people the opportunity to use their preferred style or you prevent them from using their preferred style. You should see some difference in the effectiveness of the learning of the two groups--their comprehension of whatever task you set, their memory, something. That’s the evidence that’s lacking.
What would evidence for learning styles look like?
Ability is that you can do something. Style is how you do it.
Ability vs. style
- Sep 2021
Learning styles have been debunked.
Learning styles: V.A.R.K. model originated by Neil Flemiing stands for:
Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological science in the public interest, 9(3), 105-119. — https://ve42.co/Pashler2008
Willingham, D. T., Hughes, E. M., & Dobolyi, D. G. (2015). The scientific status of learning styles theories. Teaching of Psychology, 42(3), 266-271. — https://ve42.co/Willingham
Massa, L. J., & Mayer, R. E. (2006). Testing the ATI hypothesis: Should multimedia instruction accommodate verbalizer-visualizer cognitive style?. Learning and Individual Differences, 16(4), 321-335. — https://ve42.co/Massa2006
Riener, C., & Willingham, D. (2010). The myth of learning styles. Change: The magazine of higher learning, 42(5), 32-35.— https://ve42.co/Riener2010
Husmann, P. R., & O'Loughlin, V. D. (2019). Another nail in the coffin for learning styles? Disparities among undergraduate anatomy students’ study strategies, class performance, and reported VARK learning styles. Anatomical sciences education, 12(1), 6-19. — https://ve42.co/Husmann2019
Snider, V. E., & Roehl, R. (2007). Teachers’ beliefs about pedagogy and related issues. Psychology in the Schools, 44, 873–886. doi:10.1002/pits.20272 — https://ve42.co/Snider2007
Fleming, N., & Baume, D. (2006). Learning Styles Again: VARKing up the right tree!. Educational developments, 7(4), 4. — https://ve42.co/Fleming2006
Rogowsky, B. A., Calhoun, B. M., & Tallal, P. (2015). Matching learning style to instructional method: Effects on comprehension. Journal of educational psychology, 107(1), 64. — https://ve42.co/Rogowskyetal
Coffield, Frank; Moseley, David; Hall, Elaine; Ecclestone, Kathryn (2004). — https://ve42.co/Coffield2004
Furey, W. (2020). THE STUBBORN MYTH OF LEARNING STYLES. Education Next, 20(3), 8-13. — https://ve42.co/Furey2020
Dunn, R., Beaudry, J. S., & Klavas, A. (2002). Survey of research on learning styles. California Journal of Science Education II (2). — https://ve42.co/Dunn2002
- Feb 2021
most students did not report study strategies that correlated with their VARK assessment, and that student performance in anatomy was not correlated with their score in any VARK categories. Rather, some specific study strategies (irrespective of VARK results), such as use of the virtual microscope, were found to be positively correlated with final class grade. However, the alignment of these study strategies with VARK results had no correlation with anatomy course outcomes. Thus, this research provides further evidence that the conventional wisdom about learning styles should be rejected by educators and students alike.
It's unusual that researchers will make such definitive claims about the outcome of a study.
- Oct 2020
Good instructional design is based on the industry-standard Instructional System Design (ISD) model. The ISD model comprises five stages—analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation—and is a systems approach to instructional design in that it views “human organizations and activities as systems in which inputs, outputs, processes (throughputs), and feedback and control elements are the salient features.”
This article discusses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles and the importance of communicating in ways that appeal each style. It then outlines what this means for the Instructional System Design (ISD) model. The author concludes by outlining learning outcomes, organization, interactive instruction, and content versus connection versus application. The author proposes that "good instructional design is based on the industry-standard Instructional System Design (ISD) model" (p 5).
- Aug 2020
Whiting, Sue, Sam Wass, Simon Green, and Michael Thomas. ‘Stress and Learning in Pupils: Neuroscience Evidence and Its Relevance for Teachers’. Preprint. PsyArXiv, 4 August 2020. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/9j24a.
- stress management techniques
- breathing exercises
- psychological techniques
- primary school
- physiological techniques
- learning styles
- Feb 2020
So this is one case where we could test and sort individuals to predict success in different learning tasks, something I talked about in this short article about helping students develop strategies for memorization. Perhaps researchers could tackle some other ways to harness the multiple capacities idea to steer students into the subjects and learning strategies that will work best for them.
I'm struggling a little with the elements of "sorting" and "steering" here. On one hand, it's important to read this in the context of delivering thoughtful instruction matched to the individual's needs and existing abilities. Further I might argue that part of the job of good academic advising entails delivering a mix of easier and harder experiences so the student is neither coasting nor stressed all day. And yet we know that there are deep risks in this kind of "tracking" for students to get pigeonholed and left behind.
- Oct 2017
Students working in waysthat best leverage their individual learning styles
In annotation, each student bringing their style, expertise, experience to the text with the class as a group sharing a more wholistic view of the related issues.