Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Learning Styles: Myth?

I'm interested in hearing how teachers and administrators in your district talk and think about "learning styles." I remember learning learning style "theory" during staff development workshops as a young teacher, and the main impact was that I felt guilty for not diligently including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences in my lessons.

So I was glad to read Daniel Willingham's work on "debunking" what he calls the "learning styles myth." It turns out there really isn't much empirical evidence that learning styles exist or impact learning (they might be learning "preferences"). Willingham has been dedicated to adding some science to the discussion of "learning styles" for quite a while and created many resources that are usable by many audience. The FAQ document linked to below is a good overall summary of his thinking:

Learning Style FAQ

More recently, Howard Gardner chimed in to try to clarify how his multiple intelligences theory is different form  "learning styles," and how people misinterpret his theory too.

Howard Gardner: 'Multiple Intelligences' are not 'learning styles'

Please post your experiences with this debate in the comments section. And one last thought: this might be a great "project based learning" experience for psych students? 

posted by Rob McEntarffer


Steve Jones said...

I don't know about assigning students to this one, Rob - their heads might explode when they hear this in psychology, then trot down the hall to hear it touted in health, English, science and who knows where else.

And for the record, here's one of my favorite learning styles article, straight from The Onion: Parents of Nasal Learners Demand Odor-Based Curriculum

Rob McEntarffer said...

Ha! Good one, Steve :) I've encountered resistance in some meetings when I use learning styles as an example of "junk education research." Some folks really cling to the idea.

Steve Jones said...

Just curious - does Rob or anyone else know about the learning pyramid? It's another one that I've seen/heard often, and which also has little merit. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/06/why-the-learning-pyramid-is-wrong/

Amy Ramponi said...

Last year I did a paper on the myths of learning styles and interviewed educators and administrators in my building - wow! Resistance is not the word! There's so much anectodal evidence and "I know I learn best by..." - also this year at the Clark workshop there was a very engaging conversation JUST AMONG PSYCH TEACHERS about Learning Styles. It is like - if you disagree with "Multiple Intelligences as learning styles" you're a heartless and cold teacher who doesn't love kids. Which IS NOT TRUE!

Kristin Whitlock said...

Hi Rob! Thanks for posting these links. I was recently reading about this issue in the 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, so these links are very timely! I love the idea of doing a teacher workshop on this issue alone. I know my school could use it, but I can imagine the fireworks! Maybe I could combine this AND left/right brain research!! Talk about heads exploding!