The Inefficacy of Learning Styles

Learning styles, you’ve heard of them before: visual, kinaesthetic or auditory learners; left and right brainers; activists, reflectors and analysts.

However learning styles are “theoretically incoherent and conceptually confused” concluded a 2004 study from the UK’s Learning and Skills Development Agency—an agency set up by the UK government to “improve the quality of post-16 education and training”, saying:

We should stop using these terms. There’s no scientific justification for them.

The studies were never published because of inconsistencies between the scientific evidence and government policy (ahem), but the article above discusses it and offers the following, excellent conclusion:

We do students a serious disservice by implying they have only one learning style, rather than a flexible repertoire from which to choose, depending on the context. Learning-style instruments vary markedly in quality and some (eg Allinson and Hayes’s CSI or Entwistle’s Assist) could be used to start a dialogue with students about their learning, assessment and the purposes of education.

However I want to challenge the notion that we discover something worthwhile about our students’ learning by asking 12, 20 or even 80 questions, all devoid of context. Instead we need to face up to the complexities involved in teaching and learning, which cannot be “delivered” like pizzas. Students need knowledgeable, vocationally qualified and caring teachers, who can enter into a dialogue with them about how to become better learners, as well as what it means to be a painter or nursery nurse.

via @bfchirpy



3 responses to “The Inefficacy of Learning Styles”

  1. My friend and colleague Dan Willingham has an excellent brief YouTube video on this very topic, entitled “Learning Styles Don’t Exist”

  2. Thanks for the video, Cedar.

    Moments after watching this, the person who I got this link from, @bfchirpy, published their own post on this topic: Learning Styles: fable-ous and tragic.

    He mentions Dan Willingham and notes the above video, too. Worth a read.

  3. […] I have always had a hunch that what this article says was true. (via) […]