Landing : Athabascau University

My learning style

I am a visual, aural, read/write, kinaesthetic, introvert, extravert, sensing, intuitive, analytic, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving, independent, dependent, collaborative, competitive, participant, avoidant, wholist, analytic, verbalizing, imaging, visualizing, deductive, synthetic, expansive, serialist, holist, field-dependent, field-independent, intrinsically motivated, extrinsically motivated, impulsive, reflexive, convergent, divergent, levelling, sharpening, concrete-sequential, concrete-random, abstract-sequential, abstract-random, assimilating, exploring, adaptive, innovative, reproductive, experiencing, thinking, doing, reflective, directed, self-directed, undirected, application-directed, meaning-directed, deep, surface, strategic, apathetic, elaborative, impulsive, concrete, independent, self-assertive, cerebral,  affective, type 1, type 2, type 3, global, scanning, focusing, physical, logical, social, solitary, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial, body, active, common sense, dynamic, imaginative, quadrant 1, quadrant 2, quadrant 3, quadrant 4, theorizing, organizing, humanitarian, legislative, judicial, executive, tactile, pragmatic, versatile learner.

My birth sign is Aquarius, and I was born in the Year of the Rat.

Incidentally...

It appears that 97% of American teachers actually believe in learning styles, by which I mean the belief that there are persistent traits describing how people learn that can be used to determine the best way to teach them. This is despite at least most, if not all, of the many scores of such theories existing somewhere between astrology and fairies in terms of evidence for their relevance or applicability in real life learning. Though there may be ever-shifting conditions under which we may at times prefer one or other of whatever learning styles the theory we like offers - this may be a source of the persisting appeal of the idea - there is no reliable evidence that this is in any way relevant to whether or not we will learn better or worse (whatever we think that means) when offered a learning experience that is tailored to that preference. It's not by any means for want of trying - countless studies exist, and that's not counting probably many more that never saw the light of day because they had only null results to report and so were not deemed worthy of publication - so the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that these theories are most likely false.

It wouldn't be so worrying were it not that there is evidence that such beliefs are harmful to learners and, even if there were not, then the time, effort, and money put into trying to use them would be far better spent on things that actually might work.

In the extremely unlikely event that it were one day proven that an individual has a persistent style of learning that, when we teach to that style, consistently leads to improved learning (however we measure that), then it would be my duty as a teacher to try to teach them to learn in other ways, because here's the thing: the real world in which we are and must be lifelong learners doesn't come neatly packaged in ways that fit your learning style. We can all learn to learn in all the ways that I list above, and then some, and we can all become better and smarter by applying the right strategy at the right time. We therefore need to cultivate as many diverse learning strategies as we can, and learn when to use them. That's just common sense which, as it happens and surprisingly enough, is itself a learning style, according to the 4MAT model.

Jon Dron

Jon Dron

professional learner (on sabbatical)
About me

Please note: I am away on sabbatical from July 2019 - May 2020 and may not respond promptly to messages sent to me via this site during this period.
I am a full professor and former Chair of the...

Comments

  • Hello Jon

    Thank you so much for being such a continuous poster of this theme of learning styles research. A couple of articles back you linked to a paper where I believe they noted that the reason the learning styles movement still exists is because it seems to make sense. Which is nonsense when you look at all of the research...

    Here is one of quotes I really liked and will promote when I speak to educators :"Educators need not worry about their students’ learning styles. There’s no evidence that adopting instruction to learning styles provides any benefit. Nor does it seem worthwhile to identify students’ learning styles for the purpose of warning them that they may have a pointless bias to process information one way or another."

    With my obvious support of the lack of any evidence that learning styles exists - I do have a question for you. What about when GenZ (my kids aged 10-30) learners have technology (aka smartphone, or other network linked device) in their hands as compared to our older generation learners - who did not grow up with these devices imbedded in their world. Do you think that there is anything like a "technology preference?" that educators may need to consider when planning instruction, OR like the article you provided has stated - learners should be taught to deal with all types of learning with technology....? While at the PCF9 Conference this past week Dr Sugata Mitra spoke about his research (Hole in the wall, SOLE, etc) and he stated that indeed, young learners - given devices that are connected to the internet - can and will be able to answer pretty much any question given to them. I wonder if older learners can do the same? I suspect not for various reasons - So Is there something there to consider when planning technology-enabled/enhanced learning with GenZ?

    Nathaniel Ostashewski September 16, 2019 - 6:19pm

  • Thanks Nathaniel!

    I'd say 'no' to any technology preference. I have a passing interest in this thanks to the work done some years back by my own PhD student, Diana Andone, on which we published widely and gained a few top paper awards (though I suspect that was more to do with the tag-cloud approach to sharing research findings that we developed, more than the actual findings themselves). Though she desperately wanted to find otherwise and sometimes claimed as much, from her own findings and from those of many others it seems pretty clear to me that there are no significant differences between generations and their use of technology for learning, at least in a formal educational context. There are certainly birds-of-a-feather effects in use of social technologies, but that's the nature of the beast. There are also significant differences between older and younger people in how they go about learning, but I've never seen any convincing evidence that this has changed in any significant ways between one generation and another, nor that digital technologies have had anything much to do with it. It's more about inevitable demographic differences between the lifestyles and contexts of older and younger people (responsibilities in work and family, free time, available funding, experience, differently sized and constituted circles of friends, etc, etc). What is interesting is that such tools can bring everyone up, regardless of age, and they increase the adjacent possible for all.

    Though Mitra is a very likeable and passionate fellow, with whom I share many ideals, interests, and beliefs, he tends to be a bit reticent about mentioning that the hole in the wall studies essentially failed once the cheerleading researchers left. The PCs were taken over by older, more assertive kids and largely abused for almost anything apart from learning (mostly playing games). Moreover the sponsors included substantial contributions from a commercial e-learning company so they were not just plain vanilla computers with web browsers, and learning was far from totally unstructured.  Most (if not all) have been actual holes in the wall for some time, and those that persisted longer have been in regulated, closed spaces like school playgrounds, virtually all of them within a more regulated and conventional framework. The issues with them are what led to his SOLE work, which is far more conventional in its use of teachers, controlled spaces, policed access, and formally established groups/structured networks to help guide learners. I don't think of it as self-organized at all - it's just a fairly conventional and generally sound broadly constructivist approach with mentors, small groups, and a guided process. The hole in the wall project was a very good thing inasmuch as it improved access for kids that would otherwise have had no chance at all to use such tools, and Mitra's evangelism did a great deal to boost other such initiative elsewhere that had similar benefits. He's an inspiring speaker who certainly made an impact on me with his first TED talk. I'm less impressed with his 'books' (very slim volumes) on the subject, but they are still good reads that are full of sound ideas and good observations. The main one, interestingly enough, has a foreword by Nicholas Negroponte, some of whose work is in much the same territory. In particular there are close parallels with the OLPC project, that still totters along despite having lost much of its relevance, and that similarly raised awareness of a critical issue, as well as providing some really fascinating innovations, many of which have yet to hit the mainstream (but they should), from their ingenious power supply solutions to their mesh networks to their remarkably excellent and so-very-sensible low power screen technology. See https://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/search?q=Mitra for Donald Clark's scathing critique of the Hole in the Wall project, and https://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2015/10/mitras-sole-10-reasons-on-why-it-is-not.html for Donald's thoughts on SOLE (that closely match my own). I have written critically about both initiatives in my forthcoming book, albeit in much less scathing terms than Donald, observing that, when they worked, far from being self-organized, the kids were surrounded by teachers, both on the Internet and around them, and that this was not a bad thing but a cause for celebration.

    As a researcher in self-organized learning using computers, who was doing his own PhD in the topic at the time Mitra was doing his early work, I am disappointed that I somehow missed meeting Mitra or seeing the holes in the wall in action at the time they were active, when I was actually in at least two of the parts of India that they were installed (twice, over 2 years), and I maybe even passed them by. I would have loved to have integrated my CoFIND work with his - they were very complementary ideas. The EU-India project I was involved with was far more participative, and far more rooted in and driven by the communities we worked with, but we shared many of Mitra's ideals and interests. Interestingly, self-serve self-teaching kiosks for knowledge transfer (unlike Mitra's work, these were mostly for adults, and especially for women), organized from the bottom up, were among our main proposed solutions. In fairness, unlike some of our other solutions, they hadn't happened by the end of the project and I'm pretty sure they are not there now, but perhaps we planted a seed or two that might have sprung up there or elsewhere.

    Jon

    Jon Dron September 17, 2019 - 3:59pm

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