Interesting article Jon. I can believe that 80% of teachers in the UK and the Netherlands believe that student learn best in their prefered style. (I wonder what the percentage would be in Canada.)
I used various learning style inventories for quite a few Septembers for a couple of reasons. They gave me a chance to learn a lot about students and their approaches to things like following directions in a way that engaged them - who doesn't like thinking about themselves? It also gave me the opportunity to introduce the concept of metacognition and using strategies for learning. I was also curious about the whole idea and noticed that although I had inventories that were designed to be age appropriate, students didn't develop preferences until they were 10 or 11. Until then their profiles were flat.
In the end, if they prompt teachers to accept learning strategies that are different from their own and encourage students to think about how they learn, there is some good in them, but they're a long way from science.
Mary McNabb March 15, 2017 - 10:30pm
I'd still love to supervise a comparative study into the use of learning styles vs use of astrology or phrenology to pick a teaching strategy. I strongly suspect there'd be no significant difference. It would be equally good fun to invent a plausible but totally unfounded learning style theory and compare that. Maybe something based on the big 5 personality types so that it seems sciencey.
Your comment on personalization is spot on. In some ways it would actually be worse if it worked. Even if a system does increase the speed/efficiency of learning as a result (as measured in tests) the assumption that the teacher-specified outcome is the one and only point of the learning process describes pretty much everything that is wrong with our educational systems today. Not a recipe for cognitive flexibility, not transformative, not life-changing, just a better form of indoctrination.
Jon Dron March 15, 2017 - 10:18am
Thanks for sharing this article and your commentary.
I tend to agree with this:
If a belief in learning styles means that teachers feel challenged to design learning experiences in different ways to suit more diverse needs, that's not a bad thing...
Generally speaking (and, as always, the devil is definitely in the details), the learning styles conversation can be a good way in a classroom setting to have teachers and students start to talk about student directed learning. The issues I have seen (apart from the pure neuroscience component) is when this opening into personalized learning becomes a rigid pedagogy (or rigid or a pedagogy). Then things become ugly quickly.
Gerald Ardito March 15, 2017 - 6:04am
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