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Learning Styles

By October 2, 2016January 1st, 2017Uncategorized

Are you a visual or an Auditory learner? Have you heard of VAK, VARK, are you an activist or a reflector?

Learning styles, state that everyone has a preferred method of learning, for example; reading a book or watching video vs kinaesthetic – that mean physically trying the thing out – Up to 71 different ‘styles’ have been identified so far.

You can do a online test here to find out which you are, although I’m not sure if the test covers the whole 71 types.

The DVSA  National Standard for Driver and Rider Training mentions it in passing:

how to deliver an explanation or demonstration so that the learner gains the maximum learning, taking into account different learning styles

Once you’ve identified the learning style of a student, if you should match your instructional style to it, which will improve their learning.

There’s only one problem with it

It’s pseudo-scientific nonsense.

There is a whole wealth of evidence from peer-reviewed Scientific Journals such as this one that use the scientific method to test the theory.

Our review of the literature disclosed ample evidence that children and adults will, if asked, express preferences about how they prefer information to be presented to them. There is also plentiful evidence arguing that people differ in the degree to which they have some fairly specific aptitudes for different kinds of thinking and for processing different types of information. However, we found virtually no evidence for the interaction pattern mentioned above, which was judged to be a precondition for validating the educational applications of learning styles. Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis

The 2009 study findings:

According to a major new report published this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The report, authored by a team of eminent researchers in the psychology of learning—Hal Pashler (University of San Diego), Mark McDaniel (Washington University in St. Louis), Doug Rohrer (University of South Florida), and Robert Bjork (University of California, Los Angeles)—reviews the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as “auditory learners” and “visual learners”), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs  that would make their findings credible.

Nearly all of the studies that purport to provide evidence for learning styles fail to satisfy key criteria for scientific validity. Any experiment designed to test the learning-styles hypothesis would need to classify learners into categories and then randomly assign the learners to use one of several different learning methods, and the participants would need to take the same test at the end of the experiment. If there is truth to the idea that learning styles and teaching styles should mesh, then learners with a given style, say visual-spatial, should learn better with instruction that meshes with that style. The authors found that of the very large number of studies claiming to support the learning-styles hypothesis, very few used this type of research design.  Of those that did, some provided evidence flatly contradictory to this meshing hypothesis, and the few findings in line with the meshing idea did not assess popular learning-style schemes.”

Or from Baronness Greenfield   “Humans have evolved to build a picture of the world through our senses working in unison, exploiting the immense interconnectivity that exists in the brain. It is when the senses are activated together – the sound of a voice is synchronisation with the movement of a person’s lips – that brain cells fire more strongly than when stimuli are received apart. The rationale for employing Vak learning styles appears to be weak. After more than 30 years of educational research in to learning styles there is no independent evidence that Vak, or indeed any other learning style inventory, has any direct educational benefits

So what does all the Scientific testing actually tell us about learning styles then?

although individuals may have preferences for the modality through which they receive information, research has shown that children do not process information more effectively when they are educated according to their preferred learning style” (Coffield et al., 2004)

Basically, you might prefer to watch a video, but it has no difference on your performance than reading a book or someone telling you what to do.