Daily Bookmarks 07/19/2008

  • Examines what cognitive science actually tells us about different learning styles and argues that the best answer is to choose the modality that best suits the content rather than adapting to the student.

    tags: learning, cognition, learningstyles, research, education

  • This article examines several myths of brain-based learning, looking at what the neuroscience research actually tells us. Very little of the research at this point is directly applicable to the classroom; it just doesn’t tell us enough about how people learn in real environments.

    tags: education, learning, research, neuroscience, cognition

    • For neuroscience to mean something to teachers, it must provide information beyond what is available without neuroscientific methods. It’s not enough to describe what’s happening in the brain, and pretend that you’ve learned something useful.
    • In general, if you are interested in describing effects at a given level of analysis, you are most likely to make progress by sticking to that level of analysis. If you’re interested in describing ways that students learn best, it makes sense to study classroom situations. To the extent that neuroscience will inform good teaching practice, it seems most likely that this influence will be funneled through the cognitive level of analysis: For example, neuroscience will help us better understand memory, and this improved understanding of memory might be used to improve classroom practice. It’s unlikely that leapfrogging the cognitive level analysis and going straight from the brain to the classroom will work out very often.

2 thoughts on “Daily Bookmarks 07/19/2008

  1. Kia ora Christy!

    A very interesting set of information – an absorbing read! It is interesting the batons that education experts sometimes pick up and run with, expecting others to do the same. It looks very much as if it’s the running that’s important here and doesn’t matter about the colour of the baton or even if there is one (metaphorically speaking).

    I’ll contemplate this for it has some important implications.

    Frankly, I feel that if a student has a particular proclivity to learn something in a certain way that’s cool. But I also feel that the brain, being adaptive, can probably develop abilities to benefit from other ways of learning. So why use a learning method that excludes parameters that can help the brain with development anyway. Diversity has always been my motto.

    What do you think about that?

    Ka kite

  2. I think diversity in learning is really important. There clearly are individual differences in learning–the fact that none of the learning style models exactly fits what’s in the classroom doesn’t change that. People have individual needs, and we can work to adapt for them.

    Part of that, I think, is having multiple methods of teaching and presentation. When you use a variety of methods, you give people different ways to understand. Maybe one of those will be their preferred method, but the others will reinforce the learning from a different angle. As you said, those other methods may help the brain develop. Even if it doesn’t help develop the brain, if it helps them learn, it’s worth it.

    What this research doesn’t reconcile for me is that there are individual differences. For example, think about the studying techniques of people you knew in college. I always took lots of notes in class, so studying for me usually meant rereading my notes. I almost always studied individually; being with a group took so much longer, and it never felt like it helped. Other people had to be in groups, talking it out with each other, comparing all their notes from class. I had one friend who taped every lecture and listened to them repeatedly to study. She tried several different options, none of which worked as effectively for her as listening. (Although I’m not a big fan of podcasts on their own as a learning tool–they’re too passive–I think they can be really good for study and review like this.)

    This was all based on the same kind of class content. According to at least the first article, there should have been an ideal presentation medium for that content, and that’s probably how we all should have studied. It doesn’t work out like that though.

    Do I think that learning styles mean we should customize learning so people are only taught in their most preferred methods? No.

    Do I think that individual differences in learning mean we should use a variety of methods, ideally giving learners enough control to find their own right combination? Yes.

What do you think?

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