Do Learning Styles Really Work?

Does tailoring your content for different learning styles really work? Maybe there’s a better use of your time and resources.

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2 thoughts on “Do Learning Styles Really Work?

  1. I think that keeping in mind that there are different “learning styles” can be helpful if we adjust the way we utilize learning styles and remit labeling people as one type of learner or another. Also, I’ve also found a great TED talk that discusses learning styles that debunks this theory as well: https://youtu.be/855Now8h5Rs.
    I think instead we could think of learning styles as learning approaches, guidelines to stimulating students in myriad ways instead of expecting them to read and retain information. And, instead of limiting students to thinking they only have on approach to learning, we should instead reinforce that there are many ways to learn and show them how to approach a subject as a visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic project all at once, if possible.
    Partly why I think video games are so engrossing to toddlers and adults alike is because it approaches a story using all these avenues. One is listening to music, reading text, watching vivid colors and solving puzzles, with a story that the participant has an emotional and psychological tie to. What I think is great about this TED talk is the focus on meaning as the most important element in learning. I often get students who ask “Why do I need to know this?” and when I can give them a direct answer, they pay (a little) more attention. Thanks for the great post!

    1. One of the things I noted in my Revisiting Learning Styles post was that when I was taught learning styles, it was never really assumed that different students would get different lessons. Even though that’s how the “official” version of the myth goes, we never expected to give visual lessons to visual learners and auditory lessons to auditory learners. In practical terms, it was always expected that we would use multiple ways to reach everyone.

      In that respect, the learning styles myth probably was beneficial to that generation of teachers like me who learned it this way. It was a way of pushing teachers to do more than just lecture and write on the board. It forced teachers to be creative in how they presented material and to use multiple modalities to teach and reinforce the same concept. And in fact, using multiple modalities can be effective. Games are one example, as you noted, as are manipulatives in math and visuals in literature. I think we can teach people to use multiple modalities and strategies for teaching without relying on the myth of learning styles though.

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