Learning Styles: The Legend, The Myth

Do Learning Styles Exist And…Does It Matter?

There is more than a little debate among educators and researchers about the effectiveness of learning styles, which refer to the idea that individuals have a preferred method of learning that is most effective for them. A fascinating 2021 YouTube video titled “The Biggest Myth in Education” shines an unforgiving yet entertaining light on this flawed notion with its man-on-the-street interviews accompanied by cognitive/memory tests. That this demonstration still needs to be presented indicates the apparent unwillingness of the myth to die.

Some educators have found that matching teaching methods to an individual’s learning style can be beneficial, while others have found little to no evidence to support the idea. One of the main criticisms of the concept is that it is not based on solid scientific evidence. Some researchers have found that there is little to no empirical support for the idea that individuals have a preferred learning style, and that the concept may not be useful in predicting how well an individual will learn in a particular situation.

Overall, it is important to recognize that individuals may have different preferences for how they learn, but it is also important to consider other factors that can affect learning, such as the subject matter being studied, the quality of the teaching, and the individual’s motivation. and engagement. It may be more effective to focus on these factors rather than trying to match teaching methods to an individual’s supposed learning style.

The concept of learning styles refers to the idea that individuals have a preferred method of learning that is most effective for them. This idea is based on the assumption that people have different cognitive and learning preferences, and that these preferences can influence how well they learn in different situations. There are several different models that have been proposed, each with its own set of categories or dimensions. For example, the VARK model (explored in the video), which is one of the most well-known models, identifies four different styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.

The Infamous VARK Model

The VARK model was developed by Neil Fleming in the 1980s. It is one of the most well-known learning style models and is widely used in education and training contexts. The VARK model identifies four different learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.

According to this model, individuals who prefer the visual learning style learn best by seeing and looking at things, such as diagrams, charts, and videos. Those who prefer the auditory learning style learn best by listening to lectures or discussions. Those who prefer the reading/writing learning style learn best by reading and writing, and those who prefer the kinesthetic learning style learn best by doing and experiencing things hands-on.

The VARK model suggests that individuals may have a preference for one or more of these, and that matching teaching methods to an individual’s learning style can be an effective way to facilitate learning. However, as mentioned earlier, there is some debate among educators and researchers about the effectiveness of learning style models like the VARK model, and there is little empirical evidence to support the idea that matching teaching methods to an individual’s learning style is consistently effective.

Other Learning Style Models

There are several other learning style models in addition to the VARK model. These models generally identify different categories or dimensions of learning styles and suggest that individuals may have a preference for one or more of these styles. Here are a few examples of other models:

1. The Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI)

This is a widely used model that identifies four different learning styles: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. According to this model, individuals may have a preference for one of these four styles, and matching teaching methods to an individual’s learning style can facilitate learning.

2. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

This is a personality assessment tool that is sometimes used as a learning style model. The MBTI identifies four dimensions of personality: extraversion vs. introversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving. According to this model, individuals may have a preference for one of these dimensions, and matching teaching methods to an individual’s personality type can facilitate learning.

3. The Multiple Intelligence (MI) Theory

Developed by Howard Gardner, it suggests that individuals have different strengths and abilities in different areas, such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, and visual-spatial. According to this model, individuals may have a preference for one or more of these areas, and matching teaching methods to an individual’s strengths can facilitate learning.

While the concept of learning styles has gained widespread popularity, it has also been the subject of much debate and criticism. Some researchers have found that matching teaching methods to an individual’s learning style can be beneficial, while others have found little to no evidence to support this idea.

One of the main criticisms is that there is a lack of empirical support for the idea that individuals have a preferred learning style. Studies have consistently found that there is little correlation between an individual’s supposed learning style and their performance on learning tasks. This suggests that learning styles may not be useful in predicting how well an individual will learn in a particular situation. Additionally, some researchers have argued that the concept may be oversimplified and that it may be more important to consider other factors that can affect learning, such as the subject matter being studied, the quality of the teaching, and the individual’s motivation and engagement.

Overall, it’s important to recognize that individuals may have different preferences for how they learn, but equally important to consider other factors that can affect learning. It may be more effective to focus on these factors rather than trying to match teaching methods to an individual’s supposed learning style.

How eLearning Designers Can Think About The Learning Styles Concept

As an eLearning designer, it is always important to consider the needs and preferences of your learners when designing eLearning materials. While the concept and the VARK model in particular may provide some useful insights, it is important to recognize that there is debate and conflicting evidence about their effectiveness.

Rather than trying to match teaching methods to an individual’s supposed learning style, it may be more effective to consider other factors that can affect learning, such as the complexity of the material being learned, the individual’s prior knowledge, and their motivation and engagement. Here are a few suggestions for how you can use this information when designing eLearning materials:

  1. Consider using a variety of teaching methods and media in your eLearning materials
    By incorporating visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements, you can provide learners with different ways to engage with the material and help accommodate different learning preferences.
  2. Focus on the quality of your eLearning materials
    Rather than trying to match teaching methods to an individual’s supposed learning style, consider how you can create materials that are well-organized, clearly written, and visually appealing.
  3. Encourage learner engagement and interaction
    Engaged learners are more likely to retain and understand the material, so consider ways to incorporate interactive elements or activities that encourage learners to actively engage with the material.
  4. Use formative assessments to gauge learner progress and understanding
    By regularly assessing learners’ understanding of the material, you can identify any areas of confusion and adjust your teaching approach accordingly.

Conclusion

Learning styles may or may not be relevant for acquiring and retaining knowledge or skills, much less teaching them. However, different material, learner characteristics, and learning circumstances call for different approaches and modes to reach the learning outcomes. Teaching is closer to an art than a science, so some degree of flexibility and resourcefulness is always a benefit to best engage your learners.

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