#Change11 Learning Style

Do we need to adapt our teaching to suit the learning style of learners?

Professor Daniel Willingham in his video mentions that learning styles don’t exist.

Daniel here mentions that these learning theories are wrong, and so teaching would not need to be based on those theories to differentiate the teaching.

Steve argues that there is convenient untruth in learning style.

And time and again, such beliefs are the justification for placing students into a specific style of learning so that a class can be ‘managed’ more effectively. Such categorisation of students is an absolute nonsense and the practice of doing so should be challenged strongly. It is lazy pedagogy, and the only reason I see that such beliefs persist, is that it is a convenient untruth which allows some teachers to stay within their comfort zones.

May be there are a lot of myths relating to the learning style, and that the learning style theories are problematic, full of dilemma, with contradictory findings.

Liz mentioned in the comment:

“Ref: my PhD thesis for the full story.

The problem is that learning styles are so seductive, they just pull you in like one of those personality quizzes you find in a magazine. People like to categorise themselves or fit to one stereotype or other. What I found though, is that learning styles are not temporally stable (you can have a different style before and after lunch) and the tools/questionnaires to assess them often have low internal validity/reliability. And there are still papers being produced that contain really quite bad stats to ‘prove’ that learning styles ‘work’… don’t get me started ;)”

I agree with Daniel that the most important part of teaching is the understanding of meaning by the students through teaching, rather than the focus on the modality – i.e. visual, auditory or kinesthetic, especially in the classroom application, as proposed by learning style theory.  And based on Daniel’s assertion, that the theory of learning – based on learning styles is wrong.

I think learning style is crucial in understanding how one learns in distance education and online learning.  In our previous CCK08 research:

“To a large extent, blogging and forum use correlated with specific individual learning styles and media affordances: the use of blogs was associated with the ability to create personal space for personal learning, quiet reflection and developing personal relationships with bloggers and others.

The use of forums was associated with fast paced challenging interaction, relationships based on sharing of ideas, more open discussion and more links to the discussed themes and bigger picture.”

Does it mean that bloggers are typically reflectors, where forum users are activists? No, both bloggers and forum users could be reflectors, and theorists, but then such styles of learning are based on the learning situations.

I think we all prefer certain learning styles whilst learning, though as educators, we may not be able to fully understand the learning styles of our learners, and thus would not be able to develop fully such teaching strategies to cater for the learners’ specific learning styles.

Here is my previous post:

Would learning style be important in kids or teens learning? I would argue that learning style do have a significant impact on young learners. For instance, some learners prefer reading, whilst others prefer listening, or watching, and others prefer doing in their learning of a skill or learning “knowledge”. If we put dancers into a classroom, and ask them to read the dancing techniques, what would be the outcome? Dancers could learn best by dancing, not by reading.  Showing videos of dancing to the dancers would also help them in learning how to dance. So, exposing learners with various media do cater for their preferred learning styles, and assist them in developing their learning skills.

Though it is very difficult to vary the teaching method to cater for individual learning style in a classroom, it doesn’t stop us from re-designing our teaching. We could consider learning methods that would cater for their learning styles instead. So, teaching could be broadened to consider the learning space, rather than thinking about teaching, and the teaching methods.

May be for centuries, teachers have been thinking about the “best practice” or teaching pedagogy, and have missed out that self-determined learning or heutagogy, (see also andragogy to heutagogy,) could be equally useful and important when designing their instruction, teaching, or learning.

So, how about a design that  focuses around learning rather than instruction? Instead of instructional design, how about learning design that is based on a learning space?  The Personal Learning Network (PLN) is just the starting point to develop such a learning design platform and space.  The provision of choice in learning space for the learners would surely stimulate their interests in learning that matches their learning styles. One-on-one online mentoring may also be incorporated to allow the learners to explore their individual learning styles.

Such PLN and an adaptive style towards learning would keep track of the fast changing learning landscape, when the learners are immersed into those networks on a life-long and life-wide basis.

Postscript: A related post on learning style.
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3 thoughts on “#Change11 Learning Style

  1. Pingback: Aligning the Quantum Perspective of Learning to Instructional Design | Learner Weblog

  2. Pingback: Learning Preferences Emerge

  3. Pingback: GT MOOC Week 12: Advanced Learning Strategies with Clark Aldrich | The Georgia Tech MOOC

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