CCK09-Learning Styles – do they matter?

Is learning styles a bunk? See this Daniel Willingham post on learning styles

Daniel writes:

Consider this analogy. Watch kids on a museum field trip and you’ll notice that they stop to look at different paintings: some like cubism, some like impressionism, some like the Old Masters, and so on.

You would not conclude that these kids have different visual systems. You’d figure that these differences were due to the children’s backgrounds, their personalities, tastes, and so on.

The same seems to be true of learning.

Some lessons click with one child and not with another, but not because of an enduring bias or predisposition in the way the child learns. The lesson clicks or doesn’t because of the knowledge the child brought to the lesson, his interests, or other factors.

When you think about it, the theory of learning styles doesn’t really celebrate the differences among children: On the contrary, the point is to categorize kids.

Each child is to be categorized as one of three types of learners. Categorization might be worth it if the categories were accurate, and therefore provided information that would help teachers. But the categories are meaningless.

Suggesting that teachers cater to learning styles—when teachers must already do some differentiation based on what students know—makes a teacher’s job much more difficult with no benefit to students.

Yet teachers are still asked to do it.

I think learning style is important in online learning for all ages.  We would share our research findings on this soon.

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.

Do learning styles matter for you?  Which type of media appeals best to you in your learning?  What sort of PLN suits your learning style?



4 thoughts on “CCK09-Learning Styles – do they matter?

  1. Well said!

    I am not very clear of what EXACTLY you mean by” learning space” but do agree that learning styles have a great bearing on how the participants, whether young or old learn!

  2. Thanks Atul,

    Learning space is any space (virtual, online, classroom, workplace, education or socia media space – blog, wiki, Ning, Facebook, twitters, Youtube, email) where the learner could make use of in learning.

  3. Pingback: CCK09 Learning Style « Suifaijohnmak’s Weblog

  4. Pingback: #Change11 Learning Style | Learner Weblog

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