Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wait...Learning Styles Don't Exist?

"Each lesson should appeal to auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners. Appealing to all these preferences deepens the understanding of alll students."
Image by Ken Whytock CC BY-NC 2.0

Have you heard statements like the one on the above graphic before? If you are a teacher--and even if you aren't--I'm guessing you've heard this argument. Because it's pretty clear that people learn in different ways, right? I mean, some kids learn best by seeing it (visual learners) while others learn better by hearing it (auditory learners) and still others learn best by doing it (kinesthetic learners.)

I've basically believed that idea and taken it as a fact into my teaching practice for...pretty much my entire teaching career.

Recently, however, I've been confronted by the idea that learning styles might not, in fact, exist. I'd be lying if I said this didn't rock my world a bit; I've tried over the years to be sure to present new ideas in a variety of different ways in my classes to ensure that students with different styles can best learn the concepts I'm trying to convey.

However, when I saw this video by Dr. Daniel Willingham (Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia,) I really started to rethink what I've held as truth for all these years. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it.

Here's the link to his FAQ about learning styles as well; I think it's worth taking the time to read his ideas.

So, what do we do with this? Does this mean teachers should teach all students as if they are the same? Clearly not! (In fact, if you read Willingham's FAQ above, even he agrees with that.)

I am challenged, however, to reconsider my vocabulary. Does it make sense to talk about styles? Or does this just muddy the water, since brain research doesn't seem to support the idea of these different styles?

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