The big learning style myth

The UK’s Royal Society released a brilliant summary of the key lessons for educators from modern neuroscience called Brainwaves 2.  This had some amazing findings, which I’ll return to in future blog posts, but I wanted to pick up on an article from The Psychologist it referred to: From Brain Scan to Lesson Plan by Prof. Paul Howard-Jones.

A fascinating statistic:

“Myth: 82 per cent considered teaching children in their preferred learning style could improve learning outcomes. This approach is commonly justified in terms of brain function, despite educational and scientific evidence demonstrating the learning-style approach is not helpful (Kratzig & Arbuthnott 2006).

Ever since I studied VAK learning styles during my teacher training I remember thinking that it was a load of bunkum that was based on such a tiny study and then cited so many times people assumed it was a concrete fact.

The number of teachers I meet today who insist on measuring their students’ learning style and trying to force certain types of activity on them is astonishing. I hear that teacher training courses still push this rubbish as fact. What will it take to get it out of circulation? This is harmful stuff! We should be giving every student a rich, varied diet of educational styles and allow them some choice in the way they consume their learning.

Are you one of the 82%, or do you know someone who is? I’d be interested to hear your comments and experiences.

2 Replies to “The big learning style myth”

  1. Hi, I’m on my PGCE at the moment and although I think the VAK theory has its merits and uses, there are times when it can and should be ignored. When I have done the survey I come out as a read and write person.

    Now I hold the strong belief that this is due to the fact that I have used that technique all along. It worked ok but I’ve never REALLY compared it with anything else. I was always taught like this and always studied like this.

    Some of my study skills students do the activity to see what they come out as and whether or not they agree but we do discuss a range of discussion techniques the COULD use so that they don’t just ‘play it safe’.

    I think that people will always learn and will always teach in whichever way they feel comfortable unless they are pushed otherwise. That is where I think its strength lies. It forces teachers who might not realise it otherwise that they should be trying to teach in different, new and exciting ways.

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