Friday, September 25, 2009

Are learning styles valid?

Author and Professor Dr. Daniel T. Willingham says Student "Learning Styles" Theory Is Bunk:

The Big Idea behind learning styles is that kids vary in how they learn: Some learn best by looking (visual learners), some by listening (auditory learners), and some by manipulating things (kinesthetic learners).
According to the theory, if we know what sort of a learner a child is, we can optimize his or her learning by presenting material the way that they like.
The prediction is straightforward: Kids learn better when they are taught in a way that matches their learning style than when they are taught in a way that doesn’t.
That’s a straightforward prediction.

The data are straightforward too: It doesn’t work.

I don't really have an opinion. I know some people swear by it. Janine and I don't try to taylor the education process to each child.

I thought Dr. Willingham's video was also interesting:

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs)

Technorati tags: learning styles, parenting, children, education


MiaZagora said...

I agree with the video.

Henry Cate said...

This is not an area I've researched, so I don't have an informed understanding, but I agree, I think Dr. Willingham makes a good case.

Rob said...

He had me until his last comment. "Good teaching is good teaching. Teachers don't need to adjust their teaching to take account of individual learning styles."
This goes WAY farther than the points he's made in his presentation. Perhaps he didn't mean for us to over-generalize.

But a good teacher MUST make some adjustments for individual students and their changing moods, attention spans, interests, and abilities. "Learning Styles" might not be the magic bean, but flexibility & adaptation are important - demonstrated by the academic performance of homeschool parents who have the freedom to customize a curriculum to fit their student.

I don't think the Prof. means to imply that he has proven "one size fits all" in teaching methods, but his last line is susceptible of being interpreted that way. And I don't think it's true.

MiaZagora said...

"Teachers don't need to adjust their teaching to take account of individual learning styles."

I think he was speaking specifically of learning styles. He didn't say anything about moods or abilities in the quote, and I don't believe he said anything in the video - but I have a short attention span. ;)

I haven't "researched" this myself, except for finding things on the Internet - like this video. When I first started homeschooling, I became overwhelmed with the emphasis on learning styles and hearing other homeschoolers speak those words with such authority. Maybe it's just another education fad - like "new" math - sometimes we homeschoolers get caught up in them, too! ;)

I don't think having this theory is harmful, unless teachers or homeschoolers allow it to limit ja child's education. Such as not having a child do hands-on investigation because you believe they're an auditory learner. Or by putting them into a category and saying (to them or others) that they aren't very good at "x" so they will probably never grow up to be a "y".

Wendy Hawksley said...

Interesting video. I don't agree with it (based on personal experience), but it was good to see someone who has a different point of view on learning styles.

It is always useful to have an understanding of what the flip side of a point of view is, so you can better understand your own.

Thanks for sharing!

Michelle said...

I've always believed learning styles were a myth. Interesting video.

Ms. Julie's Place said...

Learning styles do in fact exist, except that, in reality they are known as modalities. The more modalities you teach from the better the information is retained, ie; the more important a document is, the more copies you make of it, and the more places you store it in in order to retrieve it in a timely manner.
Learning styles in relation to presentation to a student understanding something better has more to do with specific modality deficits. A person's "learning style" usually coordinates with one's weakest area of modality processing not their strongest as the idea of learning styles suggests. A so called "visual" learner doesn't "get it" until the material is presented visually simply because there are actually visual processing deficits occurring.

christinemm said...

Henry your posts usually don't ruffle my feathers but you got me with this one.

I feel a blog post coming on as my comment here was about 10 paragraphs. And I should not post when annoyed anyway...