I wish I wasn’t writing this…really…I’ve had my fill of learning styles. It’s a bit like the recent measles outbreak in the US…we’re all vaccinating and everything’s going well, but some people decide they’re not really into the science and research of it all and go about doing their own thing…so the once well under control infection is making a small comeback. It really seems to me that learning styles is taking a similar path; at least on Twitter. For a while, it seemed like every other tweet was about the myth of learning styles, then that slowly died out. Now, especially in the past week on Twitter and in a few Facebook groups I’m in, they appear to be making a comeback. Gross.
I think the vaccination was working and learning styles was slowly being eradicated through massive doses of research, writing, podcasts, et cetera. Word was getting out…then the vaccinations lessened…and the myth was allowed to rear its ugly head once again. Gross. And who do I blame for this? I actually blame myself. Perhaps you’ve heard the adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In my failed estimation, the wheel was no longer squeaking and no news was good news. How could I be so wrong?
More for myself than anyone else, I did a little sleuthing today to see how prevalent learning styles still is in American education. I researched via the US News and World Reports Best Graduate Education Schools the top ten graduate schools of education in the US.
Here they are:
1. Harvard Graduate School of Education
2. Penn Graduate School of Education
3. Stanford Graduate School of Education
UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education
6. Vanderbilt University – Peabody College of Education
7. Johns Hopkins University School of Education
New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Teachers College – Columbia University
10. Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy
I accessed all of the school’s websites and found their search bar. Then, in all cases, typed ‘learning styles’ and waited a fraction of a second for the results. In all ten instances, I only viewed the first page of results.
8 of 10 had an article or faculty resume or something of that nature that mentioned learning styles in a somewhat neutral or positive manner. Only UCLA and Wisconsin-Madison did not have a result with learning styles mentioned on the first page.
Only the Teachers College of Columbia University produced an article which portrayed learning styles as a myth or in a negative manner.
So, what’s the big deal? If 80% of the top ten graduate schools in the US have information about learning styles on their website, I can only imagine how many others do as well. If college professors and teacher training programs are promoting teaching to specific learning styles as a valid method in the classroom, we need more of the vaccine…a lot more. Just yesterday, the American Psychological Association published this press release focused on the perhaps detrimental aspects of learning styles. Many others have also done the same. Check out the references mentioned in this post.
We have the ability to quash learning styles. We (again, I’m mainly talking to myself) just need to remain vigilant in the administration of the vaccine. Stay healthy out there…physically and mentally.
How do you think teachers should react when a colleague lauds teaching to preferred learning styles?
What other evidence do you have showing the fallibility of learning styles? Please leave a comment below.
Like you, I’ve written a lot about the myth and dangers of Learning Styles over the years, and have tried to get educators to listen. Perhaps my shortest post garnered the best response from teachers (comments and discussion happened on my facebook page though, not on my WordPress blog where the post lives). One teacher in particular remarked that she appreciated the positivity in my explanation of “how to do it right” when thinking about engaging students in classrooms, rather than just emphasizing “what’s wrong” with learning styles. I keep meaning to go back in and expand upon my short little post, and perhaps with the nudge you’ve provided here, I will do just that. The idea is so deeply engrained in education and our culture’s implicit “essentialist” theory of personality, that it is going to take a lot of concerted effort to counter it. And like measles out there in the real world, I doubt we will fully eradicate the idea from the education marketplace. But each time we bring in a convert, that’s a lot of children who will benefit. My “positive” post: https://cognitioneducation.me/2017/03/29/learning-styles-done-right/
The problem with learning styles is that they are rooted in emotion. They feel good and worse, easy. People rely on feeling, opposed relying on challenge, which the marker of authentic learning. Second, in each PD where someone testifies to a learning style, that person inevitably claims to be a visual learner. I have never witnessed someone claiming to be an auditory learner or an olfactory learner or even a kinesthetic leaner It’s always a visual learner. The reason for this is simple. We are primates. We are upright. Our primary way of accepting our world is through our eyes, so needless to say, folks come to the conclusion they are visual learners.
This article is now over a year old. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/the-myth-of-learning-styles/557687/ Seems that not enough of the right people have read this or something like it yet.
The problem is paying attention to the details of what the science actually says. It’s not that learning styles don’t exist. The fact that some people like reading and to other reading is chore is not what we’re debating. The science has shown that people DO NOT learn better when they are taught according to their perceived learning style. The other issue is that in seeing oneself of having only one “learning style”. People can learn through many types of interventions. So just because reading is a chore doesn’t mean you can’t learn through that method (in fact the science shows the opposite). The more challenging (up to a point) the better the learning sticks. So while people may have a perceived preference for taking in information it doesn’t mean that is the best or only way for them to learn.
I feel so frustrated about this issue now. Although I conducted a training addressing the myth of learning styles, my colleagues are still using it to justify poor design decisions.
“How do you think teachers should react when a colleague lauds teaching to preferred learning styles?” laugh.