At some point over the past 2.5 years of blogging I began writing about myths of education. I believe it started with a couple of posts about cognitive biases in the classroom, and from there it was a short leap over to myths that plague our beliefs about learning. Here are a few I’ve covered:
While I do see these myths mentioned occasionally on twitter and in professional development sessions, no myth is as entrenched in education today as the learning styles myth. It is the Voldemort of myths. As I said in a recent post, it just won’t die…and I’m not sure why. Actually, that’s not true, I believe I’ve got a good idea why. It is still embedded in popular educational websites, in our university teacher training programs, in our state standards, and even at the U.S. Department of Education.
A couple of days ago, I decided to have a look at ISTE’s website to see if they had any articles on learning styles. Though there were few, they were still there. To ISTE’s credit, they amended the article I brought to their attention and they are working on an initiative now (Course of Mind) to bring the learning sciences to the classroom. I also took a quick look at Edutopia’s website and also found articles mentioning the myth. I believe they took the article down after I, and others, tweeted about it. Also, there’s this from Houghton Mifflin College, where you can learn about your thinking style, your learning style, and other bogus personality inventory nonsense.
I recently took a look at the websites of the top ten graduate programs for education in the United States. After a quick keyword search for learning styles on their website, I found that 8 out of 10 had articles or faculty resumes referring to the teaching to preferred learning styles.
I also had a search of my state’s (Alabama) courses of study. I found 13 mentions of learning styles…and that was just looking at the science, social studies, math, language arts, and pre-k standards. I emailed my state superintendent with this information, but have not received a reply.
But..surely the people in D. C. have it straight, right? Wrong.
“During her 2017 confirmation hearing, DeVos thanked Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, for displaying a chart in the hearing room that she could refer to during testimony, calling herself “a visual learner…” (1)
That’s the U. S. Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, calling herself a visual learner.
“President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief… Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.” (2)
The President of the United States doesn’t believe reading is his preferred style of learning.
I’m at a loss.
And I’m a bit upset about it all.
The teaching profession is just that…a profession. We are professionals. We deserve better from educational media, from professional development sessions, from our state departments of education, from our university training programs, and certainly from the U. S. Department of Education. We put in too much effort with our students to be undermined by poor pedagogical philosophies by those ‘above’ us.
That’s why I keep fighting this myth. While chatting with my friend, Chuck Schallhorn, I mentioned that I didn’t know if my efforts were productive in this fight or if I was just annoying. He replied with,
“They might be annoying to those who perpetuate the myth, but for those of us who want to stomp it out, we applaud you.” (3)
Yes. Thank you.
So, I will continue to ‘call out’ those who perpetuate the myth of teaching to prefered learning styles. I’ll fight the fight for my profession, for your profession, for our profession. We deserve better. Our students deserve better.
If you’d like to join in the fight, please feel free to do the following:
-comment with a link to research/articles/books that further dispel the learning styles myth.
-share/tweet/email this blog post to any and everyone who you think will care.
-call the myth out every time you see it.