Learning Styles: Real or Not Real?
Many teachers and counselors have taught the idea that there are distinct learning styles. You probably have heard of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences also proposes that people can learn in eight different ways.
However, do learning styles actually exist?
While labeling how you learn would be nice and convenient, our brains are more complicated than that.
Read on to find out the truth about learning styles and what this means for you.
Science Debunks Learning Styles
One popular learning style theory is Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences which states that there are multiple intelligences—Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalist. Gardner claims that these eight types of bits of intelligence can be naturally applied to learning styles.
However, there is not enough evidence to support Gardner’s view.
While a one-size-fits-all type of intelligence is inaccurate, further research is still needed before applying learning styles in class.
Since the 1970s, research has concluded that learning styles have no empirical evidence of being real. They merely stemmed from an incorrect interpretation of scientific facts. Different types of information are processed in various brain parts the same way people have differences in abilities and preferences.
For several decades, myths about the brain — neuromyths — have persisted in academic institutions.
In one survey, teachers were given statements and were asked if the statements were “correct,” “incorrect,” or “do not know.” Results showed that 93% of teachers from the United Kingdom and 96% from the Netherlands answered “correct” to the statement: “Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style.”
But how one prefers to study is not an indication of a learning style. While many people prefer different types of studying or learning, research denies that people learn better through a particular learning style.
For example, one study had a wide variety of adults and college students take a learning test using visuals or written text. The verbalizers' and visualizers’ grades showed no strong support for verbal and visual learners to be given different instruction.
So scholars stress how learning styles should be rejected by educators and students alike. Instead, they should replace these ‘neuromyths’ with resources and strategies rooted in evidence and invite students to reflect on their learning rather than narrowing their style down.
This will, in turn, improve learning outcomes. Instructors shouldn’t categorize students in their learning and instead through their personalities and experiences. For example, they can incorporate active learning, group work, and various teaching strategies.
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Now that we’ve established that there is not enough evidence to suggest learning styles exist, what next?
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