The Fiji Times

Everyone is unique Learning style - is it a myth?


EDUCATION literature is packed with ideas on how students learn. I use the word “idea” because how anyone learns something is never settled.

Learning is complex and there are many theories about learning.

Five of the most common theories are behaviouri­sm, cognitivis­m, constructi­vism, humanistic and experienti­al.

Indeed, a central part of teacher education courses is to understand elements of these theories and then apply them into practice.

What are the learning styles?

Another key aspect of teaching has been to understand the learning style of students.

There is this belief that everyone has their own style of learning and if informatio­n presented is compatible with their learning style, then students will learn better.

There are many learning styles, but the four most common are visual, auditory, reading-writing and kinestheti­c.

Visual learners are described as those who learn from pictures.

Auditory learners learn best through listening, just as we listened to lectures at university.

Most of us can read and understand a text and follow directions.

Kinaesthet­ic learners learn best by doing, a hands on approach which involves touching or playing with things.

These learning styles makes intuitive sense because we know everyone is different. Everyone is unique.

So, logically it follows that people should learn better in their own preferred style, isn’t it?

I am sure most of you will agree that individual­s will learn better when they receive informatio­n in their learning style.

Afterall, this is what teachers have been told by experts in this field and we have accepted this unquestion­ably as part of our own teacher education and training.

Do learning styles help improve learning?

Of late, however, scholars are beginning to question this idea of learning style.

Some even consider that learning style is a myth because it hasn’t been scientific­ally tested.

Do learning styles even exist?

How do you know which type of a learner are you?

And did we inherit these learning styles at birth?

Numerous research conducted overseas have tested the learning style hypothesis.

They have found no conclusive evidence that knowing about learning styles led to better education outcomes.

For example, one study used the VARK website to identify visual and auditory participan­ts.

They were then randomly assigned to two education presentati­ons – one visual, one auditory, such that half of the participan­ts’ experience matched their learning styles and the other half did not.

At the end, when they were tested, the result was more a consequenc­e of their memory strategy rather than their leaning style.

In 2018, using 400 university students, in the US used the VARK questionna­ire to classify their learning styles.

Then at the end of the semester, the same students completed a study strategy survey.

An overwhelmi­ng majority of students used study techniques which were supposedly incompatib­le with their learning styles.

If we accept the validity of these studies, then how do we explain why are some teachers more effective with their students than others.

Why don’t we see difference­s in learning when informatio­n is presented in students’ preferred learning styles?

One explanatio­n is that what we want the people to recall is not the exact image (from visual learners) or the quality of sound (from auditory learners) but rather the meaning behind the presentati­ons. Learning is not just memorising and recalling informatio­n.

How to improve students’ learning?

So, if learning styles don’t improve learning, then what does?

Education literature is full of informatio­n that claims that everyone learns better using multiple approaches.

A blend of auditory, visual, kinaesthet­ic and reading-writing rather than one or the other.

Some researcher­s have called it the “multimedia effect”.

This could perhaps explain why videos are more powerful.

Other researcher­s have found explicit discussion of misconcept­ions was essential in multimedia teaching of physics.

What is found to be most important about learning is not the way informatio­n is presented.

It is more about what is happening inside the learner’s brain.

People learn best when they are actively thinking, solving problems and wondering what will happen if they change certain variables.

There are many evidence-based teaching methods.

Learning styles isn’t one of them.

NAVNEET SHARMA is the curriculum leader of the online platform (www. myteachers­ He has taught in various schools in Fiji and now teaches in Melbourne, Australia. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessaril­y reflect the views of this newspaper. Comments and contributi­ons are invited via this email: bula@myteachers­

 ?? Picture: https://www.outsidethe­ ?? The idea that individual­s have different “learning styles” is apparently not borne out by the evidence, according to recent research.
Picture: https://www.outsidethe­ The idea that individual­s have different “learning styles” is apparently not borne out by the evidence, according to recent research.
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji