Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Learning Styles and Work Styles

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jan 25, 2010

Originally posted on Half an Hour, January 25, 2010.

Transcript of a Twitter exchange this afternoon on learning styles.

Downes: hmm: if there's no learning styles then there would be no working styles, just one best way to accomplish every task (which your boss knows)

nlowell: @Downes ok that has to be covered by one of your fallacies somewhere

opencontent: @Downes - Learning styles may exist - they just don't make any meaningful contribution to learning. E.g.,

Downes @nlowell it's reasoning by analogy, so if there's a fallacy it'd be 'false analogy', which requires a relevant difference between the cases

@Downes I'm havning trouble w/relationship of "no learning/working styles" and "only one best way"

nlowell: @Downes Learning Style holds that I should ALWAYS learn best in one style. Content/context are irrelevant. Seems absurd on its face.

@opencontent That doesn't save instruction either - "we cannot store up generalizations and constructs for ultimate assembly into a network"

@opencontent @Downes Learning styles determine the choice of the PLE

Downes: @nlowell I think we can all reject extreme single-point interpretations of learning style theory (and still agree people learn differently)

Learning styles have historically been used to have an instructor 'select' an appropriate learning activity (and just as often get it wrong)

Downes: @DolorsCapdet But as Dolors says, learning styles are the ground and license to allow a learner to select his/her own learning activity

Downes: for if there are no learning styles, then there's only one learning style for each content, no matter who you are, and you should use that about

nlowell: @Downes No problem with rejecting single point interpretations, but doesn't that disallow identifying learners as VARK?

Downes: Doing a pretest may or may not help you understand your own style (probably not, with the usual unreliability of tests) but isn't predictive about 4 hours ago from web

nlowell: @Downes perhaps it's semantic but i'm failing to see the link between "no learning style" and "only one style for content"

geoffcain: @Downes Do you have any research on the selecting and getting it wrong bit? I only see learning styles used to ensure multimodal delivery.

Downes: @nlowell The point is that taxonomies like VARK are irrelevant; only instructivists try to test and prescribe; & anyway styles are complex

nlowell: @Downes agree re taxonomy but that appears to be the thrust of the application - instructivist, follow the recipe and learning happens.

scottbw: @Downes there is a big gap between accepting individual differences and asserting there are stable characteristics of individuals

Downes: @geoffcain on 'getting it wrong' - some evidence from the link @opencontent sent see also etc etc

Downes: @scottbw I don't need to assert there are stable difference between individuals, only that there ARE differences (these vary, of course)

@Downes "everyone learns differently, lets see what works for us here, in this time/place" vs. "aha, you're a type B7, you need module 28b"

Downes: It's just like working - sometimes I know I'll do better coding, others tweeting, or writing - it's hard to tell which on any given day...

Downes: what's wrong is making me work the same as everyone else, as if there's only one best way to do work having nothing to do with the worker

geoffcain: @Downes "The authors draw negative conclusions about a field they fail adequately to review," Mr. Sternberg says. I keep running into that!

Downes: @scottbw no, it's more like a recommender system; without learning styles you don't need a recommender, just assign module 2b to everyone

Downes: @scottbw or it's like having a music selector system on your iPod; without individual styles you may as well play everyone the same song

geoffcain: @Downes That article that seems to be against learning styles points to some strong research in favor via Sternberg.

georgeroberts: Hmm not if she's a good boss RT @Downes if no learning styles then no working styles, just 1 best way to do every task (which yr boss knows)

It ends there. Just as well; I had a meeting and people were tuning it out anyways. Twitter just isn't the venue for this sort of thing, clearly.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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