Do Learning Styles Exist?

Hugh Lafferty, Dr. Keith Burley, Website, Apr 22, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Another article presenting the argument against the existence - or at least the utility - of learning styles. Most of the argument revolves around our inability to measure learning styles and our inability, since there are (potentially) millions of them, to program learning for different learning styles. The author also retates Willingham's argument that the style inherent in the content (geography is inherently visual, for example) outweighs any individual learning preferences. For my own part, it seems to me that these arguments presume a particular educational paradigm, one in which learning is prepared and delivered to people, and certainly in such cases detecting, planning and adapting to individual learning styles is nearly impossible. But so much the worse, I say, for this educational paradigm. Indeed, the traditional approach's inability to deal with learning styles is an argument in favour of alternative, learner-directed, approaches in which individual learners can (intuitively) adapt their content and presentation selections to their own preferred learning modalitie, accomodating their abilities and preferences, or challenging them, as the case may be.
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