Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Learning styles don’t exist

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This is quite a good article covering the full breadth of the argument against learning styles. It's interesting, though, that the title on the page - "Learning styles don't exist" - is different from the title in the metadata - "The evidence is clear: learning styles theory doesn't work". And the trouble is, most people can identify different preferences or even needs among people, and this simple fact (I think) explains why there is so much resistance to the argument presented here. And saying "learning styles theory doesn't work" is a very different proposition, depending to a great degree on how your define "works". If one child has trouble sleeping, providing extra reassurance "works". If another child hates the taste of brussels sprouts, does forcing them to eat them anyways "work"? If a student hates step-by-step instructions, does forcing them to sit through them "work"?

We read in this article that we should use "the robust findings from cognitive science... as a base to inform how we design and sequence learning." But cognitive science is a mish-mash of competing theories, including the "astonishing 71 different models or ways of classifying learning styles" we find in the literature in the first place. I'm not here to say "learning styles work". But I would be very surprised if some form of differentiated pedagogy were not the best way to promote learning - whether it be as simple as teaching students in their own language, as progressive as tailoring content to adapt to their culture, or as complex as attending in a very precise way to their individual needs and interests.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: May 20, 2024 9:07 p.m.

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