Learning styles called rubbish

C. Quinn and H. Jarche have one word on learning styles: “rubbish”. I do not agree.

I can understand the frustration with a concept that is still in its infancy but has already been overloaded with ambitions of practical usefulness, and which tries to cover not only cognitive styles of learning but also personality styles, and which (above all) does not clearly distinguish between styles and abilities (for this distinction, see Sternberg whom I cited in an earlier post).

But dismissing it prematurely, has one bad consequence: One might continue to ignore the teacher’s own style. If I am a field independent, non-holist type who loves to overly focus on one neatly packaged slice of content, I won’t understand my holist students’ need for more connections, and of course the field-dependents will show underperforming, although they are probably better prepared for complexity in real life. And similarly, if a psychometric survey researches performance in a clearly defined, isolated unit of study, it might get skewed results regarding the focussers.

But as long as style is confused with ability, teachers and researchers won’t admit to themselves that they also belong to one or another style, or they will take it for granted that they belong to the “superior” one

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4 Responses to Learning styles called rubbish

  1. Learning styles may have their use as descriptive instruments but there is no evidence that they can be used effectively as a prescriptive treatment, rendering them rather useless for instructional design.

    Frank Coffield’s comprehensive report, “Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning”, sums it up best:

    “After more than 30 years of research, no consensus has been reached about the most effective instrument for measuring learning styles and no agreement about the most appropriate pedagogical interventions.”

  2. Thanks for clarifying on descriptive vs. prescriptive. I think that perhaps the desire for prescription, certainty, and measurement – what G. Reinmann calls Methodological Monoculture – itself exhibits a certain thinking style that might interfere with the styles to be studied.

  3. Well, I agree. (I just love your term “thinking style”!)

    But to confuse matters a bit further, I additionally believe that ones overall attitude toward learning styles may be biased by ones belief on how human development is taking place:

    Fixing Your Weaknesses or Developing Your strengths? http://x25oeblog.blog.uni-heidelberg.de/2007/04/23/schwachen-ausbugeln-oder-auf-die-starken-setzen/

    And, of course, by the different talents that are driving you!

  4. Pingback: x28’s new Blog » Blog Archive » Experts vs. Creativity

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