Learning Styles: Beliefs or Facts to Uphold
Presented by Chantima Pathamathamakul
Aspects of student diversity are useful to consider when designing learner–centered instruction. Among the diversity, the idea of learning styles have been widely adopted in the education field.
Dunn and Dunn (1978) were the first proposing learning style for the classroom as a theory to enhance learning (Coffield, Moseley, Hall, & Ecclestone, 2004).
To date, models have been proposed to identify categories in each learning style, and instruments have been developed to assess the strength of a student’s inclination towards one or another category.
Examples of Learning Style Instruments :
- Dunn, Dunn, and Price Learning Styles Inventory (LSI)
- Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI)
- Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ)
- Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
In practice, many materials and methods measuring Learning Styles might have different educational, financial, or ideological stake (Becta, 2005).
The overlaps between different theories, models, and measures in research and practice in the diversity of the disciplines were reported in Cassidy (2004) and three inter-related elements among the variety of instruments including information processing, instructional preferences, and learning strategies were discussed in Becta (2005).
There is meshing hypothesis that teachers should assess the learning styles of their students and once identified, tailor more personalized instructions to the assumed needs of their students.
However, many arguments in the literature proposed cautioning about the use of the learning style theory for certain reasons. First, there is to date no single definition, model, consensus, or clarity among scholars and educators around the concept of learning styles (Becta, 2005). It is questionable that Learning Styles should be accounted as personal preferences that depend upon the specific aptitudes and context rather than as actual intrinsic profiles that can be measured and label to a person.
Second, there have been either no evidence or very weak evidence that people learn better when they receive instruction that matches their dominant way of learning (Coffield, 2012). See a study of Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork (2008) that reviewed a number of well-designed research and found no connection between the learner’s preference and matched instruction.
Given that learning styles provide anywhere from inadequate to incorrect portrayals of learning, many scholars categorize them as a neuroscience–based myth or neuromyth (Pashler et al., 2008) that may be one of the most pervasive misconceptions about cognition (Coffield et al., 2004).
See Nancekivell, Shah, & Gelman (2020) for a recent study to understand people’s beliefs about the neural basis of learning styles by examining people’s beliefs about the instantiation of learning styles in the brain.
For pedagogical implications, instruction should not favor one learning style preference. Knowing students’ learning styles could be useful for teaching that aims to develop attitudes and skills for lifelong learning, particularly in relation to ‘learning to learn’ (Coffield et al., 2004).
For teachers, students’ learning style worth knowing when it provide clues about students’ strengths and areas that might call for teachers’ attention. For students, it might be developing adaptability skill without making an excuse of their personal preferences.
Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review. London, United Kingdom: Learning and Skills Research Centre.
Coffield, F. (2012). Learning styles: Unreliable, invalid and impractical and yet still widely used. Bad education: Debunking myths in education. Berkshire UK: Open University Press.
Crogman, H., & Crogman, M. T. (2016). Generated questions learning model (GQLM) : Beyond learning styles. Cogent Education, 3(1), 1202460. : https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1202460
Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2005). Understanding student differences. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 57–72.
Horace Crogman & Maryam Trebeau Crogman | John Lee (Reviewing Editor) (2016) Generated questions learning model (GQLM): Beyond learning styles, Cogent Education, 3:1, DOI
Litzinger, T. A., Lee, S. H., Wise, J. C., & Felder, R. M. (2007). A psychometric study of the index of learning styles. Journal of Engineering Education, 96(4), 309.
Nancekivell, S. E., Shah, P., & Gelman, S. A. (2020). Maybe they’re born with it, or maybe it’s experience: Toward a deeper understanding of the learning style myth. Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(2), 221-235. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000366
Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9, 105–119. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x