Does Knowing Your Learning Style Help You Learn Better? Science says no

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Do you see yourself as a visual learner or a verbal learner? Maybe you are neither and instead you absorb information better by reading texts and taking notes on what you have understood. Whatever mode of teaching you prefer, you are likely relying on techniques suited to your individual learning style.

Though there is over 70 different learning style frameworks, the most important is the VARK model. Introduced by Neil Fleming in 1987, it classifies learners into four main types: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic.

On the surface, it makes sense that providing information tailored to an individual’s preferred method improves learning outcomes. However, the concept of learning styles is one of the neuromyths, or misconceptions about how the brain works, in education. In reality, they may have little or no real influence on learning and their practical application has yet to be demonstrated.

Lack of evidence

There are no scientific proof supporting the idea that people have different learning styles. At least not at all susceptible to action to improve education, says David Kraemer, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Of course, some people are better at some things than they are at others; this may be related to differences in the ability to process various types of information. However, learning styles are often seen as a superior way for people to understand content – and studies do not support the prediction that leaning into them will help learners remember material better, says Daniel Willingham, cognitive psychologist and professor of psychology at the University. from Virginia.

Studies show that designing the mode of instruction to take into account individual preferences does not necessarily improve learning outcomes. Presenting visual and verbal learners with their choice of learning aid has no significant impact, according to a series of experiments 2006 study Posted in Learning and individual differences. And one Literature review 2009 in Psychological science in the public interest also concluded that there is insufficient basis to endorse the inclusion of learning styles in general education practices.

“Isn’t the main goal of education to train students to improve their weak points, and not just to play on their strong points? Kramer said. “So even if there was some evidence to support these theories, I don’t know how they would be implemented by teachers. “

Although the intention is to help students, untested learning strategies may ultimately demotivate to pursue other interests. Being locked into a dominant learning style can limit learners and deter them from making efforts to absorb information that is not provided through the method of their choice.

“We don’t know how often teachers try to use learning style theories in classrooms,” Willingham says. ” We know that a large number of states ask teachers to learn these theories to get a license. There are also scenarios where educators Carry on apply the concept of learning styles despite the fact that they have not been shown to work.

Due to the lack of support for learning styles, Willingham recommends using learning and thinking theories that are actually well supported and have classroom applications.

How to improve learning outcomes

Shifting students’ attention to the subject being taught may be a better educational strategy, as teaching methods vary across fields and subjects.

“We know – it’s pretty obvious, when you think about it – that there can be a good or bad fit to the material you’re trying to learn and the kind of processing that’s supposed to go with a particular style,” Willingham said. . “Imagine someone who thinks they are a visual learner and insists on a visual representation of a French accent when learning the language? Or an auditory learner asking for an auditory version of a map of Asia in a geography class? “

Determining the most effective ways to present information that will work for most students is crucial for optimal learning. For example, lessons in magnetism can be best taught using visual and kinesthetic methods, while teaching a meter course in poetry often requires aural and visual techniques. Like Willingham points out, focusing on the best way to teach a subject, rather than adapting to the learning style perceived by each student, can be more beneficial.

Indeed, presenting the same ideas in different formats is ideal because “repetition is often the key to understanding and long-term retention of knowledge. Presenting information in different ways increases the likelihood that one of it will stay true, ”says Kraemer.

Using more evidence-based educational strategies is also a better use of student time, he adds, such as those that employ the concept of desirable difficulties. The concept is to introduce difficulty into a task in order to generate more cognitive effort, which ultimately leads to better understanding and long-term understanding. retention of information. According to Kraemer, formative assessment practices presenting desirable difficulties include low stakes quiz, study with flashcards rather than rereading chapters in textbooks and space out study sessions over several days. These are all well validated and have a significant body of evidence to support their effectiveness.

“Basically, it’s no surprise that more practice studying a particular subject will lead to better learning, just as more time on any task will improve performance on that task,” he explains. “But given the limited time and effort to devote to the study, these study strategies will prove to be the most useful.”

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