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News & Discussion

Are Learning Styles a Myth?

Jan 5, 2018 12:00 AM

Since the 1950’s, the higher education institutions in America focuses on teaching methods that support students learning styles. Teach.com defines learning style as the “preferential way in which the student absorbs, processes, comprehends, and retains information.”Three of the most common learning styles are audible, tactile or kinesthetic, and visual. What really is meant by “learning style” is the abilities in which children have when it comes to learning and processing the information. Many educators believe that the learning style is individualized to the student and the way that they learn depends on the child’s life experience, emotional, cognitive development, as well as environmental factors. Every student is different.

Therefore, teaching curriculum has been and is based on the theory that some schoolchildren can perform the desired task and absorb the lesson through listening and some learn through “hands-on” activities. For example, an elementary Language Arts lesson usually involves a story. Some pupils are able to listen to the story and answer the questions that follow, while other children may need to be actively engaged in the story, like read different voices or acting it out, before they answer the questions at the end of the lesson.

It is true that everyone learns a little differently than others; however, the theory of the different learning styles has not been proven scientifically. The assumption that students have different learning styles is a hypothesis, but educators fiercely hold to nonetheless. Many educational programs encourage schoolchildren to find their “learning style” and provide online quizzes to guide them through the process. It is good for pupils to learn about themselves and how they process information, but it does not mean that they have a “learning style.”

Instead, they have found a way to develop study habits that work for them. According to CTL.Yale.edu , studies have proven that students who are encouraged to ponder what they learned dramatically improves their learning outcome. Hence, some psychiatrists and teachers oppose this theory and believe it to be a myth.

It has been scientifically proven that students learn best when there is varietyof the teaching methods. Learning is multifaceted and stems from how a youngster’sforms concepts, as well as their prior knowledge about a subject, their life experiences, how they transfer and translate material, and chunking. Schoolchildren also flourish with consistent repetition,and because of this fact, there should be variety in the ways educators present the lessons which will target all “learning styles.”CTL.Yale.edu states,

“Alternating modes can serve different students’ aptitude, level of self-awareness as a learner, and cultural background. Instructors should imagine students to be neither uniform, nor categorized, in their learning, but instead experiencing similar development through singular personalities and experiences.”

For example, some pupils actively learn from their peers and thrive in a group environment, while others benefit from independent learning, and absorb and process information best when they are working alone.

Students also develop critical thinking skills when they are encouraged to reflect on why and how they learned a topic and what brought them a conclusion. It is good when a teacher requires schoolchildren to ponder their learning process because the children are learning about themselves and how they absorb and process new information. For example, when pupils are given a test or quiz to review, often, they will figure out what they did wrong and make meaningful corrections to their critical thinking skills. This process, of thinking about thinking, is called metacognition and is a vital tool for pupils to develop meaningful learning. 

Learning engages many areas of the brain and builds on intellectual processes. The way students process the material depends on the child, but it also depends on the content and how it is presented. Unfortunately, educators concentrate on teaching to the “learning styles” instead of to the students as a whole person. 

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