Do you believe in learning styles?

I have a simple question, do you believe in learning styles?

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Let’s put this in perspective.

Which style best describes you?

All learners are different. So, let’s stereotype you.

  • “Rather than being a harmless fad, learning styles theory perpetuates the very stereotyping and harmful teaching practices that it is said to combat” (Scott, 2010, p. 5)

But learning style inventories are reliable…

  • “Some of the best known and widely used instruments have such serious weaknesses (e.g., low reliability, poor validity and negligible impact upon pedagogy) that we recommend that their use in research and practice should be discontinued” (Coffield – the Coffield Report – 2004, p. 138)

No, really, they are reliable!

  • “…given the lack of methodologically sound studies of learning styles, it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested and found wanting; many have simply not been tested at all.” (Pashier et al., 2008, p. 105/106)

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (UK)), “the professional body for HR and people development: a trusted career partner for more than 140,000 members around the world”, advise against taking Learning Styles at face value

  • “Traditional concepts of learning and learning styles need to be balanced with evidence that questions whether individuals possess these types of fixed characteristics and responses. Such approaches are more useful as a reflection and awareness-raising technique rather than a predictive system intended to closely define individuals’ learning preferences” (CIPD, learning styles fact sheet)

Or do they…

  • Delegates will be asked to complete the Preferred Learning Styles Questionnaire by Honey and Mumford and bring it along to the course. (CIPD, 2016 courses)

But CIPD certainly wouldn’t teach something that wasn’t valid, would they (Award in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector)?

Learning and Knowledge managers need to focus on developing adaptive capability, learning organisations, that can sustain competitive advantage/contribution to societal good over time. leaders and managers are trying to achieve this in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous general environment.

So, do you believe in learning styles?

One thought on “Do you believe in learning styles?

  1. For me–starting in the 70’s first as a teacher and then a degreed instructional designer–learning styles (a la Gagne’s Conditions of Learning) was a step forward for designers to better translate media choices and designs into broader design considerations for receptive learners. Over the next 20-30 years management and central designers designed instruction THEY wanted to put out there by controlling the media channels of learning. Consider videos that were an investment that had to be produced centrally … typically by centralized designers.

    Today with social media and easily-produced video it is easier for everyone (I.e., designers, trainers and learners themselves) to design training and communication to enable all-the-time learning and improvements. People become aware of their differences but are not distracted by such academic concepts like learning styles. We are not obsessed with test scores or esoteric learning accomplishments but rather focused on business improvements and survival.

    If we as designers focus on concepts like learning styles rather than how quickly training and learning can achieve business improvements, then we don’t deserve to be sitting at the business decision-making table.

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