I would like to add my own perspective / interpretation to the subject of Learning Styles, about which a lot of people seem to be quite evangelical. I believe a myth has evolved as to what the whole concept of Learning Styles is about and I offer my views as a counterpoint.
The reference to “Learning Styles” has been misinterpreted for years, in my opinion
We all take in information and learn things in different ways – watching a video/ film or demonstration, looking at diagrams/pictures, listening to verbal instructions, reading information via books, having a go at something and so on.
I was first introduced to 'Learning Styles' as a concept in a business environment in the late 70s/early 80s.
The current dogma of assertion around the lack of scientific evidence for the existence of learning styles seems to be predicated on the more general interpretation that “learning styles” are fixed and that the approach somehow suggests that individuals learn in one specific way.
I have to say that this more recent interpretation was never suggested to me when I was first introduced to the subject.
We were shown that learning styles were preferences, not absolutes and that, generally, people may well be more receptive to information in a combination of those preferences and which may change depending on the nature of the task, circumstances or the topic being learned / taught.
For example, when building flat pack furniture, I look closely at the picture, carefully read the instructions, take verbal advice from my Dad and sometimes even watch a YouTube Video... (And I still manage to get it wrong !)
If these are ways in which we all take in information at different times, as a coach or teacher why would you not therefore consider and make use of as many methods of delivery outlined (and any others you may think of) to engage people and/or to provoke or elicit a response or thought?
Whilst I have seen plenty of criticism even for the recognition of the phrase ‘Learning Styles’, I have, as yet, seen nothing that suggests we should not use different tools, strategies and approaches to engage learners and provide information or ideas - which surely, is the whole point.
I would prefer to call these communication methods, for that is what they are and the broad use of a variety or combination of the approaches will hopefully appeal to more people than just one type of delivery.
My personal perception of communication methods recognises verbal, non-verbal, written, formal or informal and face to face approaches, which so far as I can see would also fit the visual, auditory, reading and kinaesthetic ‘styles’ mentioned in the now infamous ‘Learning Styles’
I would also suggest some caution when relying on current scientific evidence - when my parents went to school in the 1930s and 40s, science text books they used stated that the smallest item of matter was the atom - and you couldn't split an atom... within 10 years scientists had developed the atom bomb.
Learning Styles, in my opinion, merely refer to different and sometimes preferred ways of taking in information... and should be regarded as such.
I believe that we really need to challenge people who promote or choose to interpret the idea that these are absolute, isolated 'styles' which don’t exist potentially, therefore, undermining the concept and usefulness of providing information in a variety of ways to make it as accessible as possible.
Feel free to comment