Learning styles are a hot topic. But are you sure you’re using them correctly?
You’ve heard of learning styles, right? As one of the most popular learning theories of the past few decades, most adults have not only heard of learning styles, but may even have their own opinions about what works best for them. Learning style-based learning guides are a common topic of discussion, and most teachers either do their best to carefully present learning materials in a specific style or have learners complain that the course was not created in accordance with their learning style. Head Start.
Unfortunately, despite its broad adaptability, there is little evidence that learning styles exist. A recent article in The Atlantic Monthly (“The Myth of Learning Styles”) describes this theory, but also discusses how learners rarely learn according to their described learning styles, and those who do not achieve better results.
That is, while the learning style theory-that individual students may have a style that helps them learn better-may be complete nonsense, there is indeed much merit in presenting material in a variety of ways. Therefore, I’ve redefined some of the most common learning styles as the way teachers present content. How would you use these in your courses?
As expected, visual content presents information in a graphic way. For example, infographics or videos can be used to organize ideas or concepts in a way that emphasizes how certain items of information relate to other items of information. Visual content can also include videos, images, and even gifs.
Hands-on experience is a valuable learning tool, even for highly theoretical subjects. Can you imagine learning calculus without solving equations? Or learning to turn a bowl without operating a lathe? Providing learners with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience is essential to mastery of any subject.
Sound provides a highly flexible learning tool that includes everything from audio lectures to music to rhythm and rhyme patterns. You can see this approach in many mnemonic devices designed to use head rhymes, acronyms and rhymes to make information easier to remember.
Oral course content is content that students may produce themselves in the form of a presentation or scripted lecture. This content is especially important for courses that focus heavily on oral functions (such as public speaking courses or language courses). Provide your learners with the opportunity to create short presentations and encourage them to practice reading out new words rather than just reading silently.
Logic course materials are designed to provide theoretical concepts or frameworks that learners can use to understand the big picture. (In fact, learning style theory is one such framework.) Logic-oriented materials focus on structure and can often be repurposed into compelling infographics-just one example of how learning styles work well together.
Learning with others not only builds engagement, but also helps learners stay accountable, especially in online courses. Providing social learning opportunities for your learners in these situations can be difficult, but they are possible. Focus on developing your forums and providing opportunities for mentoring and tandem learning.
Some concepts take a while to absorb and learners need the opportunity to adjust their learning pace so as not to overshadow key concepts. Online education already suffers from overly isolated learners, but if everything in your course is focused on engagement, you might consider introducing some individual projects where learners can devote more time.
Big mistake: People need to learn a variety of styles.
Everyone has personal preferences. Some people are more extroverted, some may need real-life examples to understand a concept, while others can still handle theoretical material well. But just because a person learns a piece of information based on a certain style does not mean that they can only learn through that style or that style is their best learning tool.
It is also important not to confuse a preferred learning style with a diagnosable learning disability. People with dyslexia do not have an auditory learning style; they have a reading disability that prevents them from processing textual information quickly. The same can be said of learners with visual or auditory impairments. They will need to access your content through a variety of different methods, not because they prefer one style over another, but because they are unable to consume certain types of content.
This is important because most of us process information best when we encounter it in a variety of ways – social, solitary, physical and logical. What this means for the practical implementation of your course is that instead of trying to optimize the material for one learning style over another, you should present the course material in a variety of learning styles so that all learners can engage with it in multiple ways.
Don’t forget ways to integrate learning styles together. Auditory and visual learning styles are not mutually exclusive, and the more learners use these different content types, the broader their learning toolkit will be.