There’s a sticky and pervasive fallacy about education that permeates classrooms across North America and ensnares parents and teachers alike. The premise? That each child has a personal learning style that can be described as kinesthetic, visual or auditory, and that all information must be delivered by teachers in a manner that reflects that style in order to help a child learn effectively. The problem with that approach to pedagogy is that there is no evidence to support it.
While it’s true that students prefer to get their information in different ways—some enjoy lectures; others enjoy videos, games or reading—brain science and testing show that all students learn in the same way. That is not to deny that students have differing needs, aptitudes, backgrounds, and interests that impact their learning, or that some students have disabilities that require special diagnosis and attention. Every child has a unique set of challenges and talents. However, those students who receive instruction tailored to an identified “learning style” will not score higher on achievement tests or do better in school.
So how do students actually learn best? Current research shows that children absorb content when the information is presented to them in multiple forms, in consideration of their abilities, and through engaging methods and tasks. Students who practice and apply what they learn and can teach it to others retain that information more effectively. Educators and parents should focus on introducing novelty, variety and information targeted to each child’s skill level to make the classroom experience more productive for everyone.
Paul, Annie Murphy. “Do Students Really Have Different Learning Styles?” KQED Blog. 13 April 2012
Riener, Carl and Willingham, Daniel. “The Myth of Learning Styles.” Change Magazine. September-October 2010.
Willingham, Daniel. “Learning styles, science, practice and Disneyland.” danielwillingham.com. 28 August 2013