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Breaking the myths one at a time - Learning styles. Do they exist?

I am sure you have been told that we have three primary learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

Were you aware however, that they probably DON'T really exist the way we thought and learning outcomes (the thing that matters) is NOT correlated with use of learning style.

And, many academics believe we are doing more harm than good by perpetuating this theory.

Because, by emphasising this hypothesis (with NO substantial evidence behind it) we are ignoring other important factors that in fact do separate students.

Perhaps this idea has taken strong hold because it is an appealing one.

The claim at the center of learning-styles theory is this: Different students have different modes of learning, and their learning could be improved by matching one's teaching with that preferred learning mode.

What evidence is there that this approach, around for a few decades now, affects learning outcomes?

Hardly any.

As so often happens, an idea just gets taken by one person and repeated until it is accepted as a fact.

A literature review reveals that most of the evidence is descriptive and not evidence based. In fact, writers continue to support ideas of others with which they like without looking at the empirical evidence (of which there is little).

A little bit like the idea that we only notice 7% of the words we hear, 23% of the tone of the voice and most of our interpretation comes from body language.

IT'S JUST NOT TRUE....But that is for another myth busting day.

So here is the punch line: Students differ in their abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but not in their learning styles. Students may have preferences about how to learn, but no evidence suggests that catering to those preferences will lead to better learning.

And my favourite line - Matching learning styles to students preference, is as useful as using the zodiac signs to predict success.

So my group exercise instructor friends, my personal trainer friends and fellow Yoga and Pilates teachers, RELAX.

Mix it up, vary your delivery and be confident in the knowledge that your not doing it wrong for particular students.

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