Learning Styles Do Not Exist

A persistent myth in medical education is the theory of learning styles, especially the idea that people fall into categories of learners such as visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (VAK). According to this theory, visual learners should learn more easily when presented with visual information, whereas auditory and kinaesthetic learners should learn the same information more easily when presented in audio or as an action respectively.

This is rubbish, as cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham (@DTWillingham) points out:

Key points from Daniel Willingham

  • Even though some memories are stored as visual and auditory representations, most memories are stored in terms of meaning
  • The different visual, auditory, and meaning-based representations in our minds cannot serve as substitutes for one another
  • Learners probably do differ in how good their visual and auditory memories are, but in most situations, it makes little difference when teaching

The bottom line

Teachers should focus on using whatever modality is best for the content, not what he or she thinks suits the learner’s (non-existent) style.

References and links

Comments

  1. says

    Absolutely 100% spot on post Chris. Had the pleasure of discussing this with Vic and a couple of colleagues at the RBWH ED education meeting last Thursday. We had a look at the following paper:
    Paul A. Kirschner & Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer (2013) Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education, Educational Psychologist, 48:3, 169-183, DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2013.804395
    http://ocw.metu.edu.tr/pluginfile.php/3298/course/section/1174/Do%20Learners%20Really%20Know%20Best.pdf
    Covers Three myths in education:
    1) Learner is a digital native;
    2) There are specific learning styles;
    3) People are self directed learners.
    Very much the same conclusions made as your article and post. The teaching mode is a technique and modality that should be decided on in relation to the content to be taught.
    Thanks, great post.
    Jesse

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