I knew it!

Posted on September 9, 2010Filed Under Outside links, Teaching | 7 Comments

I have always been suspicious of the whole “learning style” thing. You know, you’re supposed to match the style of teaching to the “learning style’ of the student. Here’s a typical quote:

Tactile/Kinesthetic persons learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.

Uh huh. Welcome to middle school, pal. They all wiggle, waggle, squirm, sway, pace, jog, skip, squat, flap, slap, tap, dance, and shake. They all have a need for the “exploration” of the desk next door or pencil sharpener across the room. You try to match your teaching style to that, and you are “done fer” as Huck might say.

Anyway, I was just reading a great article in the NYTimes, about how much of the conventional wisdom about “study skills” and “learning styles” isn’t really wisdom at all.

They quoted  researchers who looked at much of the literature about the learning styles fad, who said, “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing.”

They said there were very few studies even conducted to test the theory, and those that were conducted showed no improvement in learning.

I knew it!

The link to the research abstract is here.

Most of the Times article talks about how much of what people think about how to study is wrong. Having a couple different places to study, and alternating them, rather than your cliched single quiet place, works much better. Also studying several different, but related things, is better than concentrating on a single subject.

And in another vindication for the way I like to teach, the article said that a period of study followed by practice/pretests is more effective than two periods of study. The act of trying to retrieve the information somehow helps us retain it.


There’s more, and you should read it yourself.

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits

(The quote about kinesthetic learners is from LDPride.net.)


7 Responses to “I knew it!”

  1. Heather on September 10th, 2010 7:49 am

    I like the idea of using learning styles to design activities, but not necessarily teaching TO specific learning styles… because I know that when my kids get to high school and college their visual and auditory learning skills are going to be in use whether that’s their “ideal” learning style or not. I try to give my students a lot of choice so sometimes I’ll design a project where students can choose from a “menu” of options that are designed to tap into kinesthetic, artistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, etc. skills, but I don’t make them choose the one that is for “THEIR” learning style… I just encourage them to choose the one they will enjoy doing.

  2. mrC on September 11th, 2010 9:37 pm

    I agree 100% with the idea of multiple options (straight-up papers, poetry, book cover + art, newspaper, etc) on some major assignments. I have just been to too many in-services where they were trying to get us to include elements of every learning style in every lesson. “Where’s the kinesthetic element in your warm-up? I have them make up a dance for each vocabulary word.” (Actual quote.) While that sounds rather entertaining, I can’t imagine making it a part of every lesson. Although on the other hand…

  3. Sara on September 13th, 2010 3:42 pm

    Our administration has been drilling us recently to be more accommodating to the so-called different learning styles of our students. I actually had to sit through a meeting this afternoon where our intervention specialist reiterated this idea and provided us with examples of how to incorporate “multiple intelligences” into our lessons and assessments. Some examples presented to us (mind you, we are middle and high school teachers) included using pudding to have the kids write sentences and paragraphs in English and to have them draw pictures rather than paragraphs to summarize reading content. Wow. While I firmly agree that teachers need to jazz things up in the classroom from time to time by presenting information in varied ways, I am skeptical that these types of “differentiated” instructional and assessment practices are based on sound educational theory. Bells and whistles are great…but do they actually help the students learn anything worthwhile? In my experience, usually not. Most of the time these fluff theories only mask our function as educators, and embarrass our profession. Pudding, anyone?

  4. mrC on September 13th, 2010 6:25 pm

    ZOMG! Pudding! That’s classic! I got your pudding right here. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  5. Sara on September 13th, 2010 7:53 pm

    I taped a copy of that article in the teacher work room. 🙂 I really hated that theory.

  6. Sara2 on September 17th, 2010 10:59 am

    Okay, I give up – how on earth do you write with pudding?

  7. mrC on September 18th, 2010 8:28 pm

    I’m with you Sara2! Come on Sara1, bust it out. What the heck were they expecting you to do?

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