Had a really great conversation today about how learning styles greatly affect comprehension. This would indicate instructors should cater their courses to every individual. So if someone is a visual learner we should look for a way to visually represent our lessons to them. Except this isn’t always true and most importantly doesn’t always lead to better outcomes. I read a paper on this topic which concludes the following:
Theories of learning styles suggest that individuals think and learn best in different ways. These are not differences of ability but rather preferences for processing certain types of information or for processing information in certain types of way. If accurate, learning styles theories could have important implications for instruction because student achievement would be a product of the interaction of instruction and the student’s style. There is reason to think that people view learning styles theories as broadly accurate, but, in fact, scientific support for these theories is lacking. We suggest that educators’ time and energy are better spent on other theories that might aid instruction.
Scientific American writes something similar, that while people understand they have different learning styles, they don’t behave rationally in picking the right learning strategy. From the article:
Despite knowing their own, self-reported learning preferences, nearly 70% of students failed to employ study techniques that supported those preferences. Most visual learners did not rely heavily on visual strategies (e.g., diagrams, graphics), nor did most reading/writing learners rely predominantly on reading strategies (e.g., review of notes or textbook), and so on. Given the prevailing belief that learning styles matter, and the fact many students blame poor academic performance on the lack of a match between their learning style and teachers’ instructional methods, one might expect students to rely on techniques that support their personal learning preferences when working on their own.
Some more resources on the topic: