Of all the educational theories I have learned so far, none seems to be as popular with those in the general population as that of learning preferences.
Learning preferences definitions vary from this “index of learning styles developed by Dr Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman in the late 1980s” summarized as:
sensory – intuitive
active – reflective
To the VARK guide to learning styles:
To the idea of multiple intelligences
What is common with all of these theories is the belief that if students are presented information in a way that matches their learning style, learning will be enhanced.
But is this hypothesis valid?
OK, the hypothesis is not valid but is there any harm in using this as a teaching strategy?
There is evidence to show that people prefer different learning styles. There are many tests this like one for example that are available on line that can help you determine your preferred learning style. I have done the MBIT testing with work and this test through my PDID 3250 course. While I believe that these tests can help students identify strengths and weaknesses with their learning preferences I also believe there may be risks.
By focusing only on our preferred learning style we may not be learning to our maximum potential. I love to think big in bright and exciting colours and leap around from idea to idea because it puts me in my happy place. If I only took courses that catered to that learning style I would never learn to solve problems effectively or even make any of my plans come to fruition. I need to employ learning strategies that have been proven to be effective.
Other risks I wonder about is if people might not make an effort to learn if the information is presented in a manner they don’t prefer, or that a student could feel isolated because their learning preferences aren’t like the others in their group.
So, instead of Mr. Smith (in the opening cartoon) teaching to the student’s learning preferences, he should focus on using known effective teaching strategies like these ones for example and work on creating an inclusive, positive learning environment.