Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Learning Styles

I just wanted to comment a little further on the myth of learning style. This amazing video looks at the downside of using learning style labels points out a number of interesting points. I think the idea of presenting information in many different ways appeals to the biological process of thinking, remembering, association, etc. but it also takes our brains through the filing cabinet of past experiences that we must access to facilitate learning. Robust or extrapolated learning is the core of Montessori education and helps plant the seeds of learning new concepts in a meaningful way. 

Interestingly, this infographic dismisses learning styles on the premise (just one of many) that individual differences, experiences, special needs, etc. render moot the classification of learners into tidy boxes. I would argue, however, that although I agree we can't logically (or accurately) profile learners, there are certain cultural and biological conditions that would make certain types of learning more appealing to certain individuals. A person with sensory processing dysfunction or ADHD might be physically incapable of reading 172 pages on neuroscience, but a gaming lesson might do the trick. Someone else coming from a home or culture where storytelling is important may relate quicker and easier to the rhythm and cadence of this method.  
To be clear, I am not defending learning style theory because I believe it is fundamentally flawed on many levels, not the least of which is the inverted pyramid of thinking around it that suggests teachers need to run about like long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs revamping lessons to accommodate. However, I do acknowledge there are many reasons individuals may or may not absorb information in a particular way, and I think it is valid, crucial, really, to acknowledge these.  
Maryellen Weimer (2104) nails the point in her article about the value of acknowledging learning styles (ways of learning?) published here >>, “The point is not to match teaching style to learning styles but rather to achieve balance, making sure that each style preference is addressed to a reasonable extent during instruction.”

There is strength as well in knowing a person's learning style in order to stretch it out and provide opportunities for growth. People who pigeon-hole themselves with hard and fast learning styles aren't ever having to function in chaos or push through a little discomfort. I think it is essential to hep students move through challenges so they can walk away with a new life skill.

I believe in multi-modal lessons and would continue to offer all subjects in many ways in order to both meet each learning need and to trigger the biological process that instigates learning.

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