By Susanna Getz
Before I tell you what your learning style is I want you to STOP and think of what “you think your learning style is”. Okay, now you need to throw all that crap about learning styles out the window. Sorry to lie to you, but you will not find out what your learning style is because this concept is a myth. As real as unicorns and fairies. Complete bullshit!
People do not have ONE SPECIFIC way they learn information. You do not learn EVERYTHING just by hearing about it. A learning style can be described, but when it comes to conducting studies to validate the point, there is a lack of emphatical evidence to support the learning style claim (1). There needs to be evidence that if someone is taught information in their preferred learning style it helps enhance their learning ability (2).
What are “learning styles”?
Learning styles are defined as how people receive information in a way that best fits their preference, so they will learn more efficiently (2). One common way is Myers–Briggs test helped developed the claim for learning styles. However, the Myers–Briggs test indicates someone’s personality, NOT the way you learn. Then a man named Gardner proposed there are eight ways to gain intelligence: visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, and naturalistic. This is a common concept people think of when they hear the word “learning styles”. Teachers are even taught this information, so it can be used to appeal to their students learning style (3).
What people “Claim” about learning styles?
People can be classified into separate groups in how they learn (4). Learning style theories state that a visual learner will only learn best visually no matter what is being taught. Therefore, since the new information is being taught in their personal preference it should encode better in their brain (5). If they are not taught by their learning style preference they will learn new information less effectively (2).
Many studies have been conducted to try to support that learning styles are indeed true, but the validity and reliability of the studies are dubious (3). All the following conducted experiments attempted to try and support learning styles. The results from the experiments had poor reliability AND validity starting with Gregorc, 1982; Joniak & Isaksen, 1988; O’Brien, 1990; Reio & Wiswell, 2006; Kolb, 1976; Atkinson, 1991; Freedman & Stumpf, 1980; Henson & Hwang, 2002, and these are just a FEW of the studies that suggest this (1). Without acceptable reliability, it is difficult to replicate the data constantly. When it comes to the validity of learning styles, it is so poor because it becomes hard to test someone’s learning style. There has been an abundant amount of experiments that have been conducted, BUT you cannot find ONE that support learning styles exist with empirical evidence. One study done supports the concept of how learning styles are false. Massa and Mayer conducted a study with visual and verbal learners. Both participant groups were shown information on a screen with their learning style preference first. The visual learners had diagrams or illustrations on the screen to teach the material. Then the verbal learners had printed text on the screen. Next, both groups were shown information in not their non-preferred learning style. The participant groups then received a test to assess what they had learned, and there was no evidence to support that their performance improved due to having their preferred learning style. I am sure you have a preference on how you like to learn, but I hate to break it to you but, by using your preference it does not necessarily help you learn the material (2).
How do we really learn? Through the process of encoding information in multiple ways. For example, if you are learning about cats in a Powerpoint while being lectured you will learn the information auditory and visually (1). Another way is to think of how in school you have been taught to solve a math problem? Usually, the teacher will explain it, you will watch the teacher work the problem out on the board, and then you try it yourself to solve a problem on your own. Here the educator teaches you through auditory, visually, and the use of logic in solving the problem. If the teacher would explain the problem only verbally you would have a challenging time understanding what is being taught, but being taught a new concept in multiple ways you have a better chance at retaining the new information.
You will retain the information better as stated above if you learn it in multiple ways and connect it to your experiences and knowledge you have. In college, it can become challenging with all the new material you have to learn in a short amount of time. There are certain methods that help you become efficient in learning the material better in a classroom or when studying.
The following video gives you tips on how to achieve success when it comes to learning new material. Best of luck! 🙂
(1) An, D., & Carr, M. (2017). Learning styles theory fails to explain learning and achievement: Recommendations for alternative approaches. Personality & Individual Differences, 116410-416.
(2) Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence, 315. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
(3) Cuevas, J. (2015). Is Learning Styles-Based Instruction Effective? A Comprehensive Analysis of Recent Research on Learning Styles. Theory And Research In Education, 13(3), 308-333.
(4) Kirschner, P. A. (2017). Stop propagating the learning styles myth. Computers & Education, 106166-171.
(5) Willingham, D. T., Hughes, E. M., & Dobolyi, D. G. (2015). The Scientific Status of Learning Styles Theories. Teaching Of Psychology, 42(3), 266-271.