learning styles revisited

Just a quick post to expand on soemthing I wanted to say on twitter but well, 140 characters isn’t much room to do that. The whole learning styles reared its head (as ever) when on the guidance for a college’s scheme of work it says something like “How will learning styles be addressed?” (or at least something in that general direction).

Here’s roughly what I put: “Learning styles theory has been shown to be inaccurate and inappropriate (see, e.g. Coffield, et al. 2004, & Pashler et al 2008 http://psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf) however, each lesson will use a range of teaching approaches to make the lessons more stimulating and interesting).”

[Have tracked down the document now & this is what it says (feel free to copy & paste, but on your head be it:

Current evidence and research suggests that learning styles theory is both inaccurate and inappropriate for learners (see Coffield 2004, and Pashler, et al, 2008) Therefore while every attempt has been made to provide motivating and varied activities to the class, these are not connected in anyway to the mistaken concept of learning styles. These have not been assessed as the tutor does not feel it is an appropriate use of time.


It’s a little smug, perhaps to put the references, but I do hope that putting the references either gets the people who are interested (whoever they are) to look at it and maybe engage in a little professional dialogue (my preferred option, and far better than slavish adherence to an outdated fad), or at the very least it scares them off (“Oh I can’t be bothered.”).

But maybe I do get the professional dialogue on this, and I would be quite interested to engage, right up to the bit when the other person says (as they will do) something along the following lines “Ah but learning styles encourages you to teach in a range of different styles, and that can only make the lesson more interesting”. Utter utter horse poo. Variety is more interesting because, well, it’s not just you standing there, but rather the ss are analysing, then describing, then moving around, then listening to something, then more moving around some more, then discussing something. But this isn’t about them sitting some vacuous (or VAKuous?!) little test at the start of term, but aboult being a good teacher, which has nothing to do with what learning style the ss prefer.

Neither are we talking here about me these being more motivating because they are stimulating all the learners different learning styles. We are humans, and we like variety. Nothing more nothing less. End of. There’s quite a fun aside in one of Frank Coffield’s more personal pieces:

“Let me try harder this time. There is no scientific justification for teaching or learning strategies based on VAKT and tutors should stop using learning style instruments based on them. There is no theory of VAKT from which to draw any implications for practice. It should be a dead parrot. It should have ceased to function.” (Coffield, F. 2008. Just Suppose Teaching & Learning Became the First Priority. London: LSN) (accessible here: http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/Coffield_IfOnly.pdf

Actually i think a copy of Just suppose should be made available in every college in every teachers’ room, and enjoy the CLOT test at the back, much fun to be had by all.

Also on the subject of fun – this popped up on the internet-webthingy: http://www.theonion.com/articles/parents-of-nasal-learners-demand-odorbased-curricu,396/

In the name of balance there is this ( http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/lluplus/docs/reports/Review_of_Learning_Styles5.pdf) rather lame response to Coffield 2004 which seems to run along the lines of well, learning is an amorphous and complex issue which cannot be put under the microscope like this. Which is the precise reason LS is such absolute cobblers. And we can pretty much ignore this because the writer has no objectivity whatsoever.




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