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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Learning Styles--Real or Unreal?

Learning Styles--Real or Unreal?

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Learning styles? Something that didn’t even exist 25 years ago now seems to be a fixed part of American education. Do you ever suspect that maybe we’ve let this thing go too far? Teachers have to waste a lot of time trying to make what they are doing conform to the alleged differences in students. I suspect the kids are a lot more alike than not. I may get myself in trouble with some teachers but I’ve just written an article that challenges the importance of learning styles. The article starts from the fact that “reading readiness” was invented 50 years ago to hide the failure of Whole Word or Look-Say. When children couldn’t learn to read using this bogus technique, the schools would say, “Sorry, your child lacks reading readiness.” Some kids had it; some didn't. This supposed lack gave the schools an excuse for not doing a good job. So-called diverse learning styles are used the same way. For more discussion of "learning styles," please see "51: Learning Styles” on Improve-Education.org ( www.improve-education.org/id77.html )

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture

...not to be debunked, but also not to be discarded. As a classroom teacher, we know kids are different. There is a place in our lessons to appreciate and cater to those differences just as there is a place to cater to standardization and common expectations.

I wrote an article for Teacher Magazine on the subject some time ago and got some flack from the scientific community. Yet as a professional, I field study each day and know that there are styles to learning. Does it drive everything I do? Of course not.

But I would be a fool not to acknowledge that there are differences between how students learn just as there are differences between how adults do.

Thanks for beginning this vital discussion.

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Donald Fisher Sweetnam's picture

because I don't believe there is much substance to the the "learning styles" paradigm, previously popularized as "Multiple Intellegences", as developed by Howard Gardner. A brief but to the point criticism can be found at http://latestlearningcurve.blogspot.com/2010/01/learning-styles-multiple...

Of course people are better at some things than they are at others. And because we do more of the things we do well, we reinforce our ability to do the thing we enjoy. At some point, our neglected abilities may even atrophy, and we come up with the rationale that we are not this or that kind of learner; we would better say that we haven't spent enough time at it or put in enough effort to be good at it.

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