Lessons From a Tweet About “Learning Styles”

Every so often, I tweet something that catches the attention of a small corner of the “twitterverse” and folks reply and share and the thread becomes a wealth of insight, good questions, and snarky comments.

Most recently, it was this one:

As I read the thread, I am struck by the willingness of folks to participate in 288-character conversations with others, and I feel fortunate to follow and be followed by such folks. As I read the thread, it seems as well that we can conclude certain things about “learning styles” as a concept and as a theory and we can conclude certain things about learning.

  1. “Learning styles” seems to have emerged from “push-back” against “monolithic aural lecture with writing on walls teaching.” In short, it was a collective statement to students that “it’s not you, it’s the teaching.” As one who experienced that (and practiced it for some time), I must say this is not without basis in reality.

  2. Folks do argue, “I learn better when it is presented in this manner.” It is likely everyone does. Learning a skill, watch a demonstration and practice it. Learning about graphs, look at them. Attending to dialogue, hear it. The modality/ method must match the lesson.

  3. Folks do have preferences. They emerge from our biology and our environment and they are changing and individual. We do not need to invent “learning styles” to explain natural variation.

  4. Just because we have preferences, does not mean those are better. You may prefer to review your notes rather than quizzing yourself on the materials, but that does not mean you will remember the contents better.

One thing we know about learning, and one things that seems to emerge from the thread on learning styles is that a variety of experiences helps us learning. The more times you hear, see, feel the curriculum and the more places, situations, problems, and contexts in which you experience it, the deeper will be the learning.

Let’s model our schools on this reality of human brains.