When I first started teaching I was all about “learning styles.” You know, the seven learning categories ALL children fall into: Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social, and Solitary. Perhaps in some alternate universe, the “learning style theory” may actually enhance learning, but that is not how it worked in my world.
My troubles started with classification. Every time that I thought I had nailed them down, my children would do something to contradict their own learning style. “What do you mean you don’t want to sing this song, you are a Verbal Learner?!” They transitioned from learning style to learning style, and then back again, faster than a spinning cap.
While classifying my children was frustrating, planning lessons was brutal. How do you teach history to a physical learner? Oh, there are ways, but they require more planning and creativity than most parents and teachers can muster on a daily basis. Here is an even more daunting task. How do you plan a single lesson that accommodates all seven learning styles? No wonder it doesn’t take long before parents and teachers start complaining of burnout. I mean, is it really possible to teach a social and solitary learner using the same lesson at the exact same time?
Then I had the opportunity to take a “learning style” identification test. I discovered that I was a verbal / social learner. That means that I need to talk and socialize to get the most out of my learning experiences. Here was my dilemma. In college I joined several study groups where zero learning took place. When I got together with my study groups, we talked and socialized about everything BUT the topics we were there to study. So, while the scientific “learning style” test did a great job flushing out what I already knew – I like to socialize – it recommended the learning style that was the least effective for me.
Truth About Learning Styles
It was at this point that I turned my back on the “learning style” theory. Instead of putting my kids into a categorical box, I taught them as individuals. Along the way, I made some interesting discoveries. I found that all children fit into every learning style category and none. I learned that a child’s preferred style, does not always reflect his most effective style.
For instance, I may prefer to exercise while laying on a couch, eating potato chips and watching television, but that does not mean that this is the best way for me to get in shape. In addition, I found that teaching methods should not just conform to the student, but also to the subject. Some subjects are easier to learn in social settings, like etiquette, while reading comprehension is best learned in solitude. Just use common sense. The most useful discovery, should have been the most obvious. I found that all students learn according to this principle; the more active the learning, the more effective the learning! In short, we learn best by doing, not seeing or hearing.
These discoveries led me to the conclusion that the “learning style theory” was created to torment poor teachers, not enhance learning.
I hope this post got you thinking. Whether you agree or disagree, I would love to read your comment. Thanks for reading!