Saturday, 30 June 2007

Learning styles

I came across two articles today discussing learning styles. One was on the blog of Clark Quinn, the other on the blog of Harold Jarche. It was good to see some healthy critisism of our hangup with learning styles.

Don't get me wrong, I do think there is some use in the idea of learning styles. When designing resources or activities, it is paramount that we look at the design from different angles and perspectives. Using learning styles can be a great way to do this. When used appropriately, this will help you create flexible and varied learning resources and activities, that have the potential to support rich learning for a wide variety of learners.

The problem arises when we give in to our innate need to categorize people. Learning styles seem like such a wonderful tool to slap a 'this is how you teach me' manual on people. I just don't think we can and should simplify personal learning in this way. Aside from the question of wether or not the categories used are the right ones, and the diagnostic tools accurate, there is a more fundamental problem: People don't learn best using a single style. Powerful learning occurs when people are stimulated an a varied and rich way, for instance by addressing multiple senses.

When linking in new concepts with existing ones, the question isn't what the best single link is we can make. The question is how we can make as many useful links as possible. That is what results in powerful long term and deep learning.


Clark said...

Rene, yes, learning styles as 'awareness raising', but not as a validated tool; the research is still too problematic.

Harold Jarche said...

Just like Bloom's taxonomy, learning styles are descriptive not prescriptive.