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Thu Mar 16, 2017, 04:32 PM


LTE, Guardian (UK): "No evidence to back idea of learning styles"


There is widespread interest among teachers in the use of neuroscientific research findings in educational practice. However, there are also misconceptions and myths that are supposedly based on sound neuroscience that are prevalent in our schools. We wish to draw attention to this problem by focusing on an educational practice supposedly based on neuroscience that lacks sufficient evidence and so we believe should not be promoted or supported.

Generally known as “learning styles”, it is the belief that individuals can benefit from receiving information in their preferred format, based on a self-report questionnaire. This belief has much intuitive appeal because individuals are better at some things than others and ultimately there may be a brain basis for these differences. Learning styles promises to optimise education by tailoring materials to match the individual’s preferred mode of sensory information processing.

There are, however, a number of problems with the learning styles approach. First, there is no coherent framework of preferred learning styles. Usually, individuals are categorised into one of three preferred styles of auditory, visual or kinesthetic learners based on self-reports. One study found that there were more than 70 different models of learning styles including among others, “left v right brain,” “holistic v serialists,” “verbalisers v visualisers” and so on. The second problem is that categorising individuals can lead to the assumption of fixed or rigid learning style, which can impair motivation to apply oneself or adapt.

Finally, and most damning, is that there have been systematic studies of the effectiveness of learning styles that have consistently found either no evidence or very weak evidence to support the hypothesis that matching or “meshing” material in the appropriate format to an individual’s learning style is selectively more effective for educational attainment. Students will improve if they think about how they learn but not because material is matched to their supposed learning style. The Educational Endowment Foundation in the UK has concluded that learning styles is “Low impact for very low cost, based on limited evidence”....

Professor Bruce Hood
Chair of developmental psychology in society, University of Bristol, founder of Speakezee
Professor Paul Howard-Jones
Chair of neuroscience and education, University of Bristol
Professor Diana Laurillard
Professor of learning with digital technology, UCL Knowledge Lab, University College London
Professor Dorothy Bishop
Professor of developmental neuropsychology, University of Oxford
Professor Frank Coffield
Emeritus professor of education, University College Institute of Education, University of London
Professor Dame Uta Frith
Emeritus Professor, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London
Professor Steven Pinker
Johnstone family professor of psychology, Harvard University
Sir Colin Blakemore
Professor of neuroscience and philosophy, director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, University College London
Professor Hal Pashler
Distinguished professor of psychology, UC San Diego
Dr Peter Etchells
Senior lecturer in biological psychology, Bath Spa University
Dr Nathalia Gjersoe
Senior lecturer in developmental psychology, University of Bath
Professor Gaia Scerif
Professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience, University of Oxford
Dr Sara Baker
Lecturer in psychology and education, University of Cambridge
Dr Matthew Wall
Division of brain sciences, Imperial College London
Dr Jon Simons
Reader in cognitive neuroscience, University of Cambridge
Dr Michelle Ellefson
Senior lecturer in psychology and education, University of Cambridge
Dr Ashok Jansari
Lecturer in cognitive neuropsychology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Molly Crockett
Associate professor of experimental psychology, University of Oxford
Professor Kate Nation
Professor of experimental psychology, University of Oxford
Professor Michael Thomas
Director, University of London Centre for Educational Neuroscience, professor of cognitive neuroscience, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr Nikhil Sharma
Honorary consultant neurologist and senior clinical researcher (MRC),
the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery
Dr David Whitebread
PEDAL research centre, University of Cambridge
Professor Mark Sabbagh
Professor of psychology and neuroscience, Queen’s University, Canada
Dr Cristine Legare
Associate professor of psychology, University of Texas at Austin
Dr Joseph T Devlin
Head of experimental psychology, University College London
Professor Peter Gordon
Program director, neuroscience and education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Professor David Poeppel
Director, department of neuroscience, Max-Planck-Institute, Frankfurt
Professor Brian Butterworth
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Centre for Educational Neuroscience,
University College London
Professor Anil Seth
Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex
Dr Tom Foulsham
Reader in psychology, University of Essex

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Reply LTE, Guardian (UK): "No evidence to back idea of learning styles" (Original post)
friendly_iconoclast Mar 2017 OP
Igel Mar 2017 #1

Response to friendly_iconoclast (Original post)

Thu Mar 16, 2017, 07:52 PM

1. Not the first such statement.

But educators need to save their kids. They seek miracles to be messiahs. This is one such thing.

At an earlier age teaching phonemic awareness is another scheme that's earnestly believed. A good lot review by a good scholar debunked hundreds of articles showing the wonders of teaching phonemic awareness. Bad methodologies or outright manipulation of data or definitions. In the end, of hundreds of articles, two were trustworthy. One showed a slight positive effect, the other a negative effect. No ed publication would touch it, it was too damning of too many ed folk. Phonemic awareness is emergent; at a certain level of fluency and vocabulary, the average human starts to develop it.

It's hard to get through to people relying on crucial yet disproven ideas that continued building on a crumbled foundation works. But they keep on keeping on for the echo chamber.

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