It’s a question you’ve probably been asked at some point: What’s your learning style?
Are you someone who learns best visually through infographics, or are you better when reading something for yourself such as a textbook?
The notion of learning styles has become commonplace in modern classrooms, with vast sums invested into the topic across the country.
But is there any scientific proof to back this theory up?
Interestingly, as more scientific research comes out, the evidence that we all fit neatly into these learning styles is becoming very thin.
Has the learning style myth been debunked?
Read on to find out.
What are the different learning styles?
Learning styles are a classification method for the different ways that people supposedly learn.
Some people feel like they learn better visually from watching videos or in-person demonstrations.
Others feel like they learn more effectively via written word, reading texts, writing, etc.
The different learning styles come under four distinct categories, also known as VARK, which stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinesthetic:
Visual Learning Style
Visual learners are thought to learn better from visual cues such as:
- Video content
It is said that visual learners are very color-oriented, tend to think in images and find it easy to visualize objects or places.
Aural Learning Style
Aural learners supposedly learn best by hearing and listening, responding well to group discussions and verbal demonstrations.
The presumption is that aural learners remember things they’ve heard by storing information by how it sounds, so verbal instructions will have more impact on aural learners than written instructions.
Read/Write Learning Style
Individuals categorized as read/write learners are thought to ingest knowledge best by reading and writing.
Students who fall into this learning style are encouraged to use written materials, such as textbooks, notes, and dictionaries, to reinforce their learning. These learners are also considered to benefit from note-taking and silent reading.
Kinesthetic Learning Style
The belief for kinesthetic learners is that they learn from physical interaction, or simply ‘learn by doing’ rather than reading, watching, or listening.
They are considered to learn best when they can interact, manipulate and touch material to learn, allowing them to experiment and problem-solve themselves rather than having things dictated to them.
Where did the VARK classification come from?
Different learning styles have been hypothesized and talked about for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the VARK model was first proposed by Neil Fleming of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Up until this point, there had been no cohesive process to categorize people into their respective learning style categories systematically.
That’s where Neil Flemming’s Vark questionnaire came in: a series of questions designed to categorize individuals into the different VARK model styles of learning.
Does the VARK model work?
Although the VARK model has been popularised since the early 2000s, scientific research points to the fact that the model simply doesn’t work.
Intuitively, you may have found yourself thinking that you use a mixture of all four of those learning methods. Perhaps someone’s preferred learning style depends more on the type of information they are learning rather than a natural predisposition to any one approach.
Modern psychology would support this claim. The notion that we all fit neatly into these learning style categories has been proven to be unfounded.
The myth of learning styles has officially been debunked.
Learning styles theory debunked: What the research says
More and more research has been carried out on the validity of the VARK learning styles, notably the report – Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence – authored by a team of researchers in the psychology of learning—Hal Pashler (University of San Diego), Mark McDaniel (Washington University in St. Louis), Doug Rohrer (University of South Florida), and Robert Bjork (University of California, Los Angeles).
The report reviews the existing research on the different learning styles finding numerous holes in the tests carried out, most notably the absence of randomized research designs needed to make their findings scientifically valid.
The report suggests that for an experiment to be definitive on the subject, it would need to classify learners into different categories, assign learners to one of the different learning styles, then randomly assign them to focus on one of the VARK learning methods. Test subjects would then need to take the same test at the end of the experiment.
Unfortunately, little such scientific research has been done.
If the notion of learning styles were accurate, you’d expect visual learners to learn better visually, and kinesthetic learners to learn better kinesthetically. However, after rigorous testing, the report findings were that this presumption is false.
Not only did the study find no evidence to support the learning style theory, it actually found evidence that contradicts it entirely.
Test subjects showed decreased learning performance when learning in their preferred style.
The findings of this report rightly raise concerns over the lack of credible evidence for the VARK model’s utility in education and raise big questions about the level of resources funneled into supporting this learning style model, with little to no verifiable evidence to support it.
How technology can help all learners in the classroom
With the learning style model debunked, let’s get back to the subject of helping students learn more effectively in the classroom.
And as it turns out, there are some interesting ways that advancements in technology are helping learners in the classroom already:
As technology is integrated into the classroom, students are reaping the benefits of more engaged learning.
Children now have access to fully interactive displays where they can collaborate, share, and immerse themselves in their learning in highly engaging ways – a far cry from the traditional teacher-and-whiteboard model of years gone by.
Learn Your Way
Advances in technology in the classroom are opening up possibilities of a more personalized learning experience, flexible to the needs of the individual.
Students can now fully interact with their lesson material in new and exciting ways that help them absorb the information at their own pace in a way that suits them. Whether that’s by video, audio, visual slides, infographics, or the ability to annotate texts, share notes and access the world’s information at their fingertips.
Technology in the classroom is transforming the way children learn, empowering students to create individualized learning environments that complement their learning style perfectly.
Student collaboration helps to develop higher levels of thinking, self-management, increased self-esteem, and student responsibility, alongside a host of other learning benefits.
And technology can aid students in creating new collaborative, social learning environments in fun and exciting ways.
From collaborating on joint tasks in real-time to sharing and commenting on group projects, peer-to-peer feedback, and much more.
Children interacting with technology in the classroom from a young age regularly develop technological literacy very early on.
They adapt to new technology quickly and pick up new skills fast.
And with the rapidly evolving technological environment, children with these foundational technical skills will be well-positioned to lead at the forefront in the rapidly evolving future.
With the overwhelming evidence confirming the lack of any merit to the different learning styles whatsoever, it’s safe to say that the learning style theory has been officially debunked.
However, that now sets us free to focus on the primary objective of improving children’s learning experience in our schools.
With technology at the forefront of these advancements, it’s a great time to be looking for innovative ways to integrate it into your classroom.
We at Promethean specialize in such classroom technology in Australia.
To see how we can integrate cutting-edge education into your classroom, get in touch with one of our experts for a free consultation and a virtual demo !