Learning Styles . . . An Incoherent Notion? What the Research Reveals

Dr. Jolly Holden’s view that learning styles are an incoherent notion, and finding what motivates learners is far more effective really resonated with me.

In his presentation he asserted, “The concept of learning styles in predicting learning outcomes is a commonly misunderstood concept when designing content. While the perception is people learn better when information is presented in their preferred learning style, current evidence has not confirmed this”. Visual/Auditory/Kinesetic (VAK) is not a style, but a modality. The bottom line is that  “humans are multi-sensory” in that the brain performs several activities at once when processing information. Learning (retention) is generally independent of the modality used to acquire whatever is learned.

Some misperception that the media used affects retention, often illustrated erroneously and incorrectly by the Cone of Experience, which is too general, doesn’t take into account individual learners and their motivations, the quality of the content, and is not backed by any sort of evidence based verification.

Learning styles provide no indication of what the student are capable of. What is most important is motivation, ideally intrinsic motivation. Don’t stereotype your students and limit them. Students can learn from something scrawled on a “greasy old paper bag” if they are motivated.