The myth of learning styles

Makes me a bit of a heretic because everyone loves a good assessment, but finally, this is getting discussed more widely. People love to be “typed” and be told what they are, versus really thinking about who they want to become. We are multidimensional beings, and single-note assessments rarely take that into account. More rarely, trainings seldom drive that point home. Instead, they reinforce that “you are X” through tests and questionnaires.

Like any theory, hold these ideas very (very) lightly, while really keeping your eye toward your ultimate goals.


From Psychological Science in the PUBLIC INTEREST…

Most learning-styles taxonomies are based on ‘‘type’’ theories: That is, they classify people into supposedly distinct groups, rather than assigning people graded scores on different dimensions.

The lineage of these theories can be traced back to the first modern typological theorizing in the personality field, which was undertaken by the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst C.G. Jung (1964). Jung’s ideas were explicitly incorporated into a psychological test developed in the United States, the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator test. This test became very popular starting in the 1940s and remains widely used to this day.

The Myers–Briggs categorizes people into a number of groups, providing information that is said to be helpful in making occupational decisions. The assumption that people actually cluster into distinct groups as measured by this test has received little support from objective studies (e.g., Druckman & Porter, 1991; Stricker & Ross, 1964), but this lack of support has done nothing to dampen its popularity. It seems that the idea of finding out ‘‘what type of person one is’’ has some eternal and deep appeal, and the success of the Myers–Briggs test promoted the development of typebased learning-style assessments.

From the article “The concept of different “learning styles” is one of the greatest neuroscience myths“….

…it seems that many people simply want to believe in learning myths. After Coffield published his study in 2004, he told The Guardian, “Low-cost and easily implemented classroom approaches can certainly cultivate wishfulness amongst educators, especially if they are fun and therefore likely to be well received by students.”


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