Dr. V.S. Gayathri
Learning Style Is A Myth!
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
Learning is a continuous process for any individual. Right from birth, we start the learning process which continues almost till our lifetime. Even if we do not realize, we keep learning something all the time.
It has been said that we all have our own way of learning and that defines our learning style.
What is a learning style?
A learning style is the way an individual learns. A style of learning is their preferred way to absorb, process, comprehend and retain information.
Mainly, there are four key learning styles are: visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic.
Visual learners use pictures, graphs and images to organize and communicate their thoughts and learn best from using flash cards. So, their focus is more on visual aids of learning.
Auditory learners prefer to listen, discuss, memorize and debate in class. They learn best from audiobooks rather than print ones. They focus on listening and in the process learn different things.
Tactile learners learn best by touch and movement. They find opportunities to take part in demonstrations, writing or building models.
Finally, Kinesthetic learners use their whole body in the learning process. They mostly use gestures to communicate ideas and learn best in a hands-on environment.
A learning style refers to an individual’s method of making sense of new materials through sight, touch and sound. Taste and smell, although not as frequently used as others can still be effective when aiming to solidify ideas in our brain.
The VARK Questionnaire by Neil Fleming is mostly used to determine the learning style. However, experts differ in their views and aren’t quite convinced with this model.
Though individuals might have some predominant learning characteristics, but it is NOT okay to deduce that they can learn through one way or their learning styles will never overlap. Learning needs to be a free flowing and adaptive process.
That is the reason, it is not believed that learning style is probably a myth. Let us understand why.
“Another study in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.”- Quoted from theatlantic.com
We should not restrict students to a particular learning style because:
Learning is a more extensive process then studying: Students need to understand the difference between studying styles and learning processes. They will develop their own preferences for reviewing content, but deeper cognitive processes like “chunking,” building on prior knowledge, making conceptual connections, and transferring knowledge form their learning process and it cannot be restricted to any one form.
Different types of instruction are beneficial: Students benefit from different kinds of instruction, mostly a variety of them. So, instructors should facilitate a diverse range rather than focusing on a predetermined one for an individual. Hence, they can incorporate active learning, group activities, inclusive teaching strategies, and others to engage students in different ways, including peer learning. Multiple modalities can assist all students regardless of their learning style.
Students must think about how they learn: Research shows that students benefit when they are engaged in assignments, competitive exams, and activities. Also, their learning outcomes improve when instructors help students to think how they are learning concepts, understand how they are drawing inferences and thinking innovatively. This also helps them to understand about their thinking process, and to identify ways to improve their learning and avoid weaker habits of thought. If they are put into some preconceived learning style, this entire process gets ignored.
Instructional methods vary across disciplines and course content: Learning styles always do not fit disciplinary norms; for example, writing courses can benefit from a significant verbal component, or geometry courses from a visual component, and lab classes from an experiential component. Hence, the sensory components can always overlap and cannot be restricted to a particular learning style.