Earlier today, I was scrolling online and found an article called All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth. The title caught my eye because it surprised me. Throughout our class, we have discussed potential solution to many problems in education, such as standardization. We have posited that kids may benefit from more individualization; it may even be necessary to do away with standardized tests all together. People in my small group once entertained the idea of allowing test choice, or project alternatives. That way, a student who tends to perform better on essay tests has the option of taking a more writing-heavy exam. If another student believes he learns more efficiently “by doing,” then he may choose to complete a project instead of a test. No matter the education issue, our class conversation always seems to end up at individualizing students’ learning.
I vividly remember taking a short test in the 5th grade that determined our “learning styles.” My result was auditory learner, meaning that I process information best by hearing it. I could definitely see how this was true. Even today, I rarely take written notes, choosing to listen instead. I (think that I) learn more efficiently when I pay attention to the teacher’s words and don’t have to worry about taking notes. I’ve always enjoyed podcasts, discussions, and audiobooks. However, one time, I got an answer in the Geography Bee correct because I suddenly remembered a diagram from an old textbook. For other subjects, I am incapable of understanding anything until I’ve completed the activity myself, such as learning dance choreography or even doing a math problem.
The article suggests that most students learn in a myriad of ways, despite the prevailing learning style myth. The author explains that “usually the most effective way for us to learn is based not on our individual preferences but on the nature of the material we’re being taught – just try learning French grammar pictorially, or learning geometry purely verbally.” Even if it’s true that different learning styles apply to different subjects rather than individual students, what is wrong with that assumption? Shouldn’t we encourage students to seek a method that works for them?
One problem is accommodation. If an elementary school teacher, for instance, is responsible for 30 students, how could she possible tailor a curriculum to match each one’s particular preference? Would students that young even be able to tell how they best learn, with such little experience in the school system? Applying the learning styles approach would be a nightmare in high school, especially considering that many high school teachers have at least 60 students. Some experts believe that instead of assigning students a label and teaching “to their strengths,” it is more productive to help them conquer their weaknesses. Furthermore, learning styles can become both a self-fulfilling prophecy and an excuse poor performance in certain tasks. When I received my result, I started to genuinely believe that listening in the classroom was my best bet…so I stopped taking notes. Auditory learning has been relatively more positive than negative for me, but I do regret not taking that time in my life to practice my note-taking skills. I’ve also found it easy sometimes to blame a low grade on the testing/learning style, when really I should have just studied more.
Though individual learning styles may not be as valuable as we thought, diversifying teaching methods definitely has its merits. Students deserve exposure to a variety of methods so they can adapt to–and hopefully excel in–each.