Why learning styles are hard to give up

Some of my students refuse to believe the theory of learning styles is discredited. Referring them to Wikipedia or literature reviews isn’t sufficient because they strongly identify as visual or tactile learners. It’s a deeply felt intuition—which I share as well.

I think the intuition is misleading because we confuse style with preferences and with ability thresholds. Einstein, a brilliant autodidact, can learn a difficult concept (like gyroscopic precession) from a dry and boring text. I can learn the same concept only by way of a visual demonstration, such Derek Muller’s.

I might mistakenly conclude “I’m a visual learner,” but Einstein can also learn from the demonstration. Everyone benefits from a great demonstration. People do have different abilities, and we’ll encounter different thresholds at which we then want a better learning method. But this is different from what learning style theory predicts, that (1) you can identify people who learn better through one style/modality and (2) they actually do better in a curriculum tailored for that style and people with different purported styles do not. There is little evidence of this.

Comments !