What do teachers think of 'learning styles'?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by miltslackford, May 30, 2012.

  1. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009

    I'm writing this to other teachers who are familiar with the idea of 'learning styles' - as the theory goes, we all have a particular way we prefer to learn. Some of us are auditory, some are tactile/kinaesthetic, some are visual.

    I taught a student and then his father last week. The son is a good student, very enthusiastic and has a great ear. Like a lot of students with a good ear he's not as motivated to use written materials, which means that in the long run he could be held back. I said this to the father.

    His father coaches and had some experience with learning styles and said, well that's because he's an auditory learner.

    It wasn't a serious conversation but it reminded me of this 'learning styles' thing.

    It was involved in my teacher training when I did a short course on how to teach, but it was largely based on classroom learning, and also, I would be lying if I said I used it a lot. Some of the other things being talked about on the course and presented as new ideas were for example the idea that you have two brain hemispheres which think differently, which I have read in a book written in the 1940s called 'The psychology of music' by Percy Buck so it's hardly a new idea. That and 'drink lots of water'. So I treated it as a bit of educational pseudoscience.

    But do other teachers take this into account when making lesson plans, and find it gets good results?

    I've found that playing an instrument is a natural mix of auditory, tactile and visual elements, and I would tend to expect students to use their strengths but also tackle their weaknesses (in a relaxed way..) rather than me consciously pander to them.

    Do any teachers have opinions on this subject?
  2. FutureTense

    FutureTense Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2008
    Wilton, Iowa
    "Learning styles" aren't really a proven hypothesis at this point to be completely honest with you. While it's still widely held that people are a mainly "audio" learning or a "kinesthetic" learner, there's not really any research or science to back it up. Pigeon-holing yourself into one of those will only hinder you in the long run. For example, if I wanted to learn to play guitar, I can't imagine myself just listening to a tape on how to play and then being great at it. Or looking at a diagram and then being a fantastic player. It's a combination of all these things that really gets to people.

    I agree that some people work better with their hands, or can see things abstractly in a way that most people don't grasp, but I don't buy into the whole learning styles deal.

    When I plan a lesson, I generally look at what I know about my particular group of students and where their strenghts/weaknesses lie. Then I craft the lesson based on what works best for those students. It's all about helping the student help themselves. Don't give it to them just because they struggle. From what I've found, the struggle is what makes them really remember it because the struggle made it worthwhile.

    However, I teach high school math, so my situation is quite a bit different from yours. I have 20-30 kids per classroom that, in a perfect world, would all get individualized instruction based on their needs. Sometimes I have to cut corners and appeal to a wider range audience. You have a great setup when you're teaching an instrument. You have a handful of students to work with and each one works in an individual time slot. You have a much better ability to craft each lesson with that particular student in mind. And after a while of doing it, you'll have a stable of lessons you can pull out whenever you need to.

    My two cents.
  3. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Thanks Futuretense. Also thanks for the article kreider - just the sort of thing I was interested to read.
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