No evidence to back idea of learning styles
On Sunday, the Guardian published a letter signed by a number of prominent psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists and the like. Coincidentally, the list includes Steven Pinker who I happened to be quoting in a post from the same day.
Here’s the title:
No evidence to back idea of learning styles
Here are the first two paragraphs:
There is widespread interest among teachers in the use of neuroscientific research findings in educational practice. However, there are also misconceptions and myths that are supposedly based on sound neuroscience that are prevalent in our schools. We wish to draw attention to this problem by focusing on an educational practice supposedly based on neuroscience that lacks sufficient evidence and so we believe should not be promoted or supported.
Generally known as “learning styles”, it is the belief that individuals can benefit from receiving information in their preferred format, based on a self-report questionnaire. This belief has much intuitive appeal because individuals are better at some things than others and ultimately there may be a brain basis for these differences. Learning styles promises to optimise education by tailoring materials to match the individual’s preferred mode of sensory information processing.
Here are the last few paragraphs:
Finally, and most damning, is that there have been systematic studies of the effectiveness of learning styles that have consistently found either no evidence or very weak evidence to support the hypothesis that matching or “meshing” material in the appropriate format to an individual’s learning style is selectively more effective for educational attainment. Students will improve if they think about how they learn but not because material is matched to their supposed learning style. The Educational Endowment Foundation in the UK has concluded that learning styles is “Low impact for very low cost, based on limited evidence”.
These neuromyths may be ineffectual, but they are not low cost. We would submit that any activity that draws upon resources of time and money that could be better directed to evidence-based practices is costly and should be exposed and rejected. Such neuromyths create a false impression of individuals’ abilities, leading to expectations and excuses that are detrimental to learning in general, which is a cost in the long term.
One way forward is to draw attention to practices that are not evidence-based and to encourage neuroscientists and educationalists to promote the need for critical thinking when evaluating the claims for educational benefits supposedly based on neuroscience. As part of Brain Awareness Week that begins 13 March, we support neuroscientists going into schools to talk about their research but also to raise awareness of neuromyths.
Ah well Mike, were it this simple.
As in any endeavor, evidence can be controversial, and favorite theories come and go in neuroscience as well as teaching.
From experience I have found few able to bridge the gap in theoretical constructs derived for experimental knowns in neuroscience to the entirely different settings and group demands in education…I think it is incumbent on scientists to help translate findings into educational terms but have found a common language lacking from the experts on either side,
Having someone drop in to explain new findings often has little value as the language of experimental findings is simply laid out without help from these scientists…hence becomes a major translation problem on the part of these experts.
Teachers, on the other hand, are not trained from primary or even secondary sources, but tertiary at best. Given the breadth of demands in many educational settings makes it hard to think through original methods. Nor are teachers rewarded for such efforts enough to do so without extraordinary effort.
“You should get out more, Kimel, before expounding upon things you know absolutely nothing about. Such as law and the legal system.”
— Me, in this Comments thread, this morning: http://angrybearblog.strategydemo.com/2017/03/a-bleg.html#comment-2905191
Seems he’s every bit as much an expert in Psychology, neuroscience and Education as he is in Law and the legal system.
I agree with you and the last paragraph of the letter I cited.
This is getting tedious. Exactly what in the post are the signs that I am an expert in Psycology, neuroscience and education? What exactly does your fevered mind think I wrote? Because in the real worlds, I made no pronouncements. Not one. I merely copied and pasted most of a letter that was written by world class experts in cognitive research. Also, I didn’t quote selectively and nothing is out of context. I didn’t even add my thoughts to the body of the post. So absolutely anything you think I am stating in the post is entirely 100% in your head. And if you disagree with what is in the post, you are disagreeing with the people who wrote and signed the letter.
Seriously, any time you find yourself about to say “i agree with Steven Pinker” you should just delete whatever you’re writing and do anything else.
I am fairly convinced that some people have aptitudes for skills that can not be equally well taught in any “format”. This is related, but different from what you are posting about.
Getting a degree in engineering requires you to be able to learn from books. I know a number of people who I think have the problem solving skills to be good engineers, but lack the motivation to get through the courses in a university. I suspect (without much evidence) that this is not quite where the neuroscience evidence is focused, but I know it relates to materials created by people interested in learning styles.
“We would submit that any activity that draws upon resources of time and money that could be better directed to evidence-based practices is costly and should be exposed and rejected.”
Then how will you gather new evidence?