Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Learning styles: where’s the evidence?

"Whereas modern medicine owes much of its success to its reliance upon evidence-based treatments, most popular techniques of instruction have not been subjected to thorough empirical scrutiny. A particularly glaring and costly result of this, we argue, is the wide acceptance of the idea that instruction should be tailored to a student’s so-called learning style. For example, students might be divided into visual learners and verbal learners (on the basis of a learning style test given to each student) and then provided with instruction that emphasises pictures or words, respectively. The visual–verbal distinction is only one simple example of the many proposed taxonomies; a recent review described 71 different schemes. Given this advocacy by academics and the ensuing heartfelt praise of educators, tailoring instruction to students’ style is now a prevalent and profitable enterprise. However, as we and others have pointed out, a thoughtful review of the data provides no support for style-based instruction."

"Our search of the literature on learning styles revealed that the appropriate design was used in only a handful of studies."

"There exist a smattering of positive findings with unknown effect sizes that are eclipsed by a much greater number of published failures."

"There presently is no empirical justification for tailoring instruction to students’ supposedly different learning styles."

Learning styles: where's the evidence? Med.Educ., 2012, 46, 7, 634-635

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