Myths & Legends: Learning Styles
In a new segment we’re calling “Myths and Legends,” we’re debunking some common misunderstandings with science. This week we’re focusing on learning styles, a topic that just won’t go away.
We’re referring, of course, to the common belief that people’s brains are wired to learn a specific way: by hearing information (auditory learners), by seeing instruction presented visually (visual learners), or by doing something physical (kinesthetic learners). This theory, presented by Fleming & Mills in 1992, is commonly accepted wisdom, and many people tasked with learning and development have since then relied on their understanding of learning styles to vary the modality of their instruction.
The problem is, there’s no real evidence to support this theory of learning styles, and on the contrary, there’s plenty of evidence debunking it. So, why does this myth continue to be so pervasive? Catherine Scott, a senior research fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research, explains in her article from 2010: “We know ‘what works’ and what are the attributes of highly effective teaching, but evidence-based practices lack the ‘sound bite’ appeal and easy marketability of learning styles theory. Learning styles as an idea chimes well with the individualist value system of our culture… but there is no credible evidence that it is a valid basis for pedagogical decision-making.”
We’ll cover another myth soon, but until then, read more on learning styles here: