Scientists: Schools need to stop pushing the 'neuromyth' of learning styles

By Andrew Pillow

We have all heard the idea of “Learning Styles” before. Many of us have even taken, or given tests designed to pinpoint someone’s exact learning style. Well as it turns out Neuroscientists are increasingly encouraging educators to NOT use the myth of learning styles to inform instruction.

According to popular theory there are Seven different learning styles: Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social, and Solitary. Well meaning teachers often attempt to foster greater learning by “matching” students with their expressed learning styles. Scientists are now claiming that this very widespread and popular theory has no research basis. 

The Educational Endowment Foundation sums up current research on learning styles:

“There is very limited evidence for any consistent set of learning ‘styles’ that can be used reliably to identify genuine differences in the learning needs of young people, and evidence suggests that it is unhelpful to assign learners to groups or categories on the basis of a supposed learning style.
Overall the evidence shows an average impact of 2 months progress for learning style interventions. However, given the limited evidence for the existence of ‘learning styles’, it is reasonable to conclude that these gains may be the result of pupils taking responsibility for their own learning (see Meta-cognition) or from teachers using a wider range of activities to teach the same content, rather than the result of different learning styles.
Learning preferences do change in different situations and over time and there is some evidence that cognitive preference and task type may be connected (for example, visualization is particularly valuable for some areas of mathematics). However, studies where teaching activities are targeted towards particular learners based on an identified learning ‘style’ have not convincingly shown any major benefit, particularly for low attaining pupils. Impacts recorded are generally low or negative.”

The theory of learning styles may not be as popular as it once was, however it is still in use in many classrooms today.

Read more here. (The Guardian)


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.