Learning Styles, ha, ha, ha, ha

retro-postI wrote this post in Thursday, December 08, 2005, but I’m reposting it here because some people still have not got the message.


Normally, I would not expect to get many chuckles from a 186-page report entitled Learning styles and pedagogy post-16 learning A systematic and critical review, 2004, by Frank Coffield, Institute of Education, University of London; David Moseley, University of Newcastle; Elaine Hall, University of Newcastle; Kathryn Ecclestone, University of Exeter. This is an exception.

This marvelously tongue-in-cheek report looks at 800 studies of learning styles and concludes that there are better uses for educational funding. “Learning style awareness is only a ‘cog in the wheel of the learning process’ and ‘it is not very likely that the self-concept of a student, once he or she has reached a certain age, will drastically develop by learning about his or her personal style’.”

The authors at the Learning and Skills Research Centre doubtless had a rollicking good time coming up with conclusions like “Research into learning styles can, in the main, be characterised as small-scale, non-cumulative, uncritical and inward-looking. It has been carried out largely by cognitive and educational psychologists, and by researchers in business schools and has not benefited from much interdisciplinary research.”

And how about this? “The sheer number of dichotomies in the literature conveys something of the current conceptual confusion. We have, in this review, for instance, referred to:

  • convergers versus divergers
  • verbalisers versus imagers
  • holists versus serialists
  • deep versus surface learning
  • activists versus reflectors
  • pragmatists versus theorists
  • adaptors versus innovators
  • assimilators versus explorers
  • field dependent versus field independent
  • globalists versus analysts
  • assimilators versus accommodators
  • imaginative versus analytic learners
  • non-committers versus plungers
  • common-sense versus dynamic learners
  • concrete versus abstract learners
  • random versus sequential learners
  • initiators versus reasoners
  • intuitionists versus analysts
  • extroverts versus introverts
  • sensing versus intuition
  • thinking versus feeling
  • judging versus perceiving
  • left brainers versus right brainers
  • meaning-directed versus undirected
  • theorists versus humanitarians
  • activists versus theorists
  • pragmatists versus reflectors
  • organisers versus innovators
  • lefts/analytics/inductives/successive processors
  • versus rights/globals/deductives/
  • simultaneous processors
  • executive, hierarchic, conservative versus legislative,
  • anarchic, liberal.

“The sheer number of dichotomies betokens a serious failure of accumulated theoretical coherence and an absence of well-grounded findings, tested through replication. Or to put the point differently: there is some overlap among the concepts used, but no direct or easy comparability between approaches; there is no agreed ‘core’ technical vocabulary. The outcome – the constant generation of new approaches, each with its own language – is both bewildering and off-putting to practitioners and to other academics who do not specialise in this field.”

The question at the end of the 186-page report asks whether government doesn’t have better things to do with its money, “Finally, we want to ask: why should politicians, policy-makers, senior managers and practitioners in post-16 learning concern themselves with learning styles, when the really big issues concern the large percentages of students within the sector who either drop out or end up without any qualifications?”

 

One thought on “Learning Styles, ha, ha, ha, ha

  1. Pingback: Two for Tuesday: Learning Styles and Collaboration

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