Debunking the benefits of learning styles
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Debunking the benefits of learning styles

Debunking the benefits of learning styles

If you’ve been subscribing to one learning style to improve your studies, you may want to rethink your study approach.

According to this study, while popular in the education sphere, the method isn’t necessarily the most effective for students.

Learning styles refer to the theory that our individual learning preferences affect our ability to process information.

There are four types: visual learners learn best through the use of images; auditory learners learn best through sound and music; verbal learners have a preference for words, be it speech or writing; and physical learners learn best through hands-on learning.

Researchers from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece and the University of Dundee, Scotland, found a mismatch between how students and teachers agree on how individual students learn best.

A total of 199 primary school students in Athens were asked to identify themselves as either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. Researchers then asked their teachers to judge each students’ learning style with the same paradigm.

Results showed that the teachers’ and students’ answers did not match, suggesting that teachers who adopt certain learning styles do little to enhance students’ ability to process new information.

Similar results were also obtained from studies involving undergraduate students, including this one, where anatomy students were asked to take a VARK (visual, aural, read/write and kinesthetic) survey. The survey is to determine how an individual learns best before studying using their dominant learning style.

The results showed that most students did not study using their dominant learning style that correlated with their VARK assessment, while students who studied using their dominant learning style did not achieve better grades than others.

It’s not just new research that has thrashed the notion that different learning methods benefit students’ learning outcome – past research also shows a lack of scientific evidence to the benefits of aligning teaching styles with students’ learning styles.  

So unless your learning style has been working for you, you may want to question claims to the benefits of adopting particular styles of learning and instead take it with a pinch of salt.

Scientific American notes that while “it is clear that people have a strong sense of their own learning preferences (e.g. visual, kinesthetic, intuitive), but it is less clear that these preferences matter.”

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