Learning Styles

I tend to get fixated on things. I obsess over something for a while, then I get bored and move on: astronomy; hakko-ryu aikijitsu; writing a novel; God; writing a blog, and so on. Right now I seem to be obsessing over learning styles. I seem to have begun a lone crusade to preach the message about the sheer nonsense of learning styles.

I used to think they made sense, but then I got onto Twitter. More than any CPD thing throughout my entire career, I have learnt loads from Twitter, not least about John Hattie and Daniel Willingham. My casual acceptance of VAK was called into question by a range of Tweeters and bloggers who I won’t list here (maybe in a future blog I will).

Now I have the zeal of new faith, and a desire, it seems, to proselytise about the nonsense, and possible dangers, of learning styles and Brain Gym. I’m getting a reputation at work. A member of SLT (and a friend) jokingly sort of compared me to Hitler on the issue. This was weird. On www.politicalcompass.org I’m over there with Ghandi. And the Green Party, it seems. I digress.

I wrote a newsletter about the myths and emailed to all colleagues. In it, I published the results of a little quiz I’d done with staff about neuromyths believed by teachers. It copied some of the statements from Dekker et al (2012), and showed that of my very small sample, Dekker’s results were echoed. My newsletter provided a bunch of links to people like Hattie, Willingham and Goldacre.
I got one reply, expressing interest in the piece.

Am I in danger of simply being an arse?

It’s quite clear amongst some colleagues that learning styles is not as dead as it should be. Indeed, green shoots of new growth are emerging. What is it about this particular myth that it still holds sway with so many? Is my zeal matched by an ardent faith-like position which refuses to see the blatantly obvious? Is VAK akin to Young Earth Creationism? And is it really my place to be making a big deal about it? Shouldn’t I just get on with teaching stuff to my kids? Should I
stay true to my Taoist leanings and just let others get on with it? Go with the flow?

Perhaps I shall get bored soon and move onto obsessing over something else.


Dekker, S., Lee, N.C., Howard-Jones, P., et al. (2012) Neuromyths in Education: Prevalence and Predictors of Misconceptions among Teachers. Frontiers in psychology [online], 3 (October): 429. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=3475349&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract

Goldacre, B. (2006) Brain Gym – Name & Shame [online]. Available from: http://www.badscience.net/2006/03/the-brain-drain/

Hattie, J. (2008) Visible Learning. London, New York: Routledge

Reiner, C. and Willingham, D. (2010) The Myth of Learning Styles. Change [online]. Available from: http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/September-October%202010/the-myth-of-learning-full.html

Willingham, D. (n.d.) Learning Styles FAQ [online]. Available from: http://www.danielwillingham.com/learning-styles-faq.html


7 thoughts on “Learning Styles

  1. I do agree in terms of teaching – but I have to admit, if I need to drive to a new place, I have to see and look at a map to visualise where I’m going – it’s no good at all if I listen to instructions or directions. Had always classed myself as a visual learner? But as a teacher, think Brain Gym is a load of pants!

  2. BTW that political compass site makes everyone more left wing than you would expect.
    Of course we would like to look at a map. Anyway maybe a visual learner would be the one that easily makes a map of the instructions in their mind to remember them.
    I have a sim problem. I did once talk the the head os SEN and wonder if I should try and get the head of PHSE to take the silly VAK test off the study skills course. If I try I will immediately feel like zealot. I am pinning my hopes on QI asking it as a question one day on so I can refer to how it was on the telly.

    • I don’t see that with Political Compass, but I do think it makes us think again about what we mean by left and right. And that most discourse in politics and the media gets it hopelessly wrong.

  3. The compass manages to make many of my right wing private school A level Politics students appear left wing. We do the compass now with the lower 6 as they start their A2 political ideologies course. It was just a flippant remark though – of course it is very useful!

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