Experts warn against teaching to learning styles in K-12

Dive Brief:

  • Teaching to students' learning styles is ineffective, not backed by evidence and should be abandoned, say leading experts in education and psychology.
  • Thirty such experts recently signed a letter to the Guardian criticizing the practice of teaching to learning styles and calling it a "neuromyth," suggesting instead that educators focus on evidence-based practices.
  • One concern is that it may limit students' mindsets, teaching them to believe that they can only learn in a particular way or with certain material.

Dive Insight

The learning styles debate has gone on for years, though most experts now agree that there is no research supporting that they exist. But the idea has been stubbornly persistent in education, where a majority of educators still believe they do. Researchers do admit that learners are different and that they have preferences for how they wish to learn material. The main issue is that tailoring instruction to meet these preferences takes time away from educators that could be better spent on evidence-based practices, and it may actually limit students' educational experiences by shutting them off to certain learning avenues.

Teaching students in different ways, however, is a central part of Universal Design for Learning, an approach that seeks to make learning accessible for all learners, including those with physical or learning disabilities. Unlike the learning styles approach, which looks at how students learn best and focuses on those specific approaches, UDL stresses that learners should take multiple avenues  auditory, visual, etc  to learn the same material.

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Filed Under: K12 Policy & Regulation