The Problem with Learning Styles and How to Use It to Your Benefit
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Do you know your learning style?
Some students will confidently give a definitive answer to this question. Others might hesitate. However, regardless of which category you fall into, you have probably heard about this idea at least once in your life.
The concept of “learning styles” is still greatly favored in schools and colleges. Many educators rely on it in their day-to-day teachings. However, despite its popularity, empirical evidence for the benefits of this theory are limited. Numerous online publications are quick to point that out and discredit this concept entirely.
So, are learning styles completely useless?
We don’t think so! In this article, our experts scrutinize their credibility and offer alternative ways of thinking about this theory. We’ll also discuss various learning styles and how to use them. Finally, you will find some practical examples on how to use different learning approaches in your education to ensure maximum efficiency.
📚 What Are Learning Styles?
Learning styles refer to how students obtain, process, understand, and retain information. The idea is fairly simple – every person has a particular way of learning that suits them best. When sticking to it, we memorize information and understand concepts much better than we would otherwise.
Thus, auditory learners thrive when listening, discussing topics, and participating in debates. Kinesthetic students use gestures to express ideas and learn best from hands-on experience. A read/write style emphasizes written exercises and plenty of reading. Visual learners organize their learning experience via images, graphs, and pictures.
The 8 Learning Styles
The theory of learning styles has gone through an impressive evolution throughout its history. This concept began with three types known as VAK (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). Later on, another type (read/write) was included, turning VAK into VARK. Here, we briefly describe what each component of this acronym stands for.
|👁 Visual||Visual learners prefer informational intake as charts, diagrams, and maps. However, they don’t always work well with videos and images, as they require shapes and patterns to comprehend information. They often work with mind maps and flowcharts to improve their educational process.|
|👂 Auditory||This style emphasizes the use of spoken word. Audio learning involves listening to lectures, audiobooks, and podcasts about different subjects. Such students better comprehend concepts when explaining them out loud.|
|👋 Kinesthetic||With kinesthetic learning, you get a lot of hands-on experience. For example, a person may not quite understand the experiment on paper but conducting it makes everything fall into place. Hence, practice, simulation, and examples are critical in this study method.|
|✍️ Reading/writing||As the name suggests, reading/writing learners process information primarily through these activities. It involves reading many scientific papers, textbooks, and nonfiction works. Such students excel at written assignments and quizzes.|
These four learning types aren’t the only ones in existence. Many proponents of this theory believe that there are many more educational styles. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman even wrote that there were as many as 170 learning types. We’re not going to cover all of those here. Instead, we will talk about the additional four styles that professionals acknowledge when discussing this theory.
|🧠 Logical||This approach relies on logic and analysis in understanding different subjects. It has students search for connections, causes, results, and patterns. They excel when being asked interpretive questions and utilizing problem-solving skills.|
|👄 Social||The social method encourages group studying. It allows learners to gain additional insights and hone social skills. Sometimes, sharing stories and role-playing are involved in group activities.|
|👤 Solitary||This learning style is reserved for those who prefer to study by themselves. They excel when not being bothered by other learners and focusing on solo assignments. It highlights their problem-solving skills and individual qualities.|
|🍃 Natural||Students using this approach need to be in a natural environment. They learn better when outside. While only sometimes available, the method is effective under the right circumstances.|
📏 Learning Styles: Facts and Myths
As we have covered above, learning styles are appealing because they make intuitive sense. But despite copious amounts of research, there is no empirical evidence that supports the learning styles foundation. That is why some people want to eliminate learning styles entirely, stating that the methods have no apparent advantages. On the other hand, there are adamant defenders of the theory despite its flaws.
As with many other educational myths, there is a lot of misinformation concerning learning styles. It becomes easy to lose sight of the truth when at the epicenter of heated debates about this theory. That’s why in this section of the article, we want to establish what’s fact and what’s fiction.