More about the learning styles myth


OPINION: Dr. Ann Luzeckyj

Senior Lecturer in Higher Education: First Year Undergraduate Teaching Adviser – CILT

Lake, Boyd and Boyd (2017) discuss the issue of learning styles terminology from a research perspective, highlighting the confusions and questions raised by the various uses of terminology and differences across both language and use. They suggest that part of the issue stems from the context in which the term in use is derived. They argue that confusion arises in research because authors assume readers appreciate the way in which terminology is used and share their capacity to understand the various nuances and differences that arise in the texts they write discussing learning styles.

The authors discuss a range of research papers which explore ways of considering learning and identify a number of potential methods for clustering them as well as proposing different terminology to name the approaches. They suggest ‘learning dimensions’ or ‘modalities’ and argue that adding clarity regarding the contexts in which the language is used would also benefit readers.

Given the confusion relating to research about learning styles and the identified need for clarity, one is left wondering what value these ‘styles’ offer to teaching? The most salient point I take from the article is the need for engagement between teachers and learners. As Lake, Boyd and Boyd put it, “One of the defining characteristics of scholars of teaching and learning is their engagement with their partners in teaching and learning, the students.” (Lake 2017 p. 1).

The imperative therefore is to ensure we engage our students and support their learning, regardless of how we or our learners name the particular modality or style in which it occurs.

Full paper by Lake, Warren W.; Boyd, William E.; and Boyd, Wendy (2017) “Learning styles terminology: What is the researcher talking about?,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 11: No. 2, Article 2.

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