in Education

Good teaching is good teaching.

I came across this video recently (thanks Ollie!) from Professor Daniel Willingham, Cognitive Scientist and Neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. He makes great use of YouTube to get across his points about the theory of ‘learning styles‘:

  1. They don’t exist.
  2. Good teaching is good teaching

If you’re a teacher, you need to spend 7 minutes of your life watching this:

I’ve no problem with people using learning styles as a way to get teachers to mix things up differently in the classroom. Where I have got issues is when teachers try to misuse data to define and pigeon-hole students into one dominant learning style. That’s got to be wrong…

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16 Comments

  1. Very true Doug. I teach Spanish with flashcards, objects, songs, actions, words, animations, puppets, videos – in fact, I'll use anything!- but that's because they all help me learn. I have no idea about my learning style as it really depends on my mood, the subject, from whom or what I'm learning and what I'm doing. So if I can't pinpoint my own learning style, how can I expect to do so for my pupils?Lisaxx

  2. Very true Doug. I teach Spanish with flashcards, objects, songs, actions, words, animations, puppets, videos – in fact, I’ll use anything!- but that’s because they all help me learn. I have no idea about my learning style as it really depends on my mood, the subject, from whom or what I’m learning and what I’m doing. So if I can’t pinpoint my own learning style, how can I expect to do so for my pupils?
    Lisaxx

  3. Doug, the book Brain Rules by John Medina also debunks this theory. According to Medina we all have our own learning style because each brain is different. In essence, there are billions of learning styles or “intelligences.”

  4. Doug, the book Brain Rules by John Medina also debunks this theory. According to Medina we all have our own learning style because each brain is different. In essence, there are billions of learning styles or “intelligences.”

  5. Very true Doug. I have never been a fan of preferred learning styles when they affect classroom practice as you describe. For example, I;m sure that many teachers have had the experience where a pupil refuses to cooperate because they are a visual learner.

    I think that learning styles are just one example of where teachers have looked for a ‘catch all’ solution. The same could be said for thinking hats and countless other initiatives. The important feature of good teaching is variety. These strategies are just tools in the kit to be called upon when needed.

  6. Very Interesting video. I tend to feel that much of someones learning style is not so much auditory vs. visual, but capturing an interest level by using the senses in appropriate ways. When I teach theory of computers and networking, I find that if I can immediately capture a students interest and follow it with good graphical and auditory presentation, they will be much more apt to capture the information I am teaching.

    Take this video for example. It was presented very well in an auditory fashion and was followed by visual cues that kept the listeners attention. The video would make no sense without the auditory portion and would be rather dry without the visual cues. Together, they present a theory that can hold most peoples interest.

  7. Very true Doug. I have never been a fan of preferred learning styles when they affect classroom practice as you describe. For example, I;m sure that many teachers have had the experience where a pupil refuses to cooperate because they are a visual learner.I think that learning styles are just one example of where teachers have looked for a 'catch all' solution. The same could be said for thinking hats and countless other initiatives. The important feature of good teaching is variety. These strategies are just tools in the kit to be called upon when needed.

  8. Very Interesting video. I tend to feel that much of someones learning style is not so much auditory vs. visual, but capturing an interest level by using the senses in appropriate ways. When I teach theory of computers and networking, I find that if I can immediately capture a students interest and follow it with good graphical and auditory presentation, they will be much more apt to capture the information I am teaching.Take this video for example. It was presented very well in an auditory fashion and was followed by visual cues that kept the listeners attention. The video would make no sense without the auditory portion and would be rather dry without the visual cues. Together, they present a theory that can hold most peoples interest.

  9. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I think we’re all agreed that learning styles is a good heuristic for introducing different types of activity. That’s *all* it is though – categorising students narrowly is not the way forward!

  10. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I think we're all agreed that learning styles is a good heuristic for introducing different types of activity. That's *all* it is though – categorising students narrowly is not the way forward!

  11. Doug, I agree. We are a combination of learning styles and these can differ according to what we are learning . We as teachers need to help students strengthen all learning styles. I explain that to my students and encourage them to develop their less preferred learning styles. They seem to accept this.

  12. Doug, I agree. We are a combination of learning styles and these can differ according to what we are learning . We as teachers need to help students strengthen all learning styles. I explain that to my students and encourage them to develop their less preferred learning styles. They seem to accept this.