H809: Activity 7.2: Key Concepts
Learning styles: These are approaches to learning concerning the way in which individuals prefer to take in and process information. This simple concept seems intuitive and gained great popularity in the 1970s where proponents suggested that teachers should assess the learning style of their students and teach appropriately. The field became financially very profitable and methods proliferated with very little independent research.
In 2004 Coffield et al. published a report which reviewed 71 learning style inventories and classified them into 5 groups:
- constitutionally-based learning styles and preferences
- cognitive structure
- stable personality type
- 'flexibly stable' learning preferences
- learning approaches and strategies
They concluded that there was no decisive evidence that teaching a student in their preferred learning style led to improved performance and that further research and regulation was required in this field.
My concern has always been that I believe it is really necessary to be able to access information in a variety of styles and the further up the academic level that you progress, the more important it is that you can use a variety of styles.
Another big concern of mine is the categorisation of all learners with dyslexia as visual learners. Dyslexia tuition at university level seems to consist of teaching students to take material from lectures, seminars etc. and re-present it in a visual format. I believe that using a single style runs the risk of students losing motivation when material is presented in an alternative format and leads them to believe themselves unable to access material in complex written formats such as journal articles.
The link to educational technology is that the majority of these tests, both reliable and unreliable, are marketed and taken online so that several hundred students can take these tests as part of their courses and I believe this can be detrimental if they are labelled and their learning restricted.
David Kolb - learning styles model based on experiential learning theory. Kolb, David (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.
Honey, P & Mumford, A, (1982). The Manual of Learning Styles. Maidenhead, UK, Peter Honey Publications.
Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. A systematic and critical review. London, Learning and Skills Research Centre.