Sunday, May 16, 2010

Learning styles

So, learning styles don't exist, eh? Or at least, there are some serious questions about how well-grounded they are in evidence. One more thing I didn't know.

Here's also subtextual weighting in on learning styles:

But, there are a lot of barriers to making these changes that would need to be overcome in order to better match brains and the school system. Beyond just general inertia and the funding issue, there are other issues, including (1) that scientists aren't that good at communicating what they know about the brain to the layperson, (2) disciplines are not that great at talking to each other; for example, neuroscientists rarely sit down with educators and really 'hash out' how you'd actually translate brain research into practical classroom applications, and (3) this has created a vacuum into which well-meaning but misguided people have rushed, offering up a surfeit of non-scientific but lovely-sounding ideas about 'multiple intelligences' and 'sensory integration' and 'learning styles', all of which now have passionate proponents who want their (sometimes conflicting and sometimes nonsensical) ideas incorporated into classrooms.

... Wikipedia also has a fair amount of criticism.

This is a good example of why I want to get a better understanding of things here - it's not enough to know that "some researchers found X", because regularly someone else claims "some scientists found non-X". Why is there a disagreement? Sometimes an X was disproved a long time ago, but not everybody was notified. Sometimes X was only claimed by a crank with no academic credibility, but good marketing skills. Sometimes the researcher originally claimed Y, but the reported didn't understand and "rounded to the nearest cliche", X in this case. Sometimes X is true in some cases, but whoever repeated the story forgot the caveats. Sometimes X was highly fashionable and the idea caught on. Sometimes X is just an old wife's tale that someone once decided to spice up by claiming it had scientific support. Sometimes X and non-X got claimed by competing political factions, and more people care about being loyal to their side than about the actual truth of X. Sometimes X is perfectly true.

Of course, I'm not after knowledge for the sake of knowledge here. Some wrong theories may still be useful; for example even though a kid may nothave a specific Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic learning style, teaching him something in different ways might help.

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