What does the research say about learning styles?

A recent blogpost on the Deans for Impact website looks at the research evidence behind learning styles.

Dr Dylan Wiliam from UCL IoE writes that within education, the idea that students will learn more if they receive instruction that specifically matches their learning is of particular interest. However, a 2008 review of learning styles found that “If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” Of three robust studies, one gave partial support, while two clearly contradicted it.

Dr Wiliam argues that the whole premise of learning-styles research – that the purpose of instructional design is to make learning easy – may be incorrect. “If students do not have to work hard to make sense of what they are learning, then they are less likely to remember it in six weeks’ time.”

Teachers need to know about learning styles to avoid the trap of teaching in the style they believe works best for them. “As long as teachers are varying their teaching style, then it is likely that all students will get some experience of being in their comfort zone and some experience of being pushed beyond it.”

Source: Learning styles: what does the research say? (2016), Deans for Impact.

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