Teaching children according to their individual “learning style” does not achieve better results and should be ditched by schools in favour of evidence-based practice, according to leading scientists.
Thirty eminent academics from the worlds of neuroscience, education and psychology have signed a letter to the Guardian voicing their concern about the popularity of the learning style approach among some teachers.
They say it is ineffective, a waste of resources and potentially even damaging as it can lead to a fixed approach that could impair pupils’ potential to apply or adapt themselves to different ways of learning.
The group opposes the theory that learning is more effective if pupils are taught using an individual approach identified as their personal “learning style”. Some pupils, for example, are identified as having a “listening” style and could therefore be taught with storytelling and discussion rather than written exercises.
School leaders say the enthusiasm for learning styles in schools has faded, but research in 2012 among teachers in the UK and Netherlands found that 80% believed individuals learned better when they received information in their preferred learning style. In 2013, research by the Wellcome Trust found that 76% of teachers had used learning styles in their teaching.
As part of international Brain Awareness Week, which starts on Monday, scientists want to raise awareness of these commonly held beliefs about how to improve learning, which are supposedly based on research but not backed up with scientific evidence.
Aside from the cost in terms of time and money, one concern is that learning styles leads to belief that individual students are unable to learn because the material is inappropriate.
– Sally Weale
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