A widespread and persuasive neuroscience myth—that students learn best when instruction matches their preferred learning style—is often encountered in education. How and why has this idea endured with such vigorous popularity—despite a dearth of evidence to support it?
The following articles review the literature on learning styles. Although people are indeed apt to express preferences for how they believe they learn best, and they may possess aptitude for various types of problem-solving and information processing, research finds “virtually no evidence for the interaction pattern” (Pashler et al., 2009) between learning styles and achievement. Willingham (2015) suggests, “There is reason to think that people view learning styles theories as broadly accurate, but, in fact, scientific support for these theories is lacking.”
Many of us have long subscribed to this enduring and popular myth, but limited resources could be used far more productively for implementation of instructional strategies with a robust evidence base.
- Different Strokes for Different Folks by Steven A. Stahl
- Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence by Harold Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer, and Robert Bjork
- The Concept of Different “Learning Styles” Is One of the Greatest Neuroscience Myths by Olivia Goldhill
Willingham, D.T., Hughes, E.M., Dobolyi, D.G. (2015). The scientific status of learning styles theories. Teaching of Psychology, 42(3), 266-271.
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