Learning Styles: Are They or Aren’t They?

There’s a fairly old story from NPR’s Morning Edition–from last August–that introduces the idea that there are no scientifically credible studies regarding learning styles and until there is, we shouldn’t consider them when designing courses.

I find it amazing that there are no controlled studies regarding learning styles. I mean, what are these doctoral candidates about these days!?! Regardless of whether there are actual learning styles or whether these are learning preferences, I would find it difficult just to drop them. Considering how content is presented and taught is the meat of an instructional designer’s meal.

What I did find rather interesting is in the last paragraph: “And recent studies find that our brains retain information better when we spread learning over a longer period of time, say months or even a year, versus cramming it into a few days or weeks.” How does this play into elearning? Much consideration has been devoted to the idea that the shorter, the better. Even commercials have decreased in duration from approximately 45 seconds to 15 seconds.

So, from the generation who screams at their microwaves, do we have it wrong when it comes to elearning? Should we continue to pare down the content into teachable moments and sound bites or does the learner deserve something less abrasive?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/29/139973743/think-youre-an-auditory-or-visual-learner-scientists-say-its-unlikely

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2 comments on “Learning Styles: Are They or Aren’t They?
  1. S. Christian says:

    I don’t think “learning styles / preferences” make a difference when designing courses. I found this article expresses my point of view well: http://www.doceo.co.uk/heterodoxy/styles.htm

    I’ve just read How People Learn which also highlights studies that show that we need to allow learners time to absorb the learning points. I don’t think this says we shouldn’t chunk learning into relevant teachable moments. I think it means that we need to provide more of them, in various modalities allowing ample time to reflect and practice.

  2. I agree with providing time to allow learners to reflect. We’ve been making efforts to reach out to the learner *after* the course is complete–elearning as well as ILT–to drive action and accountability with the learner.

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