Want to claim you support research-based methods of teaching? Then stop demanding that teachers cater to children’s individual ”learning styles.” There’s no research to support the idea that certain children learn best in certain ways, notes Dan Willingham who guest posts at The Answer Sheet Valerie Straus’ new education blog on the Washington Post’s recently revamped education page.
“Learning styles has become unquestioned dogma among many educators, despite the utter lack of evidence to support it,” notes Willingham who calls out Washington, DC for becoming the latest to drink the learning styles Kool-Aid in Michelle Rhee’s new District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Teaching and Learning Framework:
In the framework, which lays out Michelle Rhee’s vision of what it means to be a good teacher, the fourth guideline in the “Teaching” section of the Framework suggests that teachers “target multiple learning styles” in order to “ensure all students have the opportunity to meet lesson objectives.” Teachers are encouraged to vary the content of lessons (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, interpersonal, linguistic, social).
Researchers have been conducting experiments on learning styles for fifty years, Willingham notes. “They’ve been tested with the sorts of materials that kids encounter in schools. They’ve been tested with kids diagnosed with a learning disability. There just doesn’t seem to be much evidence that kids learn in fundamentally different ways.” A lesson clicks or doesn’t, he writes, “because of the knowledge the child brought to the lesson, his interests, or other factors” not “because of an enduring bias or predisposition in the way the child learns.”
“Suggesting that teachers cater to learning styles—when teachers must already do some differentiation based on what students know—makes a teacher’s job much more difficult with no benefit to students,” he concludes.
Those who follow Willingham’s work will recall his YouTube video on learning styles.