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30-Year-Old Teaching Methods Debunked


"Until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used."

Were you an auditory or visual learner in school? Did teachers spend most of their time lecturing material or was the more new-age style of visual teaching employed? A new study is about to teach you something new about the type of learner you thought you were. Here's food for thought: you aren't either.

For more than 30 years, an industry has been built around the school of thought that the most effective teaching caters to certain learning styles. New reviews of past research from psychologists are stating that we shouldn't tailor learning to one side or the other, which could cause a bit of a stir. NPR has more:

There are workshops for teachers, products targeted at different learning styles and some schools that even evaluate students based on this theory.

This prompted Doug Rohrer, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, to look more closely at the learning style theory.

When he reviewed studies of learning styles, he found no scientific evidence backing up the idea. "We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he says, "and until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used."

Listen to NPR's report:

Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, as reported by NPR, said it is a mistake to assume a student's best learning style.

Willingham suggests it might be more useful to figure out similarities in how our brains learn, rather than differences. And, in that case, he says, there's a lot of common ground. For example, variety. "Mixing things up is something we know is scientifically supported as something that boosts attention," he says, adding that studies show that when students pay closer attention, they learn better.

According to the study produced by these researchers published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, no less than 71 different learning style models have been developed over the years. But, nearly all of the studies that say they evidence for different learning styles "fail to satisfy key criteria for scientific validity," and psychological research has not found that people learn differently in the ways the proponents of these models claim.

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