The idea of learning styles and testing learners to find out their natural preference has been popular since the 1980s.

This wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles  gives a brief introduction to learning styles, including Honey and Mumford’s VAK tests, if you want to refresh your memory.

However, more recently there has been some scepticism about how teaching and learning practice has been affected by this theory, not least because of the divergence in practice in schools and colleges around the world.  Here is a great article which explains some of these doubts and raises some interesting questions…

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2153773

Hattie and Marzano’s research into effects of learning interventions also shed doubt on using prefered learning styles as a foundation for planning teaching.  On the other hand, this is an interesting article http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/styles/metalearning.html which explains how learners who are explicitly evaluating and comparing learning styles are engaging in meta-learning – which scores very highly for impact.

For example, learners might discuss whether it is better to share recipes by writing them out, or by illustrating the recipe with photos, or by doing a demonstration.  It doesn’t matter too much which method they choose – in fact it might be good to stretch some learners out of their comfort zone – but it is important that they are evaluating and comparing the different methods and considering which ones are effective in this case.  The discussion will help them understand how a recipe works and increase their understanding of their own preference.

It seems to me that it may be useful to be aware of learners’ learning styles, not least so that you can help learners develop strategies for situations where alternatives might not be available.  But realistically many learners will not fall neatly into only one category.  In fact the combination of 2 or more methods can be extremely effective: think about the undeniable impact of TV and other technology where audio and visuals work together. And for many of us, using a range of styles is what maintains our interest and enables us to practice a skill until the learning has been well and truly embedded.

Here is a list of learning and teaching activities from Geoff Petty.  http://geoffpetty.com/teaching-style/  You could use it as he suggests, or more simply, you could use it just as a checklist to ensure that you are using a range of activities and learning styles.  Or you could use the idea to create your own list of activities relevant to your subject, not forgetting using technology!  However you choose to do it, keeping a checklist of the variety of teaching and learning activities is sure to help keep your sessions fresh and interesting for all learners, whatever their prefered style.

Variety is the spice of life!

Which is your prefered style of recipe and why?

video recipe

text recipe

recipe with pictures

 

 

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