I want to support David Kelly’s Learning Styles Awareness Day, but have written pretty much all I want to say on the matter. In short, yes, learners differ. And, as a conversation with someone reminded me, it helps for learners to look at how they learn, so as to find ways to optimize their chances for success. Yet:
There’s no psychometrically-valid learning styles assessment out there.
There’s no evidence that adapting learning to learning styles is of use.
So what to do?
Use the best learning you can (at the end of the video).
Then help learners accommodate.
Here’re my previous thoughts, developing towards a proposal for how to consider learning styles, in chronological order:
Learning Styles, Brain-Based Learning, and Daniel Willingham
My problem with learning styles really is the people flogging them without a) acknowledging the problems, and b) appropriately limiting the inferences. Sometimes it seems like playing ‘whack-a-mole’…
Allison Anderson says
I worked on a study last year that was expected to show Big Differences in learning styles across our employee population at Intel. The study was done via direct observation, focus groups, interview and then analyzing about 2milion hits of transactional data (everything from courses taken in the LMS to help desk support tickets, data from our social media site, etc.). We studied data on all ~90k employees, across the globe. Big study, lots of data to look at. In fact, we did note differences – but those differences did not speak to learning styles. No grand formula of the Best Learning Mix Ever came out of the study. Where we found differences had to do with things like:
Motivators – what was driving people to learn (you might say, were they more of a “development” crowd or more of a “performance support” crowd)
Barriers – what stands in people’s way (not always the manager, but as we’d suspect that’s generally the biggest perceived impediment)
Perceptions – for example, people have different definitions of Career development
Accelerators – related to preferences, but less tool-driven.
Environment and Role – what you do changes how you learn. Duh. if I work on the factory floor I am in a restricted environment. It doesn’t occur to me that I want mobile learning, for example, because that so far removed from my environment it doesn’t even count as an option.
There are a lot of people really hammering the generational differences in learning preferences, but we did not find a strong correlation there. Or geography for that matter.
The one caveat I would make – #1 learning resource mentioned by a LONG mile by all employee segments was PEOPLE. People, people, people.
Anyway, just a few cents in the Salvation Army bucket. Really interesting stuff, but it sure did not support the grand learning styles theories!!