Learning Styles: Debunking the Myth, Why they are Dangerous

Learning styles are your preferred way to take in information.

If you are a visual learner, then studying using pictures and visual aids will be more efficient than reading your course material or listening to it be spoken.

Ponder that for a moment.

You will be a better student and will learn more efficiently if you use your preferred learning style.

This concept has been around since the 70’s and has been perpetuated by well-minded educators since its inception.

Diligent students aiming for high grades have listened to their educators and the idea of learning styles has perpetuated into a movement.

You can find hundreds of quizzes and products geared towards individuals of a certain learning type.

Unfortunately, learning styles are a complete myth.

Debunking the Learning Style Myth

We all want to increase our learning capacity, so it’s no surprise so many people by into the idea of learning styles.

The problem is there isn’t a shred of credible evidence that supports the existence of learning styles.

In fact, there is evidence that supports the opposite, like this study or this study.

Research tells us that when people have a favorable style of presentation, it’s generally a preference for a type of task or subject they have a high ability in.

If you are a great piano player, you might think you are an auditory learner.

Or if you can draw something more detailed than a stick figure, you may think you are a visual learner.

Likewise, if you are a good problem solver you might think you are a logical learner.

Every student has different levels of abilities, interests and background, not different learning styles.

You may prefer to learn in a particular way because you feel you have a high level of aptitude in that style, but research shows no evidence that if you study in that style you will get better results.

In fact, when researchers look at students using their preferred style of learning, the results of these students are no better than students who are not using their preferred style of learning.

Students using their preferred style of learning are no better than students who aren’t using theirs.

The first problem is that there’s a large difference between the way someone prefers to learn material and what actually leads to effective and efficient learning.

Many teachers use techniques to teach students that are ineffective.

Take for instance, a teacher who wants to create an engaging environment with student participation, so they have each student in the class read a paragraph of material.

There is nothing wrong with this approach, except that it doesn’t go far enough.

Students simply listening (and let’s be honest, many take this opportunity to doze off) to another student read material isn’t going to make it stick.

Another problem is that a preference for how one best studies isn’t itself a learning style.

Most learning styles classify students into distinct groups.

You have your kinesthetic, visual, auditory learners and the list goes on.

The assumption is that by clustering like-minded people into distinct groups and having them use certain learning strategies will improve their study.

There is very little support showing how these classifications actually help students, and of the studies that do exist, many are littered with scientific inaccuracies that prove them useless.

How the Myth of Learning Styles Effects Us

These are some serious implications that are having a drastic effect on our education system.

Ask any of your teachers whether they believe in learning styles or Google learning styles and see all of the articles still pushing this myth.

Studies show that up to 90% of teachers still believe learning styles are real.

With such a large majority of teachers still pushing the myth, it’s likely causing students to waste a lot of time, study less efficiently, get worse grades than they are capable of, and as a result, lose self-esteem.

If your grades slump it can hurt your chances of going to college, if that’s your goal.

In a world that is ever changing you need to be on top of your game to market yourself to companies.

Don’t do a disservice to yourself and others by perpetuating this myth anymore.

Instead, learn how you learn.

Learn how to Learn

Everyone learns in different ways and understanding how to learn is one of the best things you can do.

The secret is understanding your study preference and the most effective techniques based on that preference.

learning styles

This diagram put together by Sacha Chua lists a number of suggestions you can do to adapt learning to the style you prefer.

A number of these suggestions like reading aloud/talking to others, and drawing a picture are scientifically proven enhance your studying.

In fact, there are seven things you can do to make your studying the most effective it can possibly be.

The seventh, and arguably the most effective, technique is visual memory techniques.

They take advantage of the fact that humans naturally are phenomenal at remembering visual, spatial, and emotional stimuli.

Visual memory techniques work by a well-documented and researched mechanism called elaborative encoding.

Elaborative encoding is a mnemonic in which information that is going to be remembered is associated to pre-existing memories and knowledge.

These connections are made in ways that baffle most people who aren’t familiar with these techniques.

What is undeniable, is that they work for almost everyone.

I suggest reading more about visual memory techniques to see how they can enhance your studying immediately.

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