Friday, May 27, 2011

Should We Try to Match Each Student With a Preferred Learning Style?

Maybe not. In an article that should gain some attention, Professor Aida Alaka argues that the matching of preferred learning styles with particular teaching styles may not result in better learning. “Learning Styles: What Difference Do the Differences Make?”, 5 Charleston Law Review 133 (2011):

Many education psychologists and others involved in researching educational theories are highly critical of the notion that students possess fixed learning styles that teachers must address in order for students to learn. In the last few years, two comprehensive literature reviews have been conducted to assess the theoretical and research bases underlying the spectrum of learning style theories. And yet, many in legal education think of the existence of learning styles as being settled fact. They also think of them rather narrowly—primarily as a question of whether one has a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic style—although many learning style theories exist. This Article explores the controversy surrounding learning styles and presents the critical bases for the controversy. It explains that most disinterested researchers are particularly skeptical of the “matching hypothesis”—that is, that one must teach to specific styles.


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How does one teach a class of 50 using 50 different teaching methods? If, in fact, there is an advantage in designing a specific teaching method for each student, one approach would be the private tutor and the other would be customized learning software. Both approaches are expensive and would cause tuition to skyrocket. Everyone has multiple learning styles, depending on what it is the person is trying to learn. Learning how to learn (law schools call it teaching people how to think like lawyers) is the most important skill that youngsters need to acquire in their very early years, even before they enter school. Parents? Are you paying attention?

Posted by: Jim Maule | May 28, 2011 7:44:12 AM

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