Wednesday, February 21, 2018
The title of this article from the Business Insider, There's No Such Thing as 'Visual' or 'Auditory' Learners, does a pretty good job of summarizing for a popular audience the research that many readers of this blog likely already know about. The article makes an additional point that relying on "learning styles" as a teacher may negatively affect student learning insofar as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (i.e. students falsely believe, for example, they're not good auditory learners and hence avoid auditory techniques that might actually help them learn). Towards the end of the article, the author refers to something called "micro teaching" which claims to be an extremely effective teaching technique. It consists of taping yourself teaching and then immediately reviewing it with a "roomful of colleagues." It sounds intimidating, doesn't it? But the article refers to some studies that claim to prove its merit.
Here's an excerpt from the BI article:
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For decades, there's been an idea that people have set "learning styles," which are often categorized into three types: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Some people also believe that some learners are more concrete while others are abstract. According to this logic, a teacher should pin down which learning style works best for their student and modify how they teach accordingly to help the pupil perform better.
There is a grain of truth here: people do tend to enjoy getting information in specific, distinct formats. A 2008 study articulated this, saying "people differ in the degree to which they have some fairly specific aptitudes for different kinds of thinking and for processing different types of information."
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In fact, research shows that teaching students according to different learning styles has no effect on how they perform on assessments. Every time scientists have tried to prove this theory, they've failed.
One research team in 2012 simply labeled their paper: "Learning styles, where's the evidence?"
But the perception that lessons or briefings should be tailored to certain styles of taking in information persists, unfounded. In 2015, neuroscientist and teacher trainer Philip Newton from Swansea University in Wales found that 64% of US college professors still believed that teaching to a student's learning style would help them learn better.
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So what does work?
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But there's one key thing that can help improve student learning more than almost any other technique: the practice of "micro-teaching". This requires a teacher to set up a camera in the classroom while they're teaching, record the class, then watch the tape later with their colleagues. That exercise pushes instructors to take a closer look at themselves, reflect, and change how they teach.
The first time Newton did this himself, he was horrified.
"I noticed I was walking up and down, I was repeatedly tapping my teeth, plucking my hair. These are all distracting my students," he said.
Such lessons can be pretty uncomfortable — few of us enjoy watching ourselves on tape, especially as a roomful of colleagues look on and dissect the ways we might improve. But unlike learning styles, micro-teaching really works. It has been shown to encourage students to participate, behave better, study more diligently, and improve their understanding of material.
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Read the entire article here.