In, “Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education,” (Educational Psychologist, 14 Jun 2013; article also at Taylor Francis Online) Paul A. Kirschner & Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer write:
Our analysis of three urban legends in teaching and education clearly shows that, although widespread, widely believed, and even widely implemented as well-meaning educational techniques or innovations, they are not supported by scientific evidence. It should be clear by now that students are really not the best managers of their own learning with respect to navigating through and learning in the digital world, choosing the best way in which to study and learn (i.e., learning styles), or gathering useful information from the Internet. However, a continuum of available evidence exists for refuting these and other legends. At one extreme, are urban legends for which there is a tiny bit of incomplete support—but the legend itself is false or at least a severe overgeneralization (e.g., the claim that giving learners full control over the learning process will have positive effects on learning). At the other extreme of the continuum are urban legends for which there is strongempirical evidence for the opposite, showing that they are totally counterproductive in education (e.g., the claim that children are capable of effective multitasking). Finally, there are urban legends for which researchers claim that there is evidence, and for which there are even empirical studies purporting to support the legend, but the research itself or the body of research is flawed. This was demonstrated for the learning styles hypothesis but also, for example, by Lalley and Miller (2007) with respect to the learning pyramid and by Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) with respect to minimal guidance during instruction. It is yet true for all legends that they are primarily based on beliefs and convictions, not on scientific theories supported by empirical findings.
Agreed. I have never found any of those three legends true, and have never taught based on them.
To learn driving, one has to learn and act visually and tactilely. No one who has only read about driving should be on the road; that is very dangerous.
To learn to play tennis, one has to play. Period. There is fundamentally no other way to learn it. You can learn about it in many ways, but you cannot learn it other than by playing.
To learn to read, one has to — yes, read. Whether visually or tactilely (as in, braille), one has to use one’s eyes (or fingers) and mind. No other way to learn it.
To act (in movies and plays), one has to feel and pretend. That’s a fundamental.
While we have preferred modes of learning and preferred activities and values, no one has an ingrained “learning style.”