Writing in “Cognitive Scientists Debunk Learning-Style Theories” (Inside School Research Blog on Education Week, December 17, 2009, 9:47 AM), Debra Viaderosays:
Writing in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, cognitive scientists Hal Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer, and Robert Bjork argue that, of the thousands of articles published on learning styles in recent decades, few really put the theory to an adequate test.
To really determine if a theory is valid, the researchers write, a study would have to first classify students based on the theory being tested and then randomly assign them to one of several different learning methods. Students would also have to be tested before and after the instruction. If the theory is correct, the researchers said, then students would learn best when taught with the teaching methods that mesh with their individual learning styles.
Yet few studies use that or any kind of experimental method to test learning-style theory. And, among those that did, the authors found, several yielded results that contradicted the theory. The authors write:
We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.”
That’s not to say learning-style theory would never work, the authors add. Dozens of such theories have been identified and some have never been tested at all.
What many of these theories give a name to may actually be a learning preference. And it’s a long way from preferring to be taught one way to actually learning more when taught by a compatible instructional method.
Besides which, it is we humans who must adjust to the world, to reality and all its modalities: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. — it is not the world which will bend to us. Education is about preparing a child to live independently in the world and amongst other self-sovereign people; it is not about training children to stomp their feet at the world and other people in demand that their “learning styles” be pandered to.
Update (3:30 PM): (1) I should point out that, at this time, I have not yet read the article. (2) I wrote a bit about “learning styles” in my blog post Two Points of Pedagogy.