The myth of learning styles

The learning styles concept – that people will learn better if taught in ways that align with their preferred learning style – is pretty pervasive even among those in the fields of psychology and education. As a presenter of designing materials that are best for audience engagement, I often have participants ask about learning styles. The sheer lack of evidence has cast the concept as a myth for a while now, but researchers continue to investigate the topic.

A paper was recently published by a researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine. Husmann and O’Loughlin assessed whether undergrad anatomy students utilized strategies via their preferred learning styles and if those strategies impacted their grade performance.

They found that most of the anatomy students failed to study in ways that aligned with their preferred learning styles. For those students who utilized strategies that were consistent with their preferred learning style, there was no impact on grade performance. They did find study strategies that impacted grade performance, but those strategies were unrelated to learning styles.

The researchers ultimately draw the conclusion to reject the learning styles concept, and I certainly agree.

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