Monday, April 23, 2018

Learning styles

A study of 426 undergraduate anatomy students finds no correlation between preferred “learning style” and learning:

Results demonstrated that most students did not report study strategies that correlated with their VARK assessment, and that student performance in anatomy was not correlated with their score in any VARK categories [visual, aural, reading/writing, kinesthetic]. Rather, some specific study strategies (irrespective of VARK results), such as use of the virtual microscope, were found to be positively correlated with final class grade. However, the alignment of these study strategies with VARK results had no correlation with anatomy course outcomes. Thus, this research provides further evidence that the conventional wisdom about learning styles should be rejected by educators and students alike.
Or in plainer language: Most students did not keep to their supposed learning style when studying. Students’ grades showed no correlation with keeping or not keeping to a supposed learning style. And certain study strategies led to better grades, regardless of a student’s supposed learning style.

The study, by Polly R. Husmann and Valerie D. O’Loughlin, is behind a paywall. But here’s an article that summarizes its findings.

I remember some years ago being told that I am a “visual learner.” Yes, I prefer to read a text than have it read to me, though in VARK terms that makes me an R, not a V. But if I’m really an R, how did I ever manage to get so much from all the classes in which I sat and listened and took notes as professors lectured? Or how did I figure out fingerpicking patterns by listening to Mississippi John Hurt records?

As Husmann and O’Loughlin write, “the adage of ‘I can’t learn subject X because I am a visual learner’ should be put to rest once and for all.” I look back at this post and cringe.

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