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Friday, 12 February 2010

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Dr. Lauren Keinath

Thank you! This is a great validation for me.

I have for years been telling my students (pre-service teachers and college instructors) that learning styles research is NOT conclusive, and doesn't provide prescriptive value for the classroom. This has shocked many. sigh.

I do still stress the benefit of using a *variety* of types of exercises/assignments/assessments -- for the very reasons you mention here.

Chris Reich

Great post. We seem to want to ignore that people learn at different rates and have different capacities. Simply, in any group some will be smarter.

I learned long ago that some people don't comprehend everything taught and it's not my failure---teaching to the lowest common denominator as many educators do, only reduces what can be learned by the brighter students who, ultimately, will use the material taught.

Chris Reich
www.TeachU.com

Tomas Lund

Great Post Will. I do agree that Learning Styles are too simplistic in their view on learning. But here is some food for thought, which this comment also elude to: "One suspects that educators’ attraction to the idea of learning styles partly reflects their (correctly) noticing how often one student may achieve enlightenment from an approach that seems useless for another student.".

In Denmark TV2 did an experiment in 2008 with Gauerslund Skole (a "normal" Danish Public School) where they applied Learning Styles throughout the school for classroom training. Immediate Tests showed real results in Student Scores, and follow-up tests that the high scores were retained a year later.

A key concept in the Various Learning styles approaches: that different people learn in different ways - is probably the real reason behind these improvements. One could say that despite the bad science behind Learning Styles it is producing some real results in this case. One thing is classroom training where the Learning Styles concept made the Teachers and Student change their behavior which in turn resulted in better results. Another is elearning where student response to stimuli is very hard to measure correctly and I don’t think anyone will win you Learning Styles Challenge anytime soon.

Bill Brantley

This quote from the article should be tattooed on the forehead of every training consultant working today:

"There is growing evidence that people hold beliefs about how
they learn that are faulty in various ways, which frequently lead
people to manage their own learning and teach others in nonoptimal
ways. This fact makes it clear that research—not intuition
or standard practices—needs to be the foundation for
upgrading teaching and learning. If education is to be transformed
into an evidence-based field, it is important not only to
identify teaching techniques that have experimental support but
also to identify widely held beliefs that affect the choices made
by educational practitioners but that lack empirical support."

Guy Boulet

In science, only evidences can lead to conclusions. The absence of evidence doesn't prove anything. What all this says is that there is no evidence of learning styles efficiency but are there evidences of its inefficiency?

Furthermore literature reviews are not research. They simply demonstrate what has been found so far and provide leads on what should be looked at in the future. If no one has been able to demonstrate learning styles efficiency, maybe it is time to seriously look at gathering evidence on learning styles inefficiency.

Or maybe learning style approaches are just as good as other approaches, which could explain the absence of evidence.

Will Thalheimer

Stephen Downes commented on my blog post on Karyn Romeis's blog. https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=14184878&postID=2571850319040161924

My response didn't fit the maximum number of characters there, so I'm including my response to Stephen Downes attack below

Here is my response:

Stephen Downes continues his untrue, slanderous, and uninformed attacks on my Learning Styles Challenge and the critique of learning styles utilization in general.

I will attempt to respond to his assertions one at a time. But first you might want to consider the general tenor of Stephen's arguments as evidence of their limited value.

------

You can notice Stephen's bias in his first paragraph when he uses the term "ultra-right" and blames people in the United States for some "content-first" political movement. He again stoops to name calling in his final paragraph, stating that criticism of the learning-styles design approach is a political campaign.

In response to Stephen's comment about ultra-right content-first people, I just want to settle him down by saying that my political leanings are on the left. Also, sorry the U.S. Hockey team beat Canada last night in the preliminary round of the Olympics, but we folks in the States really aren't the dark and evil overlords Stephen makes us out to be. My brother lives in Halifax and is married to a Canadian so maybe I could get special dispensation from Stephen and his good-morality council.

------

Stephen claims that I "specifically want to prevent research" in my learning-styles challenge. Nothing could be further from the truth. My challenge forbids academic development because the WHOLE POINT of the Learning Styles Challenge is to SHOW THAT designing learning interventions based on learning styles is not viable in the PRACTICAL day-to-day of REAL-WORLD workplace learning.

I have told Stephen this before in my comment to his comment on my blog when I wrote in September of 2009:
"I’m skeptical that a real-world e-learning shop could create an e-learning program that utilizes learning styles. I don’t think it’s practically feasible. I don’t think clients will pay for the extra diagnostics, the extra development costs, and the extra threats to people’s personal privacy (because of the diagnostics). So, I want to specifically exclude programs that are created for academic purposes only. I want to exclude programs that are just created for research purposes—that have no other commercial purposes."

Because Stephen's assertion that I am preventing research, let me ask him: Why Stephen would I cite research from some of the world's best researchers if I didn't like research? This kind of twisting-of-the-truth attack is unethical, unprofessional, and disingenuous.

Stephen complains that I exclude academic research, but the point of my recent blog post was to let people know about the recent ACADEMIC research that has been done, WHICH BY THE WAY reviewed the learning-styles research and found it to be lacking. Learning styles research carried out academic researchers has NOT shown that using a learning-styles approach is effective. It has demonstrated the opposite---that a learning-styles approach has not been effective.

------

Stephen complains about an instructivist model of learning and assumes, incorrectly, that I am a strict instructivist. The instructivist-constructivist debate is intriguing and I would recommend the edited book, Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure?
Sigmund Tobias and Thomas M. Duffy (Editors) for those who want a brilliant and balanced view of the debate.

I am not an instructivist or a constructivist, but rather an empiricist. I review research to find out what works, regardless of the theories. I am particular sympathetic to the constructivist criticism (led by my former Columbia-University graduate-student colleague Dan Schwartz now at Stanford) that the instructivists only look at tests that are too narrow to capture the benefits of constructivist learning strategies. I would point out to Stephen (who ranted against "tests" in his comment here) that researchers on both sides of the debate agree that they need to use some form of testing to see if one learning approach is better than another---to see if a learning-styles approach actually works. Testing is not bad Stephen, but some tests are better tests than others.

I want to highlight what I have written to show that I am not against learning styles in general, I am skeptical of their practical significance (Again, this is why the Learning Styles Challenge focuses only on real-world commercial applications).

In my most recent blog post I say:
"Perhaps someday more research will demonstrate some specific benefits to learning styles."

In my original Learning Styles Challenge I wrote:
"I have my doubts, but am open to being proven wrong."

In BOTH of updates (in 2007 and 2009) to my original challenge, I wrote:
"Let me be clear, my argument is not that people don't have different learning styles, learning preferences, or learning skills. My argument is that for real-world instructional-development situations, learning styles is an ineffective and inefficient waste of resources that is unlikely to produce meaningful results."

Does this sound like someone who is on some sort of instructivist crusade?

------

Stephen complains that I have been silent to his criticisms. Again he lies. I have commented on my blog several times to refute his claims.

Look at my comments to Stephen's Comments at: http://www.willatworklearning.com/2009/09/learning-styles-challenge-threeyear-update.html

And here:
http://www.willatworklearning.com/2007/08/learning-styles.html

------

Stephen acts as if he is waging a noble war on people like me who are evil and politically motivated. Unfortunately, he is mis-educating thousands of people with his unprovoked attacks. If he stuck to facts rather than attacking people's motivations, perhaps he could add some value. If he offered some data, rather than ranting disingenuously, perhaps we could enjoin a healthy debate.

I long ago stopped searching out Stephen Downes writings because of his approach to dialogue and discussion.

If it sounds like I am irritated at Stephen's unscrupulous tactics, I am. I am irritated that such uninformed rhetoric gets little pushback, and I am irritated that I have to utilize my time responding to such an attack. My time is very critical right now. I am leading a small cadre of American instructivists who have been designing the training for the U.S. Olympic Hockey team.

Paul Simbeck-Hampson

Hi Will, I think your Twitter account has been hacked. Today I received a phishing DM from you, please check. The DM comment was "This you!!!" and then a link to a false sign-up page on Twitter (don't sign up!). Regards, Paul Simbeck-Hampson (@simbeckhampson)

Julian King

I commented on this originally but didn't recieve a response. You really have to clarify what you're talking about when you say learning styles. I need to know what you are referring to before I claim my $1000 :). My guess is that the proof will be in the work you're doing anyway.

Ellen Behrens

Will -- Read Karyn's post, Stephen's response, your comments and post...

Great debate!

I summarized in my comment on Karyn's blog why I push against Learning Styles as a methodology for design and instruction but will repeat it here: When organizations as large and influential as ASAE and The Center, with 20,000+ members, including knowledge of and application of learning styles as a core competency in professional development, then there's a real problem with a blind acceptance of an unproven theory. ASAE advocates Learning Styles exclusively and the repercussions are serious and wide spread.

Learning professionals can read and debate the literature all they want, but the far-reaching impact of such debates is often missed in the fray.

Many professional learning leaders are doing the best they can to deliver effective educational events based on what they've learned from ASAE because their backgrounds are in the industry they serve or in meeting planning or other association experience, rather than instructional design, educational and learning theory, etc. How are they to know that what they're learning isn't supported by the research unless we keep pushing?

Thanks for fighting the good fight, Will. Like you, I'm curious to see where Learning Styles come out (if they're ever really put to the test), but -- also like you -- I have my doubts.

Larry Irons

"I’m skeptical that a real-world e-learning shop could create an e-learning program that utilizes learning styles. I don’t think it’s practically feasible. I don’t think clients will pay for the extra diagnostics, the extra development costs, and the extra threats to people’s personal privacy (because of the diagnostics). So, I want to specifically exclude programs that are created for academic purposes only. I want to exclude programs that are just created for research purposes—that have no other commercial purposes."

The conditions for the test you outline don't sound very empirical to me.

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I summarized in my comment on Karyn's blog why I push against Learning Styles as a methodology for design and instruction but will repeat it here: When organizations as large and influential as ASAE and The Center, with 20,000+ members, including knowledge of and application of learning styles as a core competency in professional development, then there's a real problem with a blind acceptance of an unproven theory. ASAE advocates Learning Styles exclusively and the repercussions are serious and wide spread.

Peter Howe

Dear Will, I'm new to this heated discussion, but of course am keen to win your $1000.
Over 20 years of teaching adult students, I have found the most basic concept of Jung/MBTI, extroversion vs introversion, to be highly relevant to the way students learn. E's like to workshop thoughts. I's often think before they speak, if they speak at all. An obvious trap is to pace a class's progress purely on what one is hearing from E's. I's often hate to ad-lib, but if given a few minutes to prepare notes, they can work from them.
If you can help me design a satisfying study around this, I'll split the $ with you!

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Furthermore literature reviews are not research. They simply demonstrate what has been found so far and provide leads on what should be looked at in the future. If no one has been able to demonstrate learning styles efficiency, maybe it is time to seriously look at gathering evidence on learning styles inefficiency.

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new information. Perhaps someday more research will demonstrate some specific benefits to learning styles. As the authors of the review say themselves:

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Great site and a great topic as well i really get amazed to read this thanks.

The National Benefit Authority

Nice post!!Stephen Downes continues his untrue, slanderous, and uninformed attacks on my Learning Styles Challenge and the critique of learning styles utilization in general.

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As learning professionals, our clients---our fellow workers---will be more and more confused and duped by information overload. To be successful, we'll have to figure out ways to help them fight their way through the accelerating storm of information.

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I recommend that you read the article and Mayer's introduction. Both provide wisdom about how to think about research and how to avoid being fooled.

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I'm not at all confident of this. People have to put in substantial time to do good honest reporting (and good honest research, by the way). Putting in a lot of time generally requires some kind of payment so the reporter can afford the computer, the roof, and the food to keep doing the reporting.

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I think everyone has different learning styles and the only way to reach each of those, is to create a program that would cater to each individual, which would be pretty tough.

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Hi there and thanks for this interesting and important post.

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