A couple of years ago I taught a course on digital storytelling to a group of middle schoolers. In preparation for the course, I remember arguing why this method of teaching was important in that it allowed students who were visual learners to be able to learn how to tell a story in a visual way, and auditory learners could listen to the story archs out loud. Now, some research is finding that people AREN’T in fact visual or auditory learners.
Several psychologists say education could use some “evidence-based” teaching techniques, not unlike the way doctors try to use “evidence-based medicine.”
Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, who studies how our brains learn, says teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners. He says we’re on more equal footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn. And it’s a mistake to assume students will respond and remember information better depending on how it’s presented.
For example, if a teacher believes a student to be a visual learner, he or she might introduce the concept of addition using pictures or groups of objects, assuming that child will learn better with the pictures than by simply “listening” to a lesson about addition.
In fact, an entire industry has sprouted based on learning styles. There are workshops for teachers, products targeted at different learning styles and some schools that even evaluate students based on this theory.
I disagree with the idea that people’s brains are all uniform and work the same; we have all had the experience of having to explain the same thing in three different ways so three different people get the concept. And the researchers acknowledge we all have strengths and weaknesses. But I appreciate the idea of using evidence-based learning and variety, since they both make learning fun and easier to retain the information. If I ever get to teach that course again, I may instead argue that digital storytelling is beneficial for it’s hands-on, evidence and experiential based learning methods.
- Learning styles – don’t work or do they? (pedleysmiths.wordpress.com)
- The Relationship between Learning Styles and Academic Performance (brighthub.com)