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Research on Learning Styles and a Request for Rebuttal Studies
by Cathy C. Shank

A colleague of mine did some recent research to try to find evidence that teaching to a person's learning style is an effective strategy to promote learning (or that it is any more effective than NOT teaching to the learning style).  He could find no proof that this strategy works.  Does anyone know of any research that shows such proof?

Here are summaries from 2 articles he found and his analysis:

The application of learning style theory in higher education teaching Dr. David Robotham, Visiting Lecturer in Human Resource Management Wolverhampton Business School, University of Wolverhampton, Compton Road West, Wolverhampton, WV3 9DX Written: 1999

This paper began by arguing that in order for learning to be effective in achieving desired outcomes, educators need to have an awareness and understanding of individuals' learning styles. Although it is possible to identify the learning styles of individuals, it is questionable whether such an approach is valid. Using existing inventories of learning styles,
individuals are simply allocated to a narrow range of categories, containing a limited number of learning activities to which they are, in theory, best suited. The suggestion here is that this a fundamentally flawed approach.  Higher education teaching should seek to move beyond the enhancement of performance within a narrow spectrum of activities, and consider the development of foundation skills, such as self-directed learning. An able self-directed learner may still choose to use a particular learning style that is relatively narrow in nature, but they are consciously taking that decision, in view of their perception of the needs of a particular situation. There is also a need for further research into learning styles to establish whether they are temporally stable. Longitudinal studies of groups of students during their degree studies would help to identify how learning styles may change.

An Overview of Learning Style Models and Their Implications for Practice.
  Freeman, Michael K.; Whitson, Donna L.
  Journal of Adult Education, v20 n2 p11-18 Spr   1992
  Available from Mountain Plains Adult Education Association, Ricks College,
103 Auxiliary Services Bldg., Rexburg, ID 83460-8011.
  Document Type: JOURNAL ARTICLE (080);  REVIEW LITERATURE (070)

Reviews models of learning style, cognitive style, and thinking style and makes recommendations: (1) style preferences are not unchangeable; (2) style refers to learner actions not ability; (3) learning should be considered broader than cognitive achievement; and (4) teachers should adopt a bilateral approach to influencing student actions.  (SK)

What he gleaned from this and many more articles was there still is doubt that teaching to a learning style will accomplish what we hope.

Does anyone have any research that PROVES the opposite?
Cathy C. Shank
Special Populations Coordinator
WV Adult Basic Education
RESA III, 501 22nd Street
Dunbar, WV 25064
phone: 800-257-3723 ext. 112
304-766-7655 ext. 112
fax:   304-766-7915

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