According to the popular VARK system, there are four learning styles: visual learners, aural learners, kinesthetic learners, and reading/writing learners (Kharb, Samanta, Jindal, & Singh, 2013). Visual learners process information best when it is visually stimulating. Aural leaners process information best when it is heard or said. Kinesthetic learners process information best when it is experienced in person, via simulation, or via demonstration. Finally, reading/writing learners process information best when it is presented in the form of manuals, reports, essays, lists, dictionaries, quotations, and the like. According to the learning style hypothesis, students who receive an education that matches his or her learning style will experience enhanced learning. It was once believed that teaching students according to their preferred learning style would, in fact, increase learning outcomes. This hypothesis was appealing for a number of reasons. First, it pleased parents knowing their children were getting an education tailored to children’s preferences. Second, this hypothesis supports the commercial industry of expensive learning style assessments. Additionally, teachers enjoyed this hypothesis because it supported a learning environment that was inclusive of children with different intellectual strengths. The truth? There is little evidence to support the effectiveness of an education tailored to student learning preferences (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2009). Teachers do not need the learning style hypothesis to justify an inclusive learning environment. By incorporating an online education platform as a supplement to lessons, teachers can still create an inclusive learning environment where material is delivered in multiple ways. Studies that showed support for the learning style hypothesis had several methodological issues: one being that instructional methods tested did not correspond with any known learning style inventories (Pashler et al., 2009). Further, studies on learning styles-based instruction lack a rigorous design and are often not linked to student achievement or increased pace of learning (Mayer, 2011; Riener & Willingham, 2010; Rohrer & Pashler, 2012).
So, if learning styles-based instruction does not enhance learning outcomes, what teaching method does? According to Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn, and Charalampos (2006), the most effective teaching methods involve presenting new material multiple times in different ways (as cited in Nilson, 2010, p. 237). Engaging multiple senses and utilizing different teaching methods together (e.g., lecture, interactive lecture, directed discussion, writing and speaking exercises, group work, service learning with reflection, etc.) effectively increases learning outcomes. Additionally, incorporating an online education platform that repeats new material in a unique way enhances student learning outcomes. Learning platforms typically incorporate a number of teaching methods. These online education platforms are capable of incorporating videos, images, charts, text explanations, and so much more. Utilizing different methods engages—rather than inhibits—students’ intellectual faculties to facilitate learning (Nilson, 2010).
Kharb, P., Samanta, P. P., Jindal, M., & Singh, V. (2013). The learning styles and the preferred teaching—learning stratagies of first year medical students. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 7, 1089–1092. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2013/5809.3090
Mayer, R. E. (2011). Does styles research have useful implications for educational practice. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 319–320. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2010.11.016
Nilson, L. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9, 105–119. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x
Riener, C., & Willingham, D. (2010). The myth of learning styles. Change, 42(5), 32–35. doi:10.1080/00091383.2010.503139
Rohrer, D., & Pashler, H. (2012). Learning styles: Where’s the evidence. Medical Education, 46(7), 34–35. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04273.x