Learning Strategies, Not Styles

One of the most confusing and frustrating episodes in my entire teaching career came with an attempt to do what I thought was a “best practice” for enhancing my students’ learning. I was teaching Strategies for Academic Success, a course designed to help at-risk first-year students develop a strong foundation for their college careers. The textbook I adopted for the course had an entire unit on “learning styles,” and it asked students to complete something which was new to me at the time–the “VARK Inventory.” From this assessment, students would be able to find out what their “learning style” was: Visual, Aural, Reading/Writing, or Kinesthetic. Some students, the instructor’s guide told me, would be “multimodal”; that is, share two or (rarely) three styles. But, it said, a student’s strongest learning style should dictate the way they went about their academic business–what study strategies to adopt, what in-class methods they should use to retain material, on and on. I assumed this would be an excellent tool to get my students thinking about themselves as learners, that they would see that learning is multifaceted, and that they could take ownership of discerning what was most effective for them. Continue reading “Learning Strategies, Not Styles”