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”

The Learning Styles Neuromyth

For several years, I had the privilege of teaching LIBA 103, Strategies for Academic Success, as part of Grand View’s Freshman Academy program. The class was designed to introduce academically “at-risk” students to the demands–intellectual and otherwise–of collegiate education, and build a foundation for future academic success. I designed my sections with an emphasis on consistent writing, reflection, and metacognitive learning for my students. My guiding assumption, informed by some of the best teaching and learning research, was that the more metacognition–learning how to learn–I could get my students engaging in, the better. Continue reading “The Learning Styles Neuromyth”