How We Don't Learn

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

Managing the 'Learning Styles' Myth by Keith Lambert
Education World (website), May 1, 2017

In this incisive article, Language Arts teacher Keith Lambert overviews the past few decades of thinking about learning styles in education, from Kolb and Honey/Mumford, through Gardner and Rose. Essentially, he joins the long-standing controversy in challenging the prevalent belief that students have "only one or two ways they are able to learn." The studies he cites from 2008 (Pasher, McDaninel, Rohrer, Bjork) and 2009 (Kraemer, Rosenberg, Thompson-Schill) show that teaching students in their preferred learning styles does not correlate to better learning outcomes; in fact, "optimal learning occurred when students were presented with material not in the preferred modality." Lambert advocates for teaching students to adapt and teaching them how to learn, citing recent studies affirming "flexibility in the classroom" and helping students "practice multiple ways of internalizing and experiencing new information." His article is a valuable synthesis of where we are now in the conversation about learning styles: understanding the complexity of "stronger and weaker styles (or preferred and practiced styles)," engagement, and metacognition, as we differentiate our classrooms and help students learn in a "variety of learning modalities".

Teaching Practice
Science of Learning