Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence

The following is an annotated bibliography is for:

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105 – 119.

This article looks at learning styles, which refers to modes of learning individuals believe work best for themselves.  The authors point out that research actually shows that learning style preferences have no impact on actual learning to the extent that if one receives information visually or audibly, once tested, there was usually no statistically significant difference.  Interestingly, the authors tie the popularity of learning styles to two things: industry and popularity.  There is a significant industry that makes very good money on selling these learning style measurement tools, so there is a vested interest in selling this product.  In addition, the general public likes to have itself “measured” and to be categorized.  The popularity of tests and quizzes that place us into a group with others, such as in magazines and online places like Facebook, supports this.  Lastly, it’s easier to blame the failure of a students on the fact that the teacher was not using a learning style that was conducive to the student rather than the student didn’t try hard enough or, perhaps, had other things complicating the learning process.  The last paragraph of the Summary section sums this all up: “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing.  If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated” (p 117).

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