Learning styles update

Had a look at this paper:

Klein, B., McCall, L., Austin, D., Piterman, L. (2007) A psychometric evaluation of the Learning Styles Questionnaire: 40-item version. British Journal of Educational Technology;38(1):23-32.

And a couple of DFES reports:

Coffield F, Mosely D, Hall E, Ecclestone K (2005). Should we be using learning styles? http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/PDF/1540.pdf

Coffield F, Mosely D, Hall E, Ecclestone K (2005). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/PDF/1543.pdf

Coffield and colleagues identify

“… a wide spectrum of theoretical and practical positions on a continuum, consisting of five main ‘families’ or schools of thought …”

71 separate learning styles, in fact, gleaned from a proliferation of different, sometimes overlapping, sometimes dichotomous categories. No consensus has emerged about practical recommendations – there are understandable reservations about prescribing recipes. The various models are differerently useful – the adoption of one or another risks over-simplication – and none is without validity and reliability issues.  Even if the existence of learning styles is taken for granted, matching these with teaching styles is problematic. The social and environmental context of learning styles is widely overlooked, self-reported responses are treated as objective measures, and there is a tendency to label individuals rather than describing traits.

Coffield and colleagues commend the work of Entwhistle and Vermunt for their solid theoretical grounding and the caution of their conclusions. More research is needed in putting their findings into practice; it would be easy to make a mess of implementing what we know at the moment.

But it’s important to perservere with learning styles. The acquisition of a lexicon with which to put hitherto nebulous experiences and impressions into words is powerfully motivating for some students in considering their learning. That this country lacks a theory of pedagogy is becoming widely recognised as an issue to address – pedagogical thinking may help to bridge learning styles and teaching practice.

So not a case of JFDI, like the Open University-produced documentary on the NHS I watched last night Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? (http://www.open2.net/nhs/index.html) in which said management consultant prowled around a Rotherham Hospital being exasperated and casting most of the consultants as obstructive, over-complicated tyrant-premadonnas.


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