Willingham on learning styles

Check out Dan Willingham’s article on learning styles in the Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet.”

Have you been told that you should teach to children’s individual learning styles? Well, research has not supported that theory.

The data are straightforward too: It doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work–not only for the visual-auditory-kinesthetic theory, but for many other learning styles theories that have been proposed and tested since the 1940s.

Researchers have been conducting experiments on learning styles for 50 years. They’ve been tested with the sorts of materials that kids encounter in schools. They’ve been tested with kids diagnosed with a learning disability.

There just doesn’t seem to be much evidence that kids learn in fundamentally different ways.

Willingham goes on to explain that children do learn differently, but those differences cannot be simply attributed to learning styles. They may have to do with a child’s “knowledge, interest, or other factors.”

Differentiating for learning styles “makes a teacher’s job much more difficult with no benefit to students,” he writes. “Yet teachers are still asked to do it.”

Let’s hope school districts start coming to their senses on this matter. It is silly, distracting, and taxing to differentiate instruction in so many ways at once–especially when it doesn’t work.