Comment on The myth of learning styles
Jun 15, 2017
Thank you for highlighting the open letter to The Guardian about the myth of learning styles. I’m glad to see the issue addressed and I appreciate your emphasis that arguing against the learning styles approach is not arguing against individualization. I would like to emphasize that while each person may not have an optimal mode for learning, neither should we assume that there is an optimal mode for any given content. There are reasons to avoid monomodal or unisensory methods, when possible, in favor of multimodal learning. Multimodal learning involves the incorporation of two or more sign-systems (not necessarily, but often multisensory) which encode meaning. Especially if one supports embodied cognition, it seems logical that “multisensory-training protocols, as opposed to unisensory protocols, can better approximate natural settings and, therefore, produce greater and more efficient learning” (Shams & Seitz, 2008, p. 411). Thankfully, there are studies which are providing evidence that multimodal learning is indeed beneficial. I would recommend the work of Heikkilä and Tiippana (2016), who studied school-aged children and concluded that “when a stimulus is presented together with its congruent counterpart from the other sensory modality during encoding, recognition memory performance is improved” (p. 1206). So we need not abandon our differentiated teaching methods, just make as many modes as possible available to everyone. Heikkilä, J., & Tiippana, K. (2016). School-aged children can benefit from audiovisual semantic congruency during memory encoding. Experimental brain research, 234(5), 1199-1207. Shams, L., & Seitz, A. R. (2008). Benefits of multisensory learning. Trends in cognitive sciences, 12(11), 411-417.