I read this great article in the AFT periodical for educators titled "Does tailoring instruction to "learning styles" help students learn?" by Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia. Willingham does a literature review of the research done thus far in learning styles and concludes with two important implications for education:
As a special education and general education teacher who sees students with documented disabilities and students without, I find that Willingham's arguments are discerning and offer clarity. Let me explain.
He states that rather than tailor our teaching to students' learning styles, we should instead tailor our thinking strategies to particular types of problems. This makes sense because all students have the capacity to learn in different modalities--visual, kinesthetic, auditory, or reading and writing. Willingham posits that content can be best taught through a modality that best suits the content, not the learning style of an individual. This is interesting because I certainly see all of my students benefiting from a lesson that involves pictures to describe Lenne Lenape Native American vocabulary (visual), making corn husk dolls to understand the traditions of the Lenape people (kinesthetic), or hearing stories of or about the Lenape tribes (auditory). Depending on the content, I can see how educators ought to tailor their teaching to the content, rather than having only some students engage in one task because they are auditory learners, or another task because they are kinesthetic learners.
When I speak to parents about what type of learner their child is, I recognize now that when I classify a learner as having a particular learning style of visual, auditory, or kinesthetic it can be limiting and misleading because all learners are capable of being all of those things. It just depends on the task at hand and how to best learn the content through one or many of those modalities.
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