Friday, April 13, 2018

I did it my way?

Over the years, I have had quite a few students exclaim in classes that they are visual learners or auditory learners. Using these justifications, students have attempted to explain to me why some of the learning materials, or my approach to teaching, did not work for them.

I have always politely nodded my head and moved on.

Left to me, I would have engaged them about where they got such notions that they were visual or auditory or whatever.

Until today, I had no idea such sorting was being done on a large scale in K-12!
Experts aren’t sure how the concept spread, but it might have had something to do with the self-esteem movement of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Everyone was special—so everyone must have a special learning style, too. Teachers told students about it in grade school. “Teachers like to think that they can reach every student, even struggling students, just by tailoring their instruction to match each student’s preferred learning format,” said Central Michigan University’s Abby Knoll, a PhD student who has studied learning styles. (Students, meanwhile, like to blame their scholastic failures on their teacher’s failure to align their teaching style with their learning style.)
Either way, “by the time we get students at college,” said Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.
Oh my!  I certainly understand that there are different ways in which we present information and convey advanced knowledge.  We read ideas that were written down. We listen to lectures. We watch videos, even of lectures.  But, does such multiplicity does not mean there are different learning styles; "a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another."

Unfortunately, such crap has rapidly diffused all over:
The "learning styles" idea has snowballed—as late as 2014, more than 90 percent of teachers in various countries believed it. The concept is intuitively appealing, promising to reveal secret brain processes with just a few questions. Strangely, most research on learning styles starts out with a positive portrayal of the theory—before showing it doesn’t work.
As I often remind students, almost always what appeals to our gut feeling is wrong.

What do successful learners do? "really focus on the material."  Yep, there is only one formula--focus on the damn learning materials instead of blaming the materials that do not match with "my learning style."

Oh, btw, if you really want to remember what you learnt, stop binge-reading, and give your brain time to process what you just read.  Take a break after reading this blog-post ;)