Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students

Do students who report enjoying a teaching style actually learn more from that style? This study suggests that there may be an optimal teaching method for a given task, and that whether students like it or not, that optimal method does a better job teaching them.  (As usual, beware of any new article with “may” in the headline, especially when it mostly summarizes academic research.)

Among the students who are taught in a hands-on laboratory setting,
it turns out that the kinesthetic learners enjoy their lessons much
more than their verbal peers do. They also perform better on the test
at the end of the week. Let’s say that the kinesthetic students average
a 95 on the test, while the verbal students’ average is 80.

That might seem like strong evidence for the learning-styles hypothesis. Not so fast, Mr. Pashler says.

Look at the second classroom, where students learn about molecules
by reading texts. Here, the verbal students enjoy the lessons much more
than their kinesthetic peers do. But on the test, both the verbal and
kinesthetic students average around 70. The verbal students are
actually better off learning this concept in a laboratory, even though
they enjoy it less.

In almost every actual well-designed study, Mr. Pashler and his
colleagues write in their paper, “Learning Styles: Concepts and
Evidence,” the pattern is similar: For a given lesson, one
instructional technique turns out to be optimal for all groups of
students, even though students with certain learning styles may not
love that technique. —Chronicle of Higher Education

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