Foo Foo About: Designing Instruction for Learning Styles Differences

Here are some online resources about this Foo Foo/ Myth…

Why Is the Research on Learning Styles Still Being Dismissed by Some Learning Leaders and Practitioners?

By Guy W. Wallace / eLearn Magazine – November 2011here.

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Learning Styles as a Myth

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Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection | Tesia Marshik | TEDxUWLaCrosse

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Ben Ambridge: 10 Myths About Psychology: Debunked

Video is 15 minutes in length.

Note: Learning Styles are addressed beginning at about the 3:35 mark.

Fast talker and with his Brit accent – Ben is not always easy to follow — but/and it is a great message.

Transcript available.

Learning Styles

… is addressed as one of the 10. From the transcript:

Learning styles are made up and are not supported by scientific evidence.

So we know this because in tightly controlled experimental studies, when learners are given material to learn either in their preferred style or an opposite style, it makes no difference at all to the amount of information that they retain. And if you think about it for just a second, it’s just obvious that this has to be true.

It’s obvious that the best presentation format depends not on you, but on what you’re trying to learn.

Could you learn to drive a car, for example, just by listening to someone telling you what to dowith no kinesthetic experience?

Could you solve simultaneous equations by talking them through in your head and without writing them down?

Could you revise for your architecture exams using interpretive dance if you’re a kinesthetic learner?

No. What you need to do is match the material to be learned to the presentation format, not you.

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From Fred Nickols…

The link below showed up on the EvalTalk list, posted by Dennis Roberts, Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at Penn State.  It seems to be a very thorough and scholarly piece.  Here’s the last paragraph from the opening summary:

“We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have a strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number. However, given the lack of methodologically sound studies of learning styles, it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested and found wanting; many have simply not been tested at all.”

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You may think you learn better in a certain way. You actually don’t.

Sometime in the not so distant past, one of your kids, or a kid you know, has probably been told that she has a particular learning style. Perhaps she is a visual learner, who absorbs information best through images. Or maybe an auditory one, who needs to hear things to really grasp them. Boys are often told they are kinesthetic learners, deriving the most from a lesson through movement.

It’s all bunk.

“There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist,” says Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

For more – please go – here.

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Front. Psychol., 15 December 2015 |

The Learning Styles Myth is Thriving in Higher Education

  • Swansea University Medical School, Swansea, UK

The existence of ‘Learning Styles’ is a common ‘neuromyth’, and their use in all forms of education has been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited in the research literature. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that their use remains widespread. This perspective article is an attempt to understand if and why the myth of Learning Styles persists…

To continue – please go – here.

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Are ‘Learning Styles a Symptom of Education’s Ill?

Published in TES magazine on 21 November, 2014 | By: Daniel Willingham

Classroom practice – Listen closely, learning styles are a lost cause

It’s time to stop labelling pupils as visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners. Research has consistently shown the theory to be false

Every teacher has to contend with an ethical dilemma: students each have one of a variety of learning styles, and to maximise learning the lesson should take these into consideration. To do this, however, the teacher has to conduct a lesson that is so multi-sensory as to require superhuman levels of planning. So what are they to do?

Most teachers try to find a happy medium, a sweet spot between doing nothing and doing everything, where visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (Vak) learning styles are catered for but do not dictate every aspect of the lesson.

This is the wrong approach. What they should do is relax. In reality, there is no dilemma: science has resolved this by proving that learning styles do not exist.

Science Newswrote about it… September 20, 2013…

Is Teaching to a Student’s “Learning Style” a Bogus Idea?

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Everything You’ve Ever Been Told About How You Learn Is A Lie

here. Debunks Learning Styles preferences, right-brain/left-brain, and brain training – attempting “far transfer” where learning “X” will help you learn “7” better.

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NPR covered this on August 29, 2011 – read and listen to short recording here.

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Learning Styles – A Bridge to Nowhere?

There Is No Such Thing as “Learning Styles”
by Sigmund Tobias, Fordham University

Published in Summer 2001 in the CADDI Newsletter: Pursuing Performance – here – and in a post here:

Debunking the Myth – There Is No Such Thing As “Learning Styles”

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99 Seconds Session – Video – of Rob Foshay in 2000 at ISPI Conference

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Ruth Clark, PhD – Evidence-Based Training: Debunking the Myth of Learning Styles

– a short summary of Ruth Clark’s book where she addresses the myth of learning styles. From: – also:

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The Myth of Learning Styles

– detailed article from Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham about why learning styles are a myth. From:

Video from Professor Daniel Willingham –

Learning styles FAQ –   Daniel Willingham –

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Myth of learning styles – written by   –

Published in Concepts  Tuesday, 06 August 2013
“Myth: 82% thought that teaching children in their preferred learning style could improve learning outcomes. This approach is commonly justified in terms of brain function, despite educational and scientific evidence demonstrating that the learning-style approach is not helpful (Kratzig & Arbuthnott 2006).” Check The Myth of Learning Styles article and infographic to find more!


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From Harold Stolovitch – –

There is a lot written on learning styles and a lot more folklore circulating about it. Here are two useful articles that deal with your question. The first, McLoughlin, C. (1999). The implications of the research literature on learning styles for the design of instructional material, Australian journal of educational technology, 15 (3), 222-241, provides a good overview of the main currents and definitions of terms that are similar, yet different. These include: learning preferences, cognitive styles, personality types and aptitudes. It also examines two main learning style theoretical approaches, one that divides learners into wholist-analytic versus verbaliser imager and the other that suggests four categories: activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists. The second article, Stahl, S. (1999). Different strokes for different folks? A critique of learning styles. American educator, 23 (3), 27-31, questions the validity of the learning style construct itself. In the article, Stahl examines learning style inventories and questions their reliability.

My take on all of this is that there are individual differences that affect the way we learn. However, there are also many rules with respect to learning that apply to all of us as human learners. While it may be useful to factor in variations in learning approaches, it is probably more useful to apply those universal principles that research on learning consistently suggests result in higher probabilities of learning. What are they? Six simple ones:

  • When learners know why they are supposed to learn something (a rationale with a credible benefit to them), the probability of learning and retention increases.
  • When learners know what they are supposed to learn (a clear, meaningful objective), the probability of learning and retention also increases.
  • If what is to be learned is clearly structured and organized so that the learner easily sees the organization and logic, again, learning and retention probabilities increase.
  • If learners have an opportunity to actively respond and engage in the learning in meaningful ways, once again, learning and retention probabilities increase.
  • If learners receive corrective and confirming feedback with respect to responses they emit or activities in which they engage, their learning increases along with retention.
  • Finally, if the learner feels rewarded for the learning, has a sense of accomplishment or is given an external recompense for the learning that he or she values, learning and retention have an increased probability of occurring.

With respect to being more visual or auditory, while there may be significant differences among learners, more important, however, is stimulus variation.

Concerning the use of media or self-pacing, issues about learning tend to focus more on the design of the mediated or self-paced material than on the medium itself. Richard Clark has written extensively on media not being the message. If the mediated and/or self-paced material follows the universal rules and is well supported, it will work. Some learners who are not used to learning on their own may require additional support and control. Distance universities, such as the British Open University or Athabasca University in Canada, have learned how to do this well.

So, to conclude, there is a lot of folklore and some science concerning individual differences in learning. Best to apply universally sound methods to enhance learning. Vary activities to maintain interest and attention. Provide support and control mechanisms to help learners “stick with it.” This way, you address all learning styles.

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From Will Thallheimer, PhD –

Will and others are offering a $5,000.00 (US) reward to anyone who can “prove” impacting Learning via designing for Learning Styles preferences: – updated 08-04-2014:

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From Clark Quinn – From: – and

In response to my request for his thoughts on this topic for my November eLearn Magazine article:

Guy, I’m totally in support, as you might imagine…

I’ll second the UK study that eviscerated essentially all of the instruments they surveyed (a representative sample), giving most kudos to Entwistle and also Vermunt.  Also Pashler’s study.

I can do more as you wish, perhaps elaborating on my thoughts about how we might find conative effects having an interaction with matching/challenging styles.  In the interim, the best I can do is point you to previous posts on the topic, in chronological order: – – –

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Learning Styles as Fortune Telling – Cammy Bean

– has a nice summary of her findings as she tries to better understand the role of learning styles in e-Learning. From:

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Yes, There Are No Learning Styles – by Ellen Behrens

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Recent Neuroscience and Cognitive Research Findings on Cyber Learning – Richard E. Clark PhD

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Here is a page from a Google Search on “Learning Styles Evidence” –

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From APS – Association for Psychological Science – 2009

Learning Styles Debunked: There is No Evidence Supporting Auditory and Visual Learning, Psychologists Say – here.

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From Steve Wheeler – One of the biggest myths known to teacherdom is learning styles  – here.   24 November 2011

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From an email (12-06-2011) to Guy from a Canadian College Professor (waiting to get permission to use his/her name)

A colleague passed me your recent article – thought I’d share a recent email I sent a new instructional designer…

Basically people do have learning preferences based on what they have been successful with before, there is a nice common sense feel about learning styles – they help explain a lot of phenomena at a superficial level,  however despite TONS of “research” trying to prove the existence of specifically identifiable constructs, no one has passed the empirical smell test, and I doubt they ever will.

1970’s – Aptitude Treatment Interaction (ATI) was the big thing – the idea of “visual” or “audio” learners and a few $M of US govt money backing Cronbach and Snow. 1980 Snow wrote a final report on the project saying despite several millions of dollars and thousands of subjects it appears that the constructs are not valid and the only thing that seems to make a difference in retention is the amount that the learners interact with the content and with each other and thus internalize the content.

1985 Nigel Entwhistle’s chapter in Claire Weinstein’s  Learning and Study Strategies book compared all the literature on learning styles and noted the only thing that seems to be consistent is everyone who explores the area comes up with a whole new set of dimensions that reflected their own personality. Surely if there were any construct validity at least two of them would have found similar dimensions.

1988ish at the ITS conference in Montreal – John Anderson noted that the highest grade 5 American Math class scored lower on standardized tests than the lowest Japanese Math class. His reasoning was attribution theory – in USA if you aren’t good at math it’s because you just aren’t a math person – go try drama… in Japan it’s because you are not trying hard enough – everyone can do math. the notions of “types” is firmly rooted in the American psyche

In 2000 I remember discussing with some folks  how they were using learning styles to design a masters of business program. When they couldn’t get the instrument they wanted to diagnose learning styles, they made up their own – imagine just 12 questions. I guess if the construct has no validity then you don’t need a rigorous test to discriminate…

Recently Martin Gardiner gave an on-line talk and the question of learning styles came up – he was quick to distinguish his concept of multiple intelligences from learning styles which are audiovisual input modes. Of course I’m not sure what the hard evidence is for multiple dimensions of intelligence either – If Stephen Jay Gould (The Mis-measure of Man) he might think they reflected more the tests than what was being tested.

So every time we seem to get learning styles out of the literature along comes another pundit with his philosophically based dimensions of intelligence and then he calls them learning styles and it goes on again. This is mostly an American phenomenon now – the Brits seem to have given up on it. I was reading  a recent UK (2010) book on metacognition and children’s learning and the authors were very adamant that there is but a single general intelligence, and not a kluge of 7 or 8 or 15 dimensions. However, in terms of abilities, people who do play a lot of music become good musicians. people who play and train for sports become good athletes…. Anders Ericsson says you’ve got to get your 10,000 hours in to become an expert…. BUT is this a learning style, or simply specialization?

A simple google search reveals the myth of learning styles…

who in turn points to the latest, most definitive review by Pashler et al

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Learning Styles: Brilliant or Batty?

By Atena Bishka – Nov 2010 ISPI’s PIJ – for those w access to Wiley pubs – here.

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Learning Styles Evidence BLOG – – The purpose of this blog is to examine the evidence for and against learning styles.

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Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students –

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Time for a Learning Styles post –

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What Type of Learner Are You? (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)


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Learning styles: Good or Bad? Bad

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Brain Science: Are Learning Styles Valid?

by Art Kohn DECEMBER 17, 2014

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Styles’ a Symptom of Education’s Ills? Feb 25, 2015

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“For” Learning Styles…

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Stop recycling learning styles

… Apart from the aforementioned, there are two other main problems with learning styles according to Debruyckere et al.

  1. Most people do not fit one particular style – we’ve all done the tests haven’t we… eagerly waiting to find out what our label is, only to find that we are a bit of everything.
  2. The methods used to assign learning styles are inadequate – Due to the fact that all learning styles inventories are self reported, depending on how you feel that day will determine the result. i.e. I have just read a cracking article in the paper, would I be more inclined to think of reading activities more favourably?

Despite the distinct lack of evidence for them and the problems associated with determining so called ‘styles’, they are still at large in the teacher training text books and on teacher training qualifications. I kid you not. There has been a name change in some of the literature to ‘learning preferences’, but this has done nothing to reduce the myth, rather the terms are conflated….

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My book on HPT without using that jargon!
Click on graphic to enlarge.
For more info about this book, please go – here.

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If you know of more studies (with “evidence” and not just “opinions”) – either way – please mention them in the comments section below.

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18 comments on “Foo Foo About: Designing Instruction for Learning Styles Differences

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