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Shonette Laffy


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Do you find learning styles helpful?


I attended a session at Learning Technologies which debunked learning styles - but in practice do you find that learners do respond better to different approaches?

Is it more effective to tailor your training to the learner, or to focus more on making sure that the delivery method is best for the content you're covering?

8 Responses

  1. Hi Shonette – quite a
    Hi Shonette – quite a pertinent issue as I’ve seen quite a lot of material recently de-bunking learning myths including learning styles. In my experience, I haven’t deliberately moved away from thinking styles but more into exploring new ways of learning that mirror the way we learn at home. So, I’ve got into Social Learning more (where the learner controls their learning experience rather than entirely relying on a knowledge expert) plus using tools that mirror things like youtube. Even before that, I think I moved away from categorising people by learning styles and exploring more the way that people like to learn by asking them wehat they like rather than via a Learning Styles questionnaire.

  2. Very good question, I too
    Very good question, I too have been hearing a lot of people debunking learning styles. At the end of the day, I don’t think I ever saw it as set in stone anyway. The key thing for me is that everyone is different and what they want and how they learn changes for different needs and in different circumstances. Clive’s answer is particularly interesting, thanks Clive

  3. This article states that ‘You
    This article states that ‘You can get good at almost anything if you dedicate enough time and energy to it.’

    I believe that we are always learning and it should comes down to staying open minded , focus and hard work. I don’t believe that all learners fit into one mold though and we should disregard learning styles.

  4. I’ve never had a trainee leap
    I’ve never had a trainee leap up in the middle of a class and yell, “I’m a kinesthetic learner! Stop all this auditory nonsense!” For me, the trick is to shake things up in every session so that if preferences matter to any learner, I’ve paid homage to the three main styles. The learning style movement (or fad?) was kind of oppressive to me–how could I possibly develop instruction, not knowing the LS mix of any particular audience? Should I design three different versions and pre-test the learners to determine which class would best fit them? And, merciful heavens, what should be done when multiple intelligences were thrown into the mix? So, I, for one, am vastly relieved that the LS issue is being called into question, and that I can feel good about the engagement mix that has worked for me over the years.

    1. I was taught the Honey &
      I was taught the Honey & Mumford learning styles rather that VAK so that would have meant accommodating 4 types of learning style. Mind you, I always came out strongest on Activist and Reflector so I always used to say that I did things without thinking and then spending weeks reflecting on what I should have done differently!!!

    2. Learning preferences exist, i
      Learning preferences exist, i.e. everyone responds to different stimuli in different ways and as a traiber I have a built-in preference for certain ways of training / learning myself.
      So the first thing for me is to realise my own preferneces when designing training and ensure I do not overdo my own likes.
      The second thing is simply to make all training engaging, relevant, actionable and measurable. Following these principles has given me and more importantly my learners some great sessions.
      Finally I observe the responses of the learners – either visually or aurally if phone training. Their response and sometimes lack of response tells me when to change gear and do something different. This method real time of observation also confirms to me if they are at the place they need to be to continue and I have options ready it they are not.

  5. I’m firmly in the ‘de-bunking
    I’m firmly in the ‘de-bunking’ camp if what we mean is getting rid of categorisation and the idea that trainers should present content and activity in ways that will appeal to specific learning types. I believe that effective learners use multiple dimensions (attitudes, beliefs, skills, behaviours) in order to learn more effectively and that as trainers we have a responsibility to strengthen all of these dimensions in order to build more learning capability. Look at the work that came out of the University of Bristol’s ELLI project (Effective Lifelong Learning) to explore the dimensins of effective learning that they identified and how these can be used to build learning power.
    I do use a wide range of training methodologies and include VAK methods. However, I don’t do this to ‘cater’ for different learners – I use it to build and reinforce learning for everyone by offering content using different, layered methodologies. I don’t accept the Honey and Mumford categorisations as a generalisation: I know from personal experience that context, material, external pressures and and my personal motivation will determine how I learn. (This is actually one of the key learning dimensions – having strategic awareness of your own learning preferences, approaches, needs etc and planning your learning around them.)
    So let’s get rid of the simplistic approach to learning styles and start to understand our responsibility to build learning capacity in all our learners.

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Shonette Laffy

Deputy Editor

Read more from Shonette Laffy

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