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Learning Styles: Myth or Reality? PowerPoint Presentation
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Learning Styles: Myth or Reality?

Learning Styles: Myth or Reality?

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Learning Styles: Myth or Reality?

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  1. Learning Styles: Myth or Reality? Jolly Holden, Ed.D. Associate Professor, School of Education American InterContinental University Online Flash Presentation available at: http://www.fgdla.us/fgdla_salt_conf_presentations.html

  2. Why Are You Here? Opinion: The concept of learning styles in predicting learning outcomes is probably the most misunderstood and misapplied instructional concept confronting educators and trainers today. Fact: Research has revealed that learning styles have little, if any, effect on predictinglearning outcomes. In fact, there is no evidence that instructors succeed in improving learning by attempting to diagnose student learning styles, and adjusting instruction accordingly for the individual students. Result:So why is there so much discussion on them and why are they still widely perceived as having an effect?

  3. Inform--What are learning styles and how do they differ from learning modalities? Educate--What does the research indicate? The facts based on research, not Google. Enlighten—So what? Why so much confusion? What can trainers/instructional designers do to facilitate the transfer of learning? Goals of This Presentation

  4. Are you a… Converger; diverger; assimilator; accommodator (Kolb’s learning styles inventory) Concrete sequential; abstract random; abstract sequential; concrete random (Gregorc’s learning style topography) Sensory/intuitive; visual/verbal; active/reflective; sequential/global (Felder & Solomon four-dimension model) Activists; reflectors; pragmatists; theorists (Honey & Mumford's learning styles) Messick: Analytic/non-analytic; conceptualizing Convergent/divergent thinking (Guilford’s model of intellect) Field dependent/field independent (Witkin’s cognitive styles) Visual, aural, kinesthetic (Dunn & Dunn VAK learning styles) Do You Know Your Learning Style?

  5. The “So What” The Debate What are Learning Styles? What are Learning Modalities? What’s the Difference? The Learning Style Hypothesis Review of the Research What Does it All Mean & What Can I Do? What Do the Experts Say? Cognitive Styles Learning/Cognitive Style Resources Presentation Menu(Click any of the hyperlinks to go directly to that topic) Prior Return Next slide to Menu slide

  6. Insight [and research] into Learning Styles • A recent study published in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest challenged the prevailing concept of learning styles and their affect on student performance. The investigators (four prominent cognitive psychologists) found “no evidence…for validating the educational applications of learning styles into general educational practice.” • To that end, in a 2010 article appearing in the Australian Journal of Educational Research stated “research conducted over the last 40 years has failed to show that individual attributes can be used to guide effective teaching practice”. • This is not surprising…these results and conclusions have been supported repeatedly in the research for the past 30 years.

  7. So What? • This is not a new debate but a continuing investigation into the efficacy of learning styles that has spanned 60 years. • To that end, there is a strong intuitive appeal to the notion there are individual preferences and styles of learning. • That said, we’re not going to solve the problem today, but… at the end of this presentation, you will better understand the concept of learning styles, the reliability and variability of the instruments used to identify them, and impact [or lack thereof] on learning.

  8. Given the Research, Why the Debate? You can thank Google for that…the Google “effect” blurs one’s perception when attempting to distinguish valid research from lore. Google search results Note: Google can only search the WWW…it cannot search the deep web. The majority of research data is only available on the deep web.

  9. Now, let’s see what a comprehensive, university library database reveals when searching the Deep Web. Note: Google currently indexes ~23.5 billion out of the 300+ billion pages out there...less than 8% of all available internet content. The other 92% is located in the deep web. What Google Doesn’t Know and Can’t Find: The Deep Web This university library has the capability to search thousands of databases comprising over 18,000 peer reviewed (refereed) journals encompassing ~1,464,000 annual journal articles in specific disciplines from the past 2 decades. The total articles searched exceeds 28,000,000.

  10. What are Learning Styles? • Basically, learning styles refers to the concept that individuals differ in regard as to what specific mode in acquiring information is most effective for them, and that learning styles are not a fixed trait, but a differential preference for learning. • However, learning style definitions are characterized by considerable conceptual confusion and the lack of any generally accepted definition. • Many educational/cognitive psychologists believe learning styles are a myth…that while individual differences in learning exists, they are a result of acquired/innate preferences but do not affect learning anymore than the truck delivering groceries to your local store affects your dietary habits.

  11. What are Learning Modalities? • Learning, or perceptual modalities, are sensory based and refer to the primary way our bodies take in information though our senses: visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (moving), and tactile (touching). • Humans are multi-sensory in that the brain performs several activities at once when processing information (e.g., tasting and smelling, hearing and seeing), but are processed through different channels in our brain. • While the brain processes wholes and part simultaneously, learning engages the whole body. Note: Multi-sensory processing is not the same as multi-tasking (partial tasking) in that the brain is not very good at multi-tasking, per se, attempting to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

  12. What’s the Difference? • Not surprisingly, there is substantial confusion between learning styles and learning modalities where the terms are often used interchangeably. • One of the reasons is the complexity of how the human brain functions as it relates to one’s modalities in receiving information (visual, aural, kinesthetic) and how the brain processes that information (cognition). • An important finding from that research is that retention is generally independent of the modality used to acquire whatever is learned.

  13. What’s the Difference? • You typically store memories in terms of meaning-- not in terms of whether you saw (visual), heard (aural), or physically (tactile/kinesthetic) interacted with the information. • To that end, our brain is constantly searching its memory for context based on prior knowledge/experience. • In the absence of visual cues, our brains create “mental pictures” based upon our schema to add context to what is printed/spoken. Click here for an example. • The fact is, we don’t learn based upon style…we learn based upon meaning (context). Click here for a example.

  14. The Essence of the Debate [and the disagreement] • Learning style theorists look at how students learn, not what they learned. • Based upon information acquisition theory of multimedia learning which holds that learning consists of receiving information • Assumes people learn by adding information to memory, “as if the mind were an empty vessel that needs to be filled with information” (Clark & Mayer, E-learning and the Science of Instruction, 3rd Ed., 2011) • By emphasizing the how of instruction, learning styles practitioners lose sight of the what of instruction and tend to “profile” learners based upon perception. • Note: Neuroscience has estimated 85% of the human brain is wired to process visual information, and that 90% of what the brain processes is visual information, so one’s primary learning modality is visual.

  15. The Essence of the Debate [and the disagreement] • No current holistic [overall] theory of learning preferences. • The point being that what is commonly referred to as learning styles, others have labeled as cognitive styles, learning preferences, learning capabilities, cognitive control, multiple intelligences, etc. • Not supported by available research evidence that “visualizers” learn better with visual forms of instruction and “verbalizers” learn better with verbal modes of instruction. “Review of 150 studies found none supported learning styles. The mind is so complex and malleable that variance within a person is so great as to make the point [learning styles] moot.” Busted Learning Myths, Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Feb 2012

  16. Predicting Learning Styles: The Basis of the Theory [and the confusion] • The genesis of the [VAK] theory of learning styles is that if you can design instruction that matches a student’s “style”, they should learn better: • The visual learner will understand best when information (content) is presented to the visually. • The auditory learner will understand best when information is described to them orally. • The kinesthetic learner will understand best when they can touch/fell the what is being presented to them. • These are statements of predictability, per se, you are predicting learning outcomes based upon learning “styles”

  17. Predicting Learning Styles: The Basis of the Theory [and the confusion] • The assumption is once you identify a specific style, you can design instruction that best fits the style. • However, there is no evidence that knowledge of one’s learning styles is a benefit to learning. • Furthermore, there is no evidence that instructors succeed in improving learning by attempting to diagnose student learning styles, and adjusting instruction accordingly for the individual students.

  18. The Learning Style Hypothesis: True or False? • The hypothesis of the learning styles theory is as follows: Learning is optimal if the learning method is matched to the student’s learning style. As with any scientific hypothesis, two key questions should be asked: • 1. How would we know the hypothesis is true, or what type of evidence would show that the hypothesis is true? • 2. How would we know the hypothesis is not true, or what type of evidence would show that the hypothesis is not true?

  19. The Learning Style Hypothesis: True or False? • “Based upon the most thorough review of experimental studies known to date, which sought to objectively find answers either in support of or against the hypothesis described prior, did not find evidence in favor of the learning styles hypothesis, per se, that learning is more effective when teaching matches the • learner’s style”. • * Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2008 The theory of learning styles is attractive, and it sounds like common sense. It is also convenient, offering a rationale of escaping accountability and getting rid of responsibility. Learning Styles Fray: Brilliant or Batty? Performance Improvement, Vol49, Number 10 , 2010

  20. What Does the Research Reveal About Learning Styles? • Simply stated, the research has not revealed a compelling argument as to the impact of learning styles and their effect on predictinglearning outcomes. • Research does not support designing instruction to match learning styles. • After more than 30 years of research, no consensus has been reached about the most effective instrument for measuring learning styles and there is no agreement about the most appropriate pedagogical interventions. • No substantial, uncontested, and hard empirical evidence has been found to prove that matching the styles of learner and instructor improves learning and attention.

  21. What Does the Research Reveal About Learning Styles? • Postulates learning/cognitive styles have <5% effect on the variability in learning. • The majority of research does not support a significant statistical relationship between learning/cognitive styles and learning outcomes. • Small sample sizes, flawed sampling methodology, and non-experimental research designs casts doubt on the results of VAK learning style research. Based on several decades of empirical evidence, matching learning activities/ strategies with specific learning styles does not often result in improved learning. Dr. Allan Jeong, Associate Professor, Dept. of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Florida State University

  22. What Does the Research Reveal About Learning Styles? • Low validity and reliability scores of the VAK instruments used to identify specific learning styles raise serious doubts about their psychometric properties. • In other words, if the tests used to identify learning styles are not reliable or valid, then any conclusions or results based upon them are suspect. • These tests are not controlled in their distribution and/or reproduction, or administered under controlled conditions.

  23. What Does the Research Reveal About Learning Styles? • Scores on the VAK learning style tests vary greatly among same individual. • VAK test questions focus on out-of-context preferences which allows for wide range of interpretations. • Learning style instruments tend to be self-assessments that rely on students to answer honestly and to have enough self-awareness to answer accurately. • Intervening variables confound the results • Assessment of learning styles based on sensory modality has no correlation with learning and memory. Research reveals that most learning style instruments have such serious weaknesses (e.g. low reliability & poor validity) it is recommend their use in research and practice should be discontinued. Investigations of the properties of a variety of scales have revealed that even the most widely used are inadequate in this regard. Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 54, No. I, 2010, 5-17

  24. Given the Research, Why all the Confusion? • It’ s not surprising the reference to learning styles is one of the most misunderstood and overused issues confronting educational and training communities. • Part of the reason is the wide disparity in the definition of learning styles and their relationship to cognitive styles. • Furthermore, there is continued debate as to whether learning styles even exist, with the only current evidence of their existence being the tests used to identify them. • Confusion is further exacerbated in that research has identified over 71 different types of learning styles (Table 1), summarized into the 13 most influential models (Table 2), and families (Table 3).

  25. Cut to the Chase—What Can I Do? • Cognitive science has revealed learners differ in their abilities with different modalities, but teaching to a learner’s best modality doesn't affect learning outcomes. • What does matter is whether the learner is taught in the content's best modality…people learn more when content drives the choice of modality. Note: Although neuroscience has revealed 90% of what the brain processes is visual information, most learners are multi-modal and multi-sensory and adapt their strategies accordingly.

  26. Design Techniques: Facilitating the Transfer of Learning • Avoid cognitive overload in multimedia design . • Cognitive Overload Theory focuses on the role of working memory in instructional design. • Meaningful learning depends on active cognitive processing in learner’s working memory. • If learners encounter too many elements in the presentation of multimedia information (animation, graphics, sound, text), working memory can be overwhelmed • Result is excessive cognitive load that impedes learning.

  27. Design Techniques: Facilitating the Transfer of Learning • Integrate cognitive learning strategies into the design of instructional to facilitate transfer of knowledge (click herefor more) • Review the Cognitive Information Processing model (click herefor more). • Integrate Cognitive Flexibility Theory in design of instruction (facilitates the acquisition of knowledge). • Accomplished by revisiting the same material, at different times, in rearranged contexts, and from different conceptual perspectives.

  28. Design Techniques: Facilitating the Transfer of Learning • Employ dual-coding theory: When content is presented through two different channels (visual and auditory),working memory can be increased (click here for more on dual-coding theory). • Adds context to the written/spoken word. • Retention is improved through words and pictures (visual media) rather than through words alone.

  29. Conclusion • Learning styles provide no indication of what the students are capable of, nor are they legitimate excuses for poor academic performance. • Assume all students have an intrinsic motivation to learn. • Recognize the complexity in learning and that individuals do learn differently. • Don’t constrain learning by “profiling” (aka categorizing/ labeling) students based on learning styles. “learning styles‘ theory appeals to the underlying culture's model of the person ensures the theory's continued survival, despite the evidence against its utility. Rather than being a harmless fad, learning styles theory perpetuates the very stereotyping and harmful teaching practices it is said to combat.” Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 54, No. I, 2010, 5-17

  30. Final Note • The research on how we learn has generally ignored the agility of humans in being able to adapt to different learning environments. • The research has grossly understated the internal fortitude of humans to employ multiple learning “preferences” in their endeavor to learn. • As educators and trainers, we must never underestimate the ultimate trump card that represents the single most important variability in learning…the will to learn. Research has indicated prior knowledge and intrinsic motivation account for ~70% of the variability in learning.

  31. The End: Questions? “A man only needs two tools in life: WD-40 tomake things go, and duct tape to make themstop.” G. M. Weilacher, American humorist “and a hammer to pound things in and a screw driver to pry them out.” my wife Prior Return slide to Menu

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  33. What are Cognitive Styles? • Cognitive styles are viewed as a bipolar dimension representing a person's typical or habitualmode of problem solving, thinking, perceiving and remembering; are considered stable over time, and related to theoretical or academic research. • Cognitive styles primarily focus on cognitionand how information is processed in the brain.

  34. What Does the Research Reveal About Cognitive Styles? • The research pertaining to cognitive styles is quite different than learning styles in that the reliability and the validity of the instruments used to identify them are much more robust. • The most researched cognitive style is Herman Witkin’s Field Dependence/Field Independence (more on FD/FI here). • The test used to identify Field Dependence (FD) and Field Independence (FI) is the Embedded Figures Test • Highly reliable and valid (Cronbach Alpha >80%) • However, research on cognitive styles has declined in recent years due to the fuzziness between cognitive styles and abilities, assumption that cognitive styles are innate while abilities are acquired.

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  36. Describing and “Seeing” the Constellation Orion • The constellations are totally imaginary things that have been made up over the past 6,000 years . So how would you describe something imaginary to your students? • You may begin by describing the three bright stars in a row that form Orion’s belt and the other stars that form his sword. • But your students have trouble “visualizing” how the stars shape the figure of Orion. To assist them in creating a mental picture, you show them a star chart of Orion to help them “visualize” this imaginary figure. • But they still can’t quite get it, so to further enhance their mental image, you show them another detailed chart depicting Orion. • The aha moment…they got it because they now can “see” Orion, so they conclude they must be visual learners. Return to main presentation But…are they really visual learners or did you create the visual image for them by adding context to the description?

  37. Orion Star Chart Return to prior slide

  38. Orion Figure Outlined in a Star Chart Return to prior slide

  39. The Constellation Orion Return to prior slide

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  41. Example Given the depiction of a power line in the map on the left, identify the power line in the aerial photo on the right. Return to main presentation

  42. Example If you cannot find the power line, it may be due to your prior knowledge (schema) of what power lines should look like, such as the ones depicted below. Since there are no other visual cues to add context to your prior “visual images”, and due to lack of past experiences, you may not be able to locate the power line. Return to main presentation

  43. Example So lets add some context (meaning). Don’t look for the actual power line structure…instead look where the power line might be. It’s not a matter of “seeing” the actual power lines or visual acuity…it’s a matter of context. Return to main presentation

  44. Example Still can’t locate it? Here’s another image – look for the path of the power line (right-of-way) instead of the actual structures. Result: Given a different context, you identify the power line path not from your prior knowledge but instead based upon an entirely different context. You have now added a new concept to your schema, which could also be applied to similar situations. Return to main presentation Click for final image/click again to turn off

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  46. Table 1: Types of Learning/Cognitive Styles* Return to main presentation * Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. Learning Skills and Research Centre, London. Retrieved from http://www.leerbeleving.nl/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/learning-styles.pdf

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  48. Table 2: Most Influential Models of Learning/Cognitive Styles* Return to main presentation * Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. Learning Skills and Research Centre, London. Retrieved from http://www.leerbeleving.nl/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/learning-styles.pdf

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  50. Table 3: Families of Learning/Cognitive Styles* Return to main presentation * Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. Learning Skills and Research Centre, London. Retrieved from http://www.leerbeleving.nl/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/learning-styles.pdf