The past week learning styles have been in the buzz again, but we can’t blame teachers for believing in them. They have been thought over and over again, but even worse: scientists keep promoting them.
Take for example this brandnew PhD, released this week at my home town university. It’s all about cognitive load theory – and doesn’t stem from the educational science departement to be clear – but what is mentioned over and over again? Yep. But if you read carefully, you’ll notice that in fact what the researcher is describing, are learning preferences. Oops, but you can’t blame teachers for not noticing the difference.
It’s even worse as Phil Newton shows in his new article in Frontiers:
The overwhelming majority (89%) of recent research papers, listed in the ERIC and PubMed research databases, implicitly or directly endorse the use of Learning Styles in Higher Education. These papers are dominated by the VAK and Kolb Learning Styles inventories. These presence of these papers in the pedagogical literature demonstrates that an educator, attempting to take an evidence-based approach to education, would be presented with a strong yet misleading message that the use of Learning Styles is endorsed by the current research literature. This has potentially negative consequences for students and for the field of education research.
This is not dissimilar to previous research showing how many papers cite the even flawed learning pyramid.
That’s why I never blame teachers. But dear scientists, we really need to get our act together (and don’t be stubborn).