Why it’s improbable that adapting to learning styles will ever work (new review)

I just received a notice from a preprint from a new review study on learning styles by

and they add an interesting element to the learning styles discussion. Besides the knowledge that adapting to learning styles – and by extension multiple intelligences – doesn’t work and isn’t supported by evidence, they also explain why it’s improbable that this will ever be possible. I know, this isn’t entirely new, but worth sharing. No, it’s not because they have the possibility to look into the future, but they based it on the present knowledge and the trends that can be acknowledged when looking into how research has been evolving:

…from the discussion on the functioning of the brain, it is clear that learning styles violate the connectivity principle. Additionally, most of the evidence indicates that teaching in the styles preferred by students does not improve academic performance. However, only 14 studies deny this hypothesis (Cuevas & Dawson, 2018, Moser and Zumbach, 2018, Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2008), 7 prove it (Cuevas & Dawson, 2018; Moser & Zumbach, 2018) and 6 are nonconforming (Moser & Zumbach, 2018). Therefore, the trend of the evidence on learning styles is negative limited and since the construct does not show connectivity, it can be classified as an improbable phenomenon. Consequently, the recommendation made by Coffield, Moseley, Hall, & Ecclestone (2004, p. 140), of not basing pedagogical interventions on learning styles remains valid.

What do they mean by connectivity principle?

This principle establishes that any theory that attempts to explain a phenomenon must consider previously confirmed empirical facts directly related to the phenomenon. In such a way that it does not contradict this verified knowledge.

Abstract from the preprint:

Leaning styles are a widespread idea that has high levels of acceptance in education and psychology. The promises of adopting the construct range from gains in academic performance, to the development of respect for the self and others. Nevertheless, from a scientific perspective it remains highly controversial. Most studies indicate that matching teaching to the learning styles of students does not improve learning, and that their psychometric instruments do not show enough reliability and validity. In this sense, this paper investigated if the postulates of learning styles are consistent with the way the human brain process information. Moreover, the trend of the accumulated evidence about learning styles was analyzed, using a simple algorithm, to determine if they are a proven, debatable, improbable or denied phenomenon. Results show: (1) that learning styles, along with the multiple intelligence theory and the left or right-brained hypothesis, are not compatible with what is currently know about the inner workings of the brain; (2) that the trend of the evidence, although still limited, does not favor learning styles; (3) that as a phenomenon

styles are classified as improbable.


2 thoughts on “Why it’s improbable that adapting to learning styles will ever work (new review)

  1. I’ve been always wondering why apart from all subjects to be studied there were no subject teaching how to study properly. The efficient studying itself is pretty a sophisticated skill that should be embraced separately as any other discipline.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.