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.