Learning Styles are Not a Useful Means of Designing Instruction
Modality preference and learning style theories: rethinking the role of sensory modality in learning (Jason M. Lodge Louise Hansen David Cottrell, 2015) DOI: 10.1080/23735082.2015.1083115
Abstract: Learning styles have been widely accepted in
pedagogical practice but suffer from a distinct lack of empirical
support. While a diverse range of learning styles have been proposed,
modality preference has received the most attention within educational
research and practice. Supporters of this theory posit that each
individual has a dominant sense and that when new material is
presented in this preferred modality, learning is improved. For the
most part this theory has been debunked, however, it leaves open the
question of exactly how sensory modality influences learning. This
critical review identifies methodological limitations in previous
research and provides a perspective from psychological science, which
supports the implausibility of modality preference as a basis for
instructional design. To extend on the existing literature, an
alternative position is presented suggesting that modality effects are
task dependent, hence modality matters, but it matters for everyone in
the same way depending on the nature of the learning activity.
Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education (Paul A. Kirschner Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer, 2013) DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2013.804395
Abstract: This article takes a critical look at three
pervasive urban legends in education about the nature of learners,
learning, and teaching and looks at what educational and psychological
research has to say about them. The three legends can be seen as
variations on one central theme, namely, that it is the learner who
knows best and that she or he should be the controlling force in her
or his learning. The first legend is one of learners as digital
natives who form a generation of students knowing by nature how to
learn from new media, and for whom “old” media and methods used in
teaching/learning no longer work. The second legend is the widespread
belief that learners have specific learning styles and that education
should be individualized to the extent that the pedagogy of
teaching/learning is matched to the preferred style of the learner.
The final legend is that learners ought to be seen as self-educators
who should be given maximum control over what they are learning and
their learning trajectory. It concludes with a possible reason why
these legends have taken hold, are so pervasive, and are so difficult
Adaptive educational hypermedia accommodating learning styles: A content analysis of publications from 2000 to 2011 (Yavuz Akbulut Cigdem Suzan Cardak, 2012) DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.008
Abstract: Implementing instructional interventions to
accommodate learner differences has received considerable attention.
Among these individual difference variables, the empirical evidence
regarding the pedagogical value of learning styles has been
questioned, but the research on the issue continues. Recent
developments in Web-based implementations have led scholars to
reconsider the learning style research in adaptive systems. The
current study involved a content analysis of recent studies on
adaptive educational hypermedia (AEH) which addressed learning styles.
After an extensive search on electronic databases, seventy studies
were selected and exposed to a document analysis. Study features were
classified under several themes such as the research purposes,
methodology, features of adaptive interventions and student modeling,
and findings. The analysis revealed that the majority of studies
proposed a framework or model for adaptivity whereas few studies
addressed the effectiveness of learning style-based AEH. Scales were
used for learning style identification more than automatic student
modeling. One third of the studies provided a framework without
empirical evaluation with students. Findings on concrete learning
outcomes were not strong enough; however, several studies revealed
that suggested models influenced student satisfaction and success.
Current trends, potential research gaps and implications were
Reflections on Multiple Intelligences: Myths and Messages
(Howard Gardner, 1995) Also available from
Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence.
Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105–119. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x
Abstract: The term “learning styles” refers to the concept that individuals differ in regard to what mode of instruction or study is most effective for them. Proponents of learning-style assessment contend that optimal instruction requires diagnosing individuals’ learning style and tailoring instruction accordingly. Assessments of learning style typically ask people to evaluate what sort of information presentation they prefer (e.g., words versus pictures versus speech) and/or what kind of mental activity they find most engaging or congenial (e.g., analysis versus listening), although assessment instruments are extremely diverse. The most common—but not the only—hypothesis about the instructional relevance of learning styles is the meshing hypothesis, according to which instruction is best provided in a format that matches the preferences of the learner (e.g., for a “visual learner,” emphasizing visual presentation of information).
The learning-styles view has acquired great influence within the education field, and is frequently encountered at levels ranging from kindergarten to graduate school. There is a thriving industry devoted to publishing learning-styles tests and guidebooks for teachers, and many organizations offer professional development workshops for teachers and educators built around the concept of learning styles.
The authors of the present review were charged with determining whether these practices are supported by scientific evidence. We concluded that any credible validation of learning-styles-based instruction requires robust documentation of a very particular type of experimental finding with several necessary criteria. First, students must be divided into groups on the basis of their learning styles, and then students from each group must be randomly assigned to receive one of multiple instructional methods. Next, students must then sit for a final test that is the same for all students. Finally, in order to demonstrate that optimal learning requires that students receive instruction tailored to their putative learning style, the experiment must reveal a specific type of interaction between learning style and instructional method: Students with one learning style achieve the best educational outcome when given an instructional method that differs from the instructional method producing the best outcome for students with a different learning style. In other words, the instructional method that proves most effective for students with one learning style is not the most effective method for students with a different learning style.
Our review of the literature disclosed ample evidence that children and adults will, if asked, express preferences about how they prefer information to be presented to them. There is also plentiful evidence arguing that people differ in the degree to which they have some fairly specific aptitudes for different kinds of thinking and for processing different types of information. However, we found virtually no evidence for the interaction pattern mentioned above, which was judged to be a precondition for validating the educational applications of learning styles. Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis.
We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have a strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number. However, given the lack of methodologically sound studies of learning styles, it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested and found wanting; many have simply not been tested at all. Further research on the use of learning-styles assessment in instruction may in some cases be warranted, but such research needs to be performed appropriately.