One of the beautiful things of being a human is that we are all unique in our own ways, the same goes for how we process new information and acquire knowledge. Misconceptions about learning styles, myths about how our brain functions and design of our learning environments are embedded in corporate training programs and could be sabotaging their effectiveness. As companies increasingly invest money in developing their employees, they can do better if they design their training programs based on accurate and up-to-date research and assumptions.
Learning style is the way an individual concentrates on their methods of processing and obtaining new knowledge or experiences. To determine one’s learning style is based on a complex mix of strengths and in addition, their cognitive, emotional, and environmental upbringing. It’s important for instructors to understand differences in individuals’ learning style so they can implement the best practices into their training.
The idea of different learning styles became popularized in the 1970s. Learning styles refer to a range of competing and contested theories that aim to account for differences in individuals’ learning. There are many proposed theories that claim humans can be classified according to their style of learning, however, they are contradicting and all differ in how these styles should be defined, evaluated and applied. It’s an attractive thought. Well, perhaps people like to identify themselves and others by a certain “type”. Creating such labels may help classify these differences and offer a quick way of understanding one another, as well as, make you gain knowledge and skills easier. Who wouldn’t want to make learning easy! But before identifying someone’s learning style, we need to dive deeper to find out if the idea of “individual learning style” is real and applicable in learning process or it is just a myth.
Although, it’s appealing to want to fit into a “type”, but here we should be careful, as these labels can limit and create obstacles in one’s learning. There have been three common myths learning preferences;
- #1 There is no specific individual learning style.Recent studies show no evidence that individuals have a specific learning style (e.g. visual, auditory, writing/reading, or kinesthetic). Learning professionals should instead focus on a mix of various learning methods and styles based on learning goals and expected outcome.
- #2 People use both sides of their brain to carry out most tasks. The well-known theory that learners are either left brained/analytical or right brained/creative is a false statement. The two hemispheres of the brain are interconnected and communicate together. This notion has led to the misconception that each one of us has a strictly preferred learning style and channel. Recent studies have flatly disproved this idea. During learning process when learners engage all their senses in a variety of ways, it can help them to remember and retain new content easier.
- #3 Environments rich in stimuli can distract learners and disengage them from learning. While some stimulation is good, too much stimuli can distract learners and make the learning process difficult. Sometimes they cannot focus on the central idea of the learning experience.
Despite lack of evidence there is something valuable in knowing your learning style and that is metacognition: thinking about thinking. Memory recognition and self-regulation in practice can maximize one’s potential to think, learn and evaluate solutions. Analyzing our thinking can help strategize the best learning plan for ourselves. It will support us by becoming more organized, knowing to use prior knowledge as a structure when learning new material and utilize the best learning modality for different tasks.
Want to discover different existing learning styles? Stay tuned! The next upcoming weeks we will be looking into six most widely used and influential learning models and theories which can be definitely useful for your lifelong learning journey.