Learning techniques have evolved over time, which eventually lead to the emergence of studies that theorized the existence of learning styles. The core concept of learning styles is that individuals differ in how they acquire and process information. Many theories include auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning. The question of the validity of such learning styles are highly debated, due to the fact that there is few research that gives concrete evidence on the subject.
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The emergence of learning styles have had a positive effect on the education system. Teachers apply the knowledge of learning styles and incorporate them to develop different learning techniques. The benefits this creates for the education system is the encouragement to focus on the learning capabilities and progress on each individual student. This allows educators to focus on individual progress and preferences compared to the emphasis the average success rate of the entire class.
The first studies that show corresponding success with an individual’s specific-abilities differences was conducted by Louis Thurstone in 1936. Thurstone proposed the existence of “seven primal mental abilities”, which through His research showed evidence that there is a correlation between individual abilities and adptitudes. In 1999, a study was stated by Sternberg, Grigorenko, Ferrari, and Clinkenbear who conducted a research experiment to prove the learning styles hypothesis. A group of 324 high school students whom were told to participate in Sternberg Triarchic Abilities test to determine their learning styles such as analytical, creative, and practical ability. The researchers than isolated the 112 subjects with the highest scores than put them into their corresponding strengths groups. The research demonstrated that when the subjects were put into the group that corresponded to their strengths their course performance increases. Many psychologist have researched on the existence of learning styles and it is still a highly controversial study today.
The evidence on false learning does not prove that learning styles exist. Thurstones experiments were highly successful; however, they only gave evidence that demonstrated the presence of individual aptitudes. Learning styles and aptitudes differ because aptitudes do not measure how the individuals acquire or processes information for learning. Thurstones experiment just showed how some of us can do better on certain things than others. For example, I am good at playing musical instruments and singing but terrible in sports, while my sister cannot hold a tune but naturally is very athletic. Our “talents” are not based on a certain learning style but on our individual aptitudes.
Steinburg, Grigorenko, Ferrari, and Clinkenbeard’s research was not conclusive as well. They failed to randomly select students since they started with 324 subjects and ended up with 112. It made me question the accuracy of the experiment because they isolated the highest scores to put in their findings. There was also 87 subjects that were put into two separate groups which were completely disregarded in their results and experiment. The suspicious changes made during the experimental process with unspecific reasons allowed for a questionable response to their results. Learning styles still hasn’t acquired hard evidence to support its theory.
Learning styles may have contributed to the education system in a positive way but it has negatively affected our society as well. Millions of dollars have been spent endorsing the learning style industry. Encouraging people to spend money on books, expensive tutoring programs, and learning assessments. There is no concrete evidence that learning styles even exists but yet they can still convince people to spend over a thousand dollars to take a style assessment test. This money grab is used for tutoring services so they can charge hundreds of dollars extra just to say “our tutors teach according to your child’s unique learning style”.
The article by Sophie Guteri talks about the inconsistencies of learning style research and the controversy surrounding the theory. During the comments at the end of the article you will notice that most people agree with the idea that learning styles are “bogus”; however, one individual under the user name rosabw seemed generally “ticked off” at the accusation that learning styles didn’t exist. Instead of critically thinking about the article she responded saying things like “come over here and ill smack every one of you…”, which makes me wonder if she had been victim to spending thousands of dollars so that her children taught in reference to their unique learning style.
I think that we don’t all have a unique learning style however I do think that having a wide variety of teaching techniques in the school system. Cognitive psychology shows that teaching something in multiple ways will heighten retention. For example auditory learning is best for recall when corresponding with visual components. My theory is that when retaining information the more ways you learn the material the higher the retention. I propose a experiment that tests a group of students for their “unique” learning style and put them in a course that only uses that style. Than have a group of students that are in the same course but being taught using an arrangements of teaching style, which includes auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning. My hypothesis is that the students whom take a class that uses more learning styles together will have a significantly higher retention score.
Learning styles have negatively and positively affected society and the education system. While reading the articles provided I was shocked at the lack of concrete evidence and my opinion was persuaded. Until further research is done I will continue to critique the theory of learning styles.
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