!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Daniel Willingham on Learning Styles

Friday, August 07, 2009

Daniel Willingham on Learning Styles

There are many versions of the concept of "learning styles." For instance, an earlier post discussed a two-dimensional model, in which the dimensions are action/reflection and feelings/facts.

Today's post focuses on a particularly popular model — the visual-auditory-kinesthetic (VAK) model — which is the focus of the video below. In the video, Daniel Willingham, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, explains why he rejects the notion of learning styles.

The VAK model posits that some people are visual learners, some are aural learners, and others are kinesthetic learners, and, therefore, teachers should devote time and energy to making sure their approach for each student matches the student's preferred style.

As you will see from Willingham's video, he emphatically disagrees with this advice. He accepts that people differ in what types of information they learn most readily — e.g., some, due to a combination of ability and interest, are especially able to learn information presented visually, while others learn most easily information presented auditorily, etc. What Willingham rejects is the idea that teachers should present information in different ways to to different students in order to match each student's learning preference.

Instead, Willingham's advises presenting information in the way that best suits the particular information in question. As an example, he cites the objective of having studients learn where the various countries of Africa are located. This information is most clearly presented visually, i.e., by presenting a map of the continent. Regardless of whether a student learns best visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically, the best way for any student to learn where each African country is located is to work with a visual presentation of the information — a map.

Back in July, in conjunction with publication of his book, Why Don't Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom, Willingham was interviewed by Greg Toppo of USA Today. One of the topics covered is Willingham's view of the theory of learning styles, but other principles Willingham espouses also get an airing, making the interview a handy general introduction to his work. Another good article about Why Don't Students Like School? appeared in the Wall Street Journal in April.


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