Should Teachers Diversify Teaching Styles to Match the Needs of the Learner Or the Classroom?

For years, teachers were told to plan their instruction according to the learning styles of their learners in terms of personality types of the Myers Briggs or the five major learning types such as auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, verbal and visual. Typically, teachers would administer a learning styles inventory and based on the results, they would best adapt their instruction on primary learning models.

Now there is new research that shows there is no strong scientific evidence to support the “matching” idea – that teaching styles should match students’ learning styles. Harold E. Pashler from UCSD states, “we were startled to find that there is so much research published on learning styles, but that so little of the research used experimental designs that had the potential to provide decisive evidence.”

In fact, no one has ever proved that any particular style of instruction simultaneously helps students who have one learning style while also harming students who have a different learning style.

There is another fact: only a study by classroom type can support the hypothesis that teaching styles should match students’ learning styles. Additionally, there are almost no studies based on classroom type.

Case in Point: Students Are More Alike Than Different
When teaching the structure of complex molecules, Pashler assigned students to a classroom that uses laboratory lessons or to a classroom that uses texts. He found that in a hands-on setting: kinesthetic learners enjoy their lessons much more than their verbal peers. In a reading text setting: verbal learners enjoy the lessons much more than their kinesthetic peers.

Teachers Can Match Teaching Styles With Content
It’s not realistic to figure out the composition of learning styles in the classroom.The question becomes: how can teachers match teaching style with content so that one instructional technique can be optimal for all groups of students.A variety of instruction might turn out to be better for all students!

Why Diversify Teaching Styles to Match the Needs of the learners
Teachers and instructors pay more attention to the kinds of instruction they are delivering – “getting into the student’s head”Teachers can offer a broader mixture of lectures, discussions and other hands-on activities. “Even though the learning-style idea might not work, it might encourage teachers to think about how their students learn and what would be the best instructional methods for a particular lesson” (Richard E. Mayer, UCSB)

Matching teaching methods to learning styles might not be ideal but it still an important learning and teaching concept to keep in mind when planning lessons.

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