‘What’s your learning style’? We have heard this question in school or at work repeatedly. When someone asks you this question, they are asking if you have a preference.
But, over the years, the education system took this preference and molded it into a criteria, and each of us were expected to fit into the criteria. In short, we were either visual, reading and writing, auditory or a kinesthetic learner.
In this blog, we will take a deeper look into learning style myth and how to use this myth to our advantage.
Research has debunked this myth and highlighted that we have a preference. We lean towards one or more styles, but our learning outcome does not change if the style changes.
Today, this argument is more vital than it was decades ago. The courses we take offer a mix of at least two instruction styles. Schools employ flipped classroom techniques where kids learn concepts through videos at home and collaborate on projects in school with a teacher who acts as a facilitator. We need to unlearn that our style is fixed and learn how to use the options to our advantage.
Why were learning styles amplified?
1. To categorize learners:
The learning style framework was developed to categorize learners, understand how they learn best and provide content in that form. While this framework was supposed to inform instructional styles, schools adopted this as a means of grading and study strategies.
2. To categorize content:
Learning styles help us understand the different ways a learner can intake information. This purpose of learning styles was to find creative ways of teaching topics to learners packed in different instruction methods.
Let’s take an example here: Imagine you purchased a new TV console. You have to assemble it manually. You have three options to learn how to assemble the console:
a. Written instructional manual
b. Instructional manual with pictures
c. Instructional video
Which options would you pick and why?
I would begin with the instruction video followed by the manual with pictures. This is my preference. Does it mean that I won’t succeed in assembling the console if I only have the written instruction manual? No. Learning preferences are a good-to-have and not a must-have.
How to do we take this myth and use that to our advantage:
a. Put on your experimenter hat
I always believed that I couldn’t learn or retain information by listening to podcasts or audiobooks. That’s because I did not attempt it and assumed it was true without testing the hypothesis. A few months back, I listened to a product podcast on a long walk and debunked the assumption. The walk as a physical activity helped me focus on the podcast.
Takeaways: We learn through all instruction methods in different contexts. Pick the method depending on our environment.
b. Use content channels:
We are blessed with different methods of learning like cohort-based courses, asynchronous courses, peer learning with communities, and so on. Combine these into channels and dive into these on a schedule. For example, if you are learning to bake, take a baking class to learn the basics, practice baking cakes with a peer, and master the art of icing at home by following asynchronous videos. Mix and match the options for the most value.
Takeaway: Use your #1 learning preference to master the content and the rest to practice the content.
c. Space and Test
The learning cycle should include space for breaks and testing. If we learn continuously without breaks, our brain does not create connections between the old and new information. To retain and apply, a learner should space the study and include breaks.
Takeaway: The more you learn, the more you retain is a false claim. Focus on learning and testing with sufficient breaks.
Learning is more about mastering the process; less about obsessing over the outcome. Focus on the process, keep showing up and find time to reflect.
I enjoyed reading the following articles as a part of my research: