Stop worrying about learning styles

Regular readers here know I am somewhat skeptical of research about learning styles. I am far from alone on this.

Regular readers also know my frequent theme about the need for teachers and speakers to go beyond serving merely as information transmitters.

You can imagine my delight when I stumbled across a post that combines both of these, although you have to look several paragraphs into Getting Over Learning Styles to see the connection.

After talking about the huge amount of information on both sides of the learning styles question, Dr. Larry Spence opines:

Since the research on learning styles has failed to confirm that how we present material can improve student learning, maybe we should focus on what students do with course materials and think of our role more as managing a work team than transmitting metaphorical “content.”

Glory be! Excellent insight! That applies especially to the classroom teacher who works with a group of people one, two, three times a week for several weeks, but it also applies to speakers. It’s all about bringing an experience to the audience, because not only can they get information cheaper and easier elsewhere, but they can also find it in a way that suits their preferred method of taking in information. When you focus on experience, you find the common denominator among all the dozens or even hundreds of preferences.

Share this, please!


  1. Matt Gooch

    I may be less skeptical about learning styles than you, but I agree completely with you about the experience of the audience. Appreciate the article and the thoughts to start off my morning.

    • Donn King

      Thanks, Matt! I encourage skepticism, but not cynicism. 🙂 By that, I mean not that I encourage you to doubt everything, which can get pretty miserable, but rather I encourage you to probe/question/inquire into everything. The concept of learning styles is a useful one, but it can be taken too far. I wish I could remember the source on this, but I was casually reading earlier this week someone’s blog post about sales, and the writer commented that NLP mirroring techniques can be useful in that they alert you to body language, but if you try to apply them as techniques rather than listening to the customer, you will become a machine and the prospect will pick up on the disconnect. Similarly for teachers and speakers: keep the experience foremost, and then an awareness of learning styles can be helpful. That seems like it might fit your view. Agree?

  2. Donn King

    Thanks, Robert!

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