Many people believe learning styles are inherited, despite lack of proof
According to a new study published by the American Psychological Association, many educators and parents believe that learning styles are inherited from birth and predict academic success. These “essentialist” beliefs are strongly held by some people, despite the fact there is no scientific evidence to back them up.
Out of 668 study participants, 90 percent agreed that students have a predominant learning style that works best for them, whether it is visual, auditory, or tactile. However, the individuals were evenly divided on their opinions of how these favored learning styles emerge. Besides the “essentialist” group, there was a “non-essentialist” group which held more flexible beliefs about learning styles.
“We found that some people are more likely to believe that students inherit their learning style from their parents and that learning styles affect brain function,” said study lead author Dr. Shaylene Nancekivell. “We also found that educators who work with younger children are more likely to hold this essentialist view. Many parents and educators may be wasting time and money on products, services and teaching methods that are geared toward learning styles.”
The essentialist group members were more likely to state that learning styles are hereditary, do not change with age, mark distinct kinds of people, and predict both academic and career success. On the other hand, the non-essentialist group primarily viewed learning styles as being malleable and influenced by environmental factors.
Dr. Nancekivell explained that people with essentialist opinions about learning styles may be more resistant to changing their strongly held views even when they learn that numerous studies have debunked the concept of learning styles. However, previous research has shown that the learning styles model can undermine education in many ways. For example, educators often dedicate time and money to adapt lessons for certain learning styles, yet all students can benefit from learning through various methods.
“My biggest concern is that time is being spent teaching young children maladaptive strategies for learning,” said Dr. Nancekivell. “It is important that children from a very young age are taught with the best practices so they will succeed.”
“It seems likely that the appeal of the learning styles myth rests in its fit with the way people like to think about behavior. People prefer brain-based accounts of behavior, and they like to categorize people into types. Learning styles allow people to do both of those things.”
The study is published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
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