Throughout my previous teaching experiences, I was taught to explore the learning style of my students. I was advised by senior instructors to adapt my style to the need of students. To my surprise, I found this article which has led me to believe that I need to rethink my approach to adult teaching.
There are seven main styles of learning. Visual, aural, and kinesthetic styles are the three most common ones. The other four styles are verbal, mathematical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. All seven styles are generally accepted among educators. However, learning is affected by more than ones’ style of learning preference. People have varying degrees of intelligence. Their motivation to learn affects the speed and depth of their learning. Adult learner’s background and diversity affects their learning outcome and may or may not be further influenced by learning disabilities and limitations.
The myth in learning styles requires educators to understand andragogy principles and how they influence learning outcomes. According to recent research conducted by major US universities, ‘there is no correlation between learning styles and successful learning.’ Teaching to a learning style alone lacks scientific support for success. Learning is multi-factorial and as such one’s style of preference is not a determinate of learning. For example, even if subject matter is taught using one’s style of learning, an unmotivated learner will not engage effectively in the learning process. Knowles’ assumptions of adult learners presents educators with many learning considerations such as motivation and readiness to learn (Knowles, 1980).
Adults should be presented learning opportunities based on andragogy principles rather than pure learning styles. By adapting our learning methods and techniques, we will be able to enable adult learners to engage ‘multiple senses rather than just one sense’.
I feel that knowing one’s style of learning is helpful for personal growth. However, for my students, I would like to incorporate a variety of principles to assist with their learning. Creating open communication allows learners to feel safe in participating in discussions. Having resources available to students will allow a point of exploration for subject matters. Setting clear and concise learning outcomes will allow learners to know what is expected of them. Learners need to be motivated in their learning. I find I can achieve this goal by demonstrating ‘why’ my subject matter is important and how will learning affect the learner in the future. Feedback must be respectful, timely and private in delivery. It should allow learners to make their own changes to improve outcomes. For those having difficulty, a personal approach to understand the learner’s needs and limitations is necessary. In this case, speaking confidentially to the learner may help me gain insight into ways to effectively facilitate learning.
Malcolm Knowles and the theory of Andragogy. (2012, May). Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.lifecircles-inc.com/Learningtheories/knowls.html
Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice (3rd ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.