A brief overview of what learning styles are, using some of the most frequently cited models.
What are learning styles?
‘Learning styles’ is a term which refers to various different models, all of which aim to categorise the different ways in which people learn best. Good practice dictates that different learning styles should be taken into consideration to give all learners equal opportunities for learning as a facet of differentiation. Fleming’s (1995) VARK model is commonly used: this categorises learners into Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinaesthetic learners. Honey & Mumford’s model (1982) was designed with managerial experiences in mind, but since then it has been widely applied to other educational areas. This model categorises learners as being an Activist, a Reflector, a Theorist or a Pragmatist (1982). Having one dominant learning style is common, but by no means are learners limited to only one. Dunn and Dunn (1978) suggest that altering room design, setting learners to work in small groups and developing activity packages which offer options of tasks to complete can all help cater to different learning styles. However, the concept is not without criticism – for example, Rohrer and Pashler (2012) note that there is little evidence for the effectiveness of learning style models. Despite this, it is important to consider that every learner will learn differently, and providing a range of ways in which they can do this will result in better outcomes for all learners.
Dunn, R. S.; Dunn, K.J. (1978). Teaching students through their individual learning styles: a practical approach. Reston, VA: Reston Pub. Co.
Fleming, N.D. (1995), I’m different; not dumb. Modes of presentation (VARK) in the tertiary classroom, in Zelmer, A., (ed.) Research and Development in Higher Education, Proceedings of the 1995 Annual Conference of the Higher Education and Research Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), HERDSA 18, pp. 308 – 313.
Honey, P. & Mumford, A. (1982) Manual of Learning Styles. London: P Honey Publications.
Rohrer, D. and Pashler, H. (2012). ‘Learning styles: where’s the evidence?’. Medical Education 46.7: pp. 634–635.