The pendulum

Prompt 13 in #edublogsclub challenge is the pendulum.

Over the last 30 years as an educator, I’ve seen many changes. That my friends, as you have heard before, is the only constant in education – CHANGE.

In the prompt, there is talk about learning styles -the fact that for many, many years we were told that this was the way to go – teach to the learning styles of students. Well, research now suggests that this isn’t the case and that in fact teaching to learning styles has not increased student achievement.

Now what?

I remember when I first read about it, I was devastated. But then I realised that what they were negating was not in fact what we first thought -or at least not what I first thought. You see I’ve been doing a lot of work in this area for many, many years and developed a program about learning styles that my colleagues and I implemented in schools.

The whole idea of research that debunked learning styles mainly talks about pigeon-holing students into one way of learning and allowing them to think that if teaching is delivered in this way they will learn. That was never the objective of my program. Rather, the idea was that students could learn to learn using their preference but then they would need to be challenged to explore different ways of learning, depending on the situation. This point was never fully understood with those in management positions. This was a most frustrating predicament, even the students with whom we were working understood the concept:

“I think overall learning styles is really helpful because you know how you prefer to learn and it really helps. I don’t think there is anything negative about learning styles because some people may have lots of trouble at school and maybe that is only because of the way they learn. I have learnt how to adapt to different ways of learning. It has really helped me.” (Yr 7 student)

via GIPHY

Everyone learns in different ways. This is a given. For me, it’s still about getting to know your students, only I challenge educators to go one step further: Learn them.

So, while in education, things are constantly changing, as educators we still need to think about how, what and why we teach but more importantly WHO we teach. Learning them is a requirement in my book, no matter which way the pendulum swings.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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6 thoughts on “The pendulum

  1. Brava! Learning our students. Knowing and respecting them is so important. I think maybe you and Kai Lynn could do some action research on learning styles. As she noted from the research, there are multiple aspects that have not been researched adequately. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water on all the good work you and your students have done over the years.

    Warmly,
    Denise

    • Hi Denise,
      I completely agree there’s a need for more research. It would be satisfying to debunk the debunkers. 🙂
      -Kai

    • Thanks Denise I agree, all that work and now…I often say that the research doesn’t support LS because it hasn’t yet found a test that suits all learners – and…they never will.
      Action research sounds like a great idea – as soon as I complete my action research for my PhD currently under way!! At least I’ll have had lots of practice! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Jo,
    I love your post, especially the phrase “learning them.” It is the very subjective experience of getting to know each student that explains why learning styles resonated so widely and intuitively. That recent empirical studies have failed to support their use is another matter.

    I don’t think the evidence supports the assertion that learning styles don’t improve achievement. Because either the methods and measurements used so far are ill defined and inadequate in some way or because the phenomena are far more complex and other variables are not being considered.

    This question is pivotally important to the mission of U.S. public education which strives to provide quality education to everyone. It’s the variables that are being left out in empirical study that need more investigation.

    Thank you for writing this and for reading my post as well.

    -Kai

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