2.2 Learning styles

You might have heard or read about the theory that students have different learning styles - such as visual learning, or auditory learning, and so forth - and that hence teachers should seek to identify the preferred learning style of every student and tailor instruction to it.

This theory has been used to support and promote a range of educational initiatives, some of them expensive and time-consuming to put into practice. Over the past two decades researchers have tested this theory that students have different learning styles in several different ways and found that it is not well-supported by the evidence (Brown, 2014).

While it is generally true that some of us prefer to read or listen to lectures while others like to engage in discussions or write, no evidence supports the idea that we learn more effectively or deeply when we are working in our preferred learning style.

Indeed, some researchers have discovered that students are often mistaken when they predict the type of activity that produces the greatest learning for them.

Desirable difficulties

We are discovering more and more that learning is most effective when it requires some effort on the part of the student, which means that students might learn more effectively when they are required to engage in activities that they find challenging.

The student who enjoys listening to lectures may learn comfortably from lectures, but when that student has to gather her thoughts and deliver them to her peers in a role play activity, that challenge to her comfortable style of learning may be more memorable to her than the most brilliant lecture she has attended.

The literature often refers to this phenomenon as “desirable difficulties’’ (Yue, Bjork and Bjork, 2013).

Activity 2.2 Personal values

Timing: 15 minutes

Watch the video What Are Your Values [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] on the MindTools website and then scroll down below the video to Step 4.

Students are asked to think about the values and morals that they live by and list their top ten personal ethical rules. You can screen the video and then allow time in class for your students to develop their list. If time allows, they can also read the article and have a discussion in small groups.

What is the benefit of an activity like this?

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Answer

It offers students a varied range of active forms of engagement with the learning material. We are discovering more and more that learning is most effective when it requires some effort on the part of the student, which means that students might learn more effectively when they are required to engage in activities that they find challenging.

2.1 Active engagement

2.3 Varied engagement