By Gabriel Martinez, January 25, 2010 in Pedagogy and Teaching
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports a psychological study that casts doubt on the popular (among certain types) hypothesis that because different people learn differently, we should adapt our teaching to the kinds of students we have. Instead, it seems that
for a given lesson, one instructional technique turns out to be optimal for all groups of students, even though students with certain learning styles may not love that technique.
What there does seem to be evidence for is that teachers who have gone through a "learning styles" workshop improve their teaching (however that is measured). Perhaps
the mere act of learning about learning styles prompts teachers to pay more attention to the kinds of instruction they are delivering. An instructor who attends a learning styles seminar might start to offer a broader mixture of lectures, discussions, and laboratory work—and that variety of instruction might turn out to be better for all students, irrespective of any "matching."
In other words, better teachers are teachers who pay attention to their material and to whether the students are actually absorbing it. "Wow, go figure," the cynic in me wants to say. But then again, some of us do need to be reminded to pay attention once in a while.