Your learning style

What are learning styles?

People learn ideas by consuming content, like reading, watching videos, and listening to audio. Content, plus practice, feedback, and one-on-one help, make up a good course.

Some media are better for some content than others. For example, video is good for showing step-by-step instructions on new software.

Learning styles is the idea some people learn better with different media than other people. So, if Pat is a visual learner, they need visual content like videos to learn. They won't learn well by reading. If Andy is a verbal learner, they need written content. They won't learn well by watching videos.

Learning styles don't exist

Learning styles kinda make sense. Our brains are different, right?

The truth is that learning styles don't exist. There is no credible evidence for them.

Yes, many teachers think they're real. Learning styles were taught in teacher education programs for a long time. You can even buy tests, that tell you what your learning style is.

That was before researchers got into the act. Rather than assuming learning styles were real, they started looking for them. For example, give people learning content in different styles, and see if different people were consistently better with one type of content than another.

The results were the same: learning styles didn't show up in the data.


But don't people learn differently? Like, some people learn math fast, and drawing more slowly.

Sure. A question though: is that because of media (reading, videos, etc.), or something else?


Like what?

How much time you study. How often you practice. How noisy your environment is. How much sleep you get. How much exercise. How often you've heard people say, "math is hard," or "our family has no artists." How old you are when you start learning. Who your teacher is. How much money your school has. How safe your school is. Whether you have enough to eat. Who your parents are.

There's evidence all of these things affect learning. People have done experiments, or gathered data in other ways. They find that, for example, getting enough sleep helps learning. It's there in the data. You can check out the results yourself. Google is your friend.

What you won't find is evidence that learning styles matter much.

Try Googling are learning styles real?

Does it matter?


My psych prof said the same thing about learning styles. They don't exist.

But does it do any harm if people think they exist?

It might. Let me ask you all another question. Are some people naturally better at math than others?


Hey, don't look at me!

Ha! Seriously, though. There's no evidence there's a gene for math. Anyone can learn it. So, does it matter some people think there is a gene for math?


OK, I see where you're going. If you think there's a gene for math, and you don't have it, you won't try to learn.

It's a... whadya call it... a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think you'll be bad at math, so you will be.

It's the same for learning styles?

Right. If someone thinks they're a visual learner, and they get a textbook, they might not put much effort into reading it. There are ways to get more from your reading time, but they might not know that.


But some textbooks suck!

You're right, they do. Like some lectures suck, and some videos suck. Videos of bad lectures max out the suckometer. (I haven't tried the suckometer.)

But that's nothing to do with learning styles. It's how well crafted the content is.

The skills in this course can help you earn...


If you think you're a visual learner (you aren't), and don't read, you learn less. That could mean fewer Bennies. All because you believed something about yourself, that isn't true.

I don't like reading!


OK, but I gotta tell you, I don't like reading. It sends me to sleep.

I get that. We all have preferences, but that's all they are, preferences. Show me sports on TV, and I'll be asleep in seconds.


OK, but what if you had to learn about a sport by watching a video? For a class, or something?

I'd start by Googling how to take notes from a video. Having a structured way to do something makes it easier.

There's lots on the web about learning from reading. For example, read - yellow highlight - read again - read again - read again isn't just boring, it's poor use of your time.

Instead, learn how to take good notes. Then explain the topic to your dog. Or a tree, or someone you imagine, like Jennifer Lawrence.

Oh, Jennifer, just hear me explain the web, and you'd understand True Love!


Or not.

Yeah, I know. (Sigh) Anyway, making good notes, then explaining them to someone/something is an effective and efficient learning method. You'll be less bored, learn faster, and have more time to play with your dog.

Studying efficiently

Here's advice from The Learning Scientists.


They also have posters for each strategy.


Posters are good for visual learners, right?

You're a riot, Ray. Visuals and text are good for everyone. Check out the dual-coding strategy in the poster above.


Learning styles sound good, but they aren't real.

What if you think you have a learning style, and get content that doesn't fit? You might never learn how to use that kind of content efficiently, because you're convinced you can't.

Learn how to learn from different types of content. You'll get more from every class. You'll get more...


Then you can buy more chocolate, Vegemite, kick-ass gaming computers, and Jennifer Lawrence posters.