Do Children Really Have ‘Learning Styles’ and What’s The Best Way to Teach?

Children in a science class learning in different ways.

What is learning style theory?

We’re all familiar with the theory that children have their own learning styles, whether visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. So, one child may learn better by ‘seeing’ the material, another by hearing the information, and another through movement.

Is the theory accurate or valid?

Well, yes and no. It’s clear that children have learning preferences. Some may, in fact, prefer to ‘see’ the material while others listen to lectures. However, our brains are too complex to be that simple. So, ultimately, no, the theory is not valid. There is abundant evidence in that respect including from the journal, Psychological Science in the Public Interest (20018).

What do you mean ‘learning styles’ don’t make any difference?

The research clearly indicates that catering to individual learning styles doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of actually learning the material. A person may think they are a ‘visual learner’, or a teacher may have been told a particular student is an ‘auditory learner’, but when taught in that particular mode, as opposed to another, research clearly has shown that it doesn’t make a difference in the child’s ability to actually learn the material. A ‘visual learner’, taught in a visual manner, won’t learn any better than if taught in an auditory manner. Go figure – the human brain just doesn’t work that way and is far too complex, multi-integrated, redundant, and God-inspiringly wonderous to function in such a simplistic and straightforward manner.  

Quite a revelation

We have been told so many times, for so long, that every child has their own learning style, that we must discover that individual learning style, and teach to that learning style, that it may seem unfathomable to hear otherwise. However, if we’re genuinely going to ‘follow the science’ then that’s where the science has led us.

So, if that’s true, then what is the best way to teach?

How a subject matter is taught (or learned) depends on the material being taught. In that respect, some material is more conducive to the visual (geography, math formulas, geometry…), while others are more suited to auditory (music, languages, history…). However, we all know that ultimately the best teaching-style is multi-sensory; it includes more than one modality. The best teachers have always known this fact and have incorporated this concept into their daily teaching. So, a student is lectured about the revolutionary war (auditory), shown pictures of battles from the war and diagrams of supply lines and strategy (visual), and maybe even role-play some decisive scenes (kinesthetic). We do the same at home.

Another example: when teaching children with dyslexia how to read, we instruct them to write the letter or word (visual and kinesthetic), express the corresponding sound (auditory), hear the sound from the teacher (auditory), move their body in the shape of the letter (kinesthetic), and trace the letters in sand (kinesthetic and tactile).

What’s more…

Yes, there is more to it than that. In addition to this multi-sensory approach, we also need to be disciplined in our approach. This means carrying-out daily and rigorous instruction, having a consistent routine, sticking to a game-plan, keeping the environment organized and distraction-free, giving breaks as needed, and promoting motivation through tons of reinforcement and making it fun. Will all of those elements always be successfully carried-out by any given teacher or parent? No, they won’t; but we do the best we can and try to keep the bar high.

DyslexiaTreaters.com

Just a friendly reminder that we offer online supportive tutoring from our wonderful, Dyslexia-Certified Reading Specialists. We offer a free introductory session, then follow-up sessions, if you so choose, at only $30.00 a session and we’ll give you daily exercises to carry-out with your kiddo. ?  See more at DyslexiaTreaters.com.

Hope that helps

My goal is to help your child learn to his or her fullest potential and to help you in that process. I hope this post helped to clarify and streamline your approach. Of course, as always, if you have any questions, please email me at DrCarosso@aol.com and check us out at DyslexiaTreaters.com and HelpForYourChild.com.