Debunking learning styles


Is it true that each and every student falls into the two common learning categories of auditory and visual? Many students, including myself, have been raised to believe that they have a certain learning style that works best for them individually. Throughout my life I was always told that I was a visual learner because I learned primarily through flashcards and constantly poring over study guides. Being categorized as a visual learner was like wearing blinders. Through the course of my educational career, I only learned in the way people told me I could learn. I believed that this way of learning was best suited for me, so I decided to make it work. Instead of trying new ways to obtain information, I constantly resorted to using the “visual” method because I thought that this was in my best interest, when in fact I should have been trying to expand my ways of learning new material. However, this is not to say that it’s the student’s responsibility. It was a norm promoted by the educational system then that still continues to be prevalent.

According to the New York Times and the Association for Psychological Science , these certain “learning styles” do not exist. Their existence along with the right and left brain phenomena,  has been a common misconception for many teachers and parents over the past thirty years. This raises the question, how can educators debunk this common belief that has been a guide for so many students? Personally, I believe that educators should expose children to all different types of studying methods. Encouraging students not to limit themselves but instead explore many different types of studying methods. Employing many different styles of teaching, using an assortment of stimuli, students will in turn be more engaged. Instead of categorizing oneself, we should instead find what works for each individual and, “not worry about where we lie on the learning spectrum.”

Although there have been many studies conducted in the past that have shown that these learning styles exist, recent research provides evidence that these studies were not conducted properly. The previous studies did not satisfy key criteria for scientific validity. This means that for over thirty years the educational community has believed that students learn in different ways than those around them, when in fact there is no difference.

The proposal to debunk these different learning styles is relatively new, proposed around 2009, which explains why these common misconceptions have not gained momentum in the American education system. Even though these current findings have shown many promises for future students, it seems that they have not yet been widely acknowledged by educators. With time, this should provide students with learning environments in which they can explore different, more effective ways to attain knowledge.

In conclusion, I strongly believe that the generations who were categorized into visual and auditory learning groups will explore different learning paths on their own. These recently disproved categories do not serve as limitations for attaining knowledge. I am personally very curious as well as excited to put the visual learning category, that I have been placed in for so many years, aside and expand on new approaches to learning. My hope is that after reading this, students will gain a better sense of freedom for their learning approaches. Exploring new and different ways to order the constant flow of information we are surrounded by.