At Kidzmet, one of our learning preference “pillars” is VAK cognitive styles. Unfortunately, many of the sites you’ll find on the Web today provide an incomplete summary of Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence by Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork from Psychological Science in the Public Interest, which has tarnished the importance of this learning preference dynamic. As a result, we’ve pulled some quotes directly from the piece to flesh out the authors’ conclusions. We hope you’ll find them both insightful and enlightening as to the more complete findings of the study.
From Points of Clarification
“Although we have argued that the extant data do not provide support for the learning-styles hypothesis, it should be emphasized that we do not claim that the same kind of instruction is most useful in all contexts and with all learners.” (p116)
“Educators’ attraction to the idea of learning styles partly reflects their (correctly) noticing how often one student may achieve enlightenment from an approach that seems useless for another student.” (p116)
“It is undoubtedly the case that a particular student will sometimes benefit from having a particular kind of course content presented in one way vs. another.” (p116)
From Everybody’s Potential to Learn
“It is undeniable that the instruction that is optimal for a given student will often need to be guided by the aptitude, prior knowledge, and cultural assumptions that a student brings to a learning task.” (p117)
As we often talk about on Kidzmet, we don’t believe that kids CAN only learn in certain ways…we believe that kids PREFER to learn certain ways and that the more we’re able as parents and educators to key into these learning preferences, the more exciting, engaging and intrinsically motivating learning can be for our kids.
In terms of learning styles, we also believe that VAK cognitive styles are not so much reflective of how to get information IN—which we believe should be as multi-modal as possible—but how to teach kids to most effectively pull information OUT for tests, etc. To this end, we like to reference a meta-analysis of 34 studies involving the use of mnemonic strategies with students who have learning disabilities, where the overall effect size was found to be a very strong 1.62 (Mastropieri, Sweda, & Scrugs, 2000).
Thus, ideal lesson design should encompass all modalities during input, but students need to be taught a variety of mnemonics–be they visual, auditory, or kinesthetic–as young as possible so that they can practice and apply those mnemonics during study and “file” knowledge in a way that they can re-access the knowledge quickly and efficiently at a later date.
Interested in our assessment of your child’s learning preferences and how you can use this information to help with homework? Take our award-winning Preference Profile for a spin and send yourself our Student Snapshot–it takes about 15 minutes to complete.