Individual Learning Styles — Are They Important?

Should teachers base their instruction on students’ perceived strengths?  One of NPR’s most emailed stories this past week reported the findings of  psychologists who questioned the validity of targeting classroom instruction to students’ individual learning styles (e.g., auditory, visual, kinetic).

In NPR’s Health Blog one psychologist at the University of Virginia stated that instruction should not be determined by learners’ differing learning styles. Another psychologist from the University of Southern Florida, prompted by the many workshops and companies that promote the need to target learning styles, found little if any evidence to support this approach, suggesting it would be better to focus on how brains work similarly rather  than differently.

An article in the Regis University CPS Blog raised strong questions about the findings in the NPR article.  In an impassioned rebuttal, the University affiliate faculty member cited numerous studies and well-known authorities to point out what she viewed as flawed research methods used to conclude that a focus on individual learning styles was unmerited.

You can read these opposing viewpoints in the original NPR story and the University blog (no longer available) .  We’d also love to hear what you think based on your classroom experience.

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