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Never Forget: Learning Styles are Complete Arse

April 21, 2010

Some time back I did my bit to publicise a rather good video made by Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology from the University of Virginia, about how learning styles don’t exist. Roughly speaking, Willingham argues that we learn mainly through grasping meaning, not through recalling images or sounds, or anything that is dependent on how it was taught and, therefore, the method of teaching should not be determined by trying to identify learning styles which tell us what kind of teaching individual students will recall best. Willingham provides a reading list indicating some of the sources for his conclusions here, and further resources for the topic can also be found here. The message is pretty much unanimous: all the research shows that students don’t have learning styles.

Against this background it is hard to believe that anybody would still be trying to suggest they do. However, a quick internet search reveals a mass of resources still based on the same flawed idea. Similarly, it is commonplace for books aimed at teachers to claim that the research confirms we have learning styles and teachers should teach to them. For instance, flicking through the books on my bookshelf I find the following claims (admittedly from books I shouldn’t have bothered buying):

“Researchers have found that we all have different thinking and learning styles…The implication of these findings is that no one teaching style suits all students”   (Fisher, 1995, p15)

“the work of D. Kolb and others, on the differing ‘styles’ in which individuals learn most comfortably, illuminates this area further …Good teachers take account of these differences in ‘learning styles’ in lesson planning and teaching…”  (Walford, 2003,  p56)

“Each of us has a preferred learning style and preferred working style…Sure it is probably impossible to cater to every learning style all the time. But it is possible to design school curricula so that all learners are either tested to determine their preferred learning style… and then for the style to be catered to at school” (Dryden et al, 2001, p99)

The fact that people trying to sell books to teachers are promoting this guff shouldn’t be a major problem. Unfortunately, it is also the norm in our schools. Even some of the official guidance to secondary teachers claims that it:

“…offers some practical strategies that teachers use to accommodate pupils’ preferred learning styles. The techniques suggested are tried and tested; they draw on both academic research and the experience of practising teachers… Through an understanding of learning styles, teachers can exploit pupils’ strengths and build their capacity to learn.” (DfES, 2004)

My experience as a teacher has repeatedly involved people who claim to have expertise telling us this same message: students have learning styles; the research shows this; teachers must use learning styles. At one school, and I still have difficulties believing this happened, the entire staff were made to sing a song about learning styles to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in morning briefing.

Although there exists a fair number of models of learning styles out there in the wider world of pseudo-science, there are two in particular that have repeatedly been presented to me in school.

The first is the “Multiple Intelligences” model. Back in the early eighties, the psychologist Howard Gardner, like many psychologists before him, made a name for himself by pointing out the completely obvious. Apparently, people can be smart at different things.  Almost immediately, this was leapt on by people who wanted to suggest that if people are smart in different ways, then they must learn in different ways too. This misreading of Gardner’s theories give us the Multiple Intelligences model of learning styles. I see little point in exploring in detail a theory whose very origin is in misrepresenting research, however, I will draw your attention to what Gardner himself has had to say:

“[M]y intelligences are specifically linked to content…Most stylistic accounts are assumed to cut across content… rather than being analogous to styles … intelligences may well need to cross-cut other kinds of analytical categories… There is, in fact, empirical evidence on this issue…we have found that certain ‘working styles’ prove to be quite content specific”. (Gardner, 1993a, p xxv)

“Are intelligences the same thing as ‘learning styles’ or ‘working styles’?… MI theory begins from a different point and ends up at a different place from most schemes that emphasize stylistic approaches…Those who speak of learning styles are searching for approaches that ought to characterise all contents…Work in Project Spectrum casts doubt on the notion that such styles are generic.” (Gardner, 1993b , p44-45)

“I identified a number of myths about multiple intelligences …

MYTH … An Intelligence is the same as a learning style…

REALITY… The concept of style designates a general approach that an individual can apply equally to every conceivable content. In contrast an intelligence is a capacity, with its component process, that is geared to a specific content in the world (i.e., musical sounds).” (Gardner, 1999, p80-84)

The other model is known by the acronym “VAK” standing for Visual/Auditory/Kinaesthetic. Whereas the MI model resulted in a long list of intelligences/learning styles the VAK model fits on forms and planning sheets more easily by identifying only three styles, those who learn by seeing (V), those who learn by hearing (A) and those who learn by doing (K). While the MI model of learning styles is attributed to a reputable expert (who nevertheless has denounced it) the source of the other model, the VAK model, is never as clearly identified. This is because its origins are in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). This fad in psychotherapy has been around since the 1970s and, despite quite a troubled history, has never died out or ceased to make money ever since. However, it is fair to say that it is not widely regarded as having a sound basis in psychological facts.

Back in the late 80s, a review of the literature (Sharpley, 1987) concluded:

“there is little use to the field of counseling research in further replications of previous studies of the principles underlying NLP. In 44 studies of these principles, they have been shown to be without general support from the data. … Elich et al. (1985) referred to NLP as a psychological fad, and they may well have been correct. Certainly research data do not support the rather extreme claims that proponents of NLP have made as to the validity of its principles or the novelty of its procedures.”

Although those who make money from NLP will find all sorts of research (rarely peer-reviewed or in psychiatry or psychology journals) to dispute this conclusion it has been accepted by the academic community, so for instance Devilly, 2005, simply referred to this by observing that:

“by the late 1980s a host of controlled trials had shed such a poor light on the practice, and those promoting the intervention made such extreme and changeable claims, that researchers began to question the wisdom of researching the area further and even suggested that NLP was an untestable theory”

More recently, a distinguished psychologist (Roderique-Davies, 2009) wrote:

“NLP singularly fails to stand up to scrutiny concerning its face validity and its construct validity. NLP’s predictive validity is more difficult to ascertain as proponents of the ‘discipline’ engage in academic goal-post shifting and arguments about its ‘constructivist’ nature. Claims about what NLP can and do persist though and as such it is analogous to Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot with the burden of proof to support its theoretical foundations and efficacy as an intervention lying with its proponents … NLP masquerades as a legitimate form of psychotherapy, makes unsubstantiated claims about how humans think and behave, purports to encourage research in a vain attempt to gain credibility, yet fails to provide evidence that it actually works. Neuro-linguistic programming is cargo cult psychology.”

So, the learning styles theories we are presented with in schools, are not just disproven by the research, but the two main theories that I have encountered in schools never had reputable research evidence behind them in the first place. There was only a misunderstanding of a theory and a pseudo-scientific fad. Unfortunately, being rejected by the relevant academic disciplines does nothing to stop an idea being embraced by schools or those who advise schools.

References

Beck ,John and Earl, Mary (eds.) “Key Issues in Secondary Education”. 2nd edition.. Continuum. 2003

Devilly  “Power Therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry” The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry Volume 39 Issue 6, 2005

DfES,  “Pedagogy and Practice:Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools Unit 19: Learning styles” 2004

Dryden, G and Vos, J “The learning revolution. To change the way the world learns.” Network Education al Press Ltd, 2001

Elich, M., Thompson, R. W., & Miller, L. “Mental images as revealed by eye movements and spoken predicates: A test of neurolinguistic programming.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, 12. 1985.

Fisher, Robert. “Teaching children to learn. (2nd ed.).” Nelson Thornes Ltd., 2005.

Gardner, Howard. “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 2nd edition”  Fontana Press, 1993a

Gardner, Howard. “Multiple Intelligences: The Theory In Practice.” Basic Books. 1993b

Gardner, Howard. “Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century.” Basic Books.  1999

Roderique-Davies, Gareth, “Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Cargo Cult Psychology?”, Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Volume 1 Number 2,  2009

Sharpley, “Research Findings on Neurolinguistic Programming: Nonsupportive Data or an Untestable Theory?“) in the Journal of Counselling  psychology 34, 1987

Walford Rex, Classroom Teaching and Learning, in Beck, 2003

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48 comments

  1. Thanks, OA.

    Most of us know this stuff. But now I have just one place to go for a decent bibliography. Your hard work is going into my file.


  2. Bravo!


  3. The infuriating thing is that on our lesson planning sheets there is a box for VAK. I have in the past left it blank because I firmly believe it is, for most normal children, bollocks. I was told that the box must be filled in for the Ofsted visit because I will fail the observation without it.
    There is no right of reply, no forum for discussion.


  4. Hear, hear.

    My own favourite counterexample with respect to learning styles is the idea that an auditory learner will do better with a complex set of spoken instructions than a marked map.

    What is it about education that makes it such an easy target for pseudo-scientific charlatans?

    Brain Gym, Omega-3 pills and food fadism all spring to mind.


    • “What is it about education that makes it such an easy target for pseudo-scientific charlatans?”

      Vast amounts of tax-payers’ money that was pumped into the system.


  5. I’m a student teacher and, like Lilyofthefield I too am forced to complete the VAK box on my lesson plans. I am, of course, allowed to argue in essays that learning styles don’t exist (and thank you for the references both previously and in this posting), but on lesson plans I cannot be a good teacher without ministering to the altar that is VAK…

    God bless my wonderful trainers…


  6. Thanks oa, another one to pin up for all to see (and be suitably outraged by). John – what a brilliantly precise summing up.


  7. Just reading Thomas Sowell, ‘Inside American Education’ at the moment. Awesome.

    Keep it up. We do read you, you are making a difference, we are right, they are wrong.


    • Agree with Chris


  8. I have never read any of the books about multiple intelligences though I have heard of the theory and also VAK and while I think it is stating the obvious and is no big deal, I do think that certain teaching styles (as opposed to learning styles) suit some people better than others. Look at it this way. If you explain something to someone and they don’t understand it, it is self-evident that there is no point in you repeating the same thing over and over again (possibly louder and louder). You think of a different way of presenting the information – perhaps rephrasing it, perhaps drawing a picture or a diagram, perhaps demonstrating what you mean or getting them to imitate your actions. What is controversial about that? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?


    • The point is that VAK is not stating the obvious, it is stating something that isn’t true.

      With regard to your other point, obviously there is no point repeating the same thing again and again, unless the original problem was a failure to hear or retain.

      That does not mean that what was wrong the first time is anything to do with the learner having a learning style. It may be that it wasn’t presented in the best way the first time. It may be that it is just difficult. It may be any number of things. The point is, that the one thing we know it isn’t the problem, is the learner having an individual learning style that is independent of content.

      (As it happens, my preferred tactic when somebody hasn’t understood something is to ask them “which bit didn’t you understand?” This seems to work really well.)


      • “All of it, Sir.”


        • OK Miss F
          Read the first line for me, yes, that one there…..


      • Teachingbattleground said:
        “(As it happens, my preferred tactic when somebody hasn’t understood something is to ask them “which bit didn’t you understand?” This seems to work really well.)”
        My approach is often to ask them to explain back to me the bits they have understood & then to take it from there.
        I agree that quite often a change of tack is needed, though that doesn’t mean that the first way was totally useless, they might have needed a bit of both ways to make the connections themselves.

        Incidentally, I work in a Uni & we’re also told that we should take into account learning styles …


  9. OA, a horrible truth has just dawned on OH and me.

    Even if there were some academic backing for VAK (or any other nonsense), would anyone be prepared to bet any hard earned cash on the bureaucrats getting it right. Our casual conversation went along the lines of – bet they’d find something obscure in paragraph 3 on page 26 that could be counted or MEASURED Yes! in some way.

    Then base reporting or lesson design on that – absolutely dead set guaranteed to distort or destroy the concept .


  10. I kind of got the sense that the reason Gardner’s MI, Goleman’s EQ, VAK styles et al are so popular nowadays is because no-one much wants to talk about differences in intellectual ability, IQ, or suchlike…

    Am I wrong about this?

    The bits I’ve read of Daniel Willingham’s little book ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ seem pretty interesting, by the way…

    Matthew


    • I doubt all those things have the same origin.

      That said VAK is a successor to IQ tests as a pseudo-scientific method of classifying people as unsuitable for a decent education.


      • Lessons need variety – I just use VAK as a way of saying yes my lessons have variety. It is however part of the ‘child centred’ approach as opposed to saying this subject is best taught this way. I love the idea that to teach someone how to ride a bike taking into account learning styles would mean that someone with a predominantly auditory style would be better off with a decent explanation. No they wouldn’t they need to ride the bike and practise. D’oh.


  11. A welcome verification of what I have written about at length and at cost. In my present school, so deeply embedded is the myth of learning styles and its equally useless corollary -differentiated instruction – that any challenge to it is met with that dumbest form of resistance: a retreat to the realm of personal anecdote.


    • Agree completely… it is and always has been total bollocks. Its is totally impractical as a method/aid to teaching. My place of work forces us to teach learning styles (a lesson i truely detest, and do my utmost to make it crap), it does an online test that makes no sense then comes back with 4 different styles for each student. I have 265 students… so as well as remembering each students style I am some how supposed to tailor my lessons to them or else one will fail the observation.
      Stuart is right rather than admit they are worng and have been teaching rubbish for the last 5 years they utilise the very ‘sciectific’ anecdote, or just threaten you with disciplinary measures for disobeying orders.


  12. Thank goodness I’m not a proper teacher and teach EFL in Italy, but I’ve still bookmarked those links just in case! I still remember the crap I had to put up with teaching Skills for Life in an FE college.

    The bike example is great and another one I thought of is playing a musical instrument, best expressed by Hamlet:

    ‘Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with
    your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your
    mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music.
    Look you, these are the stops.’


  13. The trouble is with these things is that they are half-taught and applied for the wrong reasons to the wrong context.

    In terms of NLP, There may well be something in VAK but to label someone as a ‘visual’ is going to cripple them. Furthermore, I am horrified to learn that VAK seems to have taken on a life of its own as a ‘learning style’ within education; it is only meant as a representation system, period!

    People may use different Kolb/Honey & Mumford learning styles depending on the context and contexts which CHANGE. The idea behind these methodologies is to improve the WEAKEST style and empower learners; not cripple them by labelling with what they (supposedly) are.

    Studies on NLP are invariably published with misinformation. go here to get a balanced view:

    http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/nlpfax28.htm


    • Your “balanced view” appears to be pro-NLP propaganda. Forgive me if it doesn’t convince me that the analysis in peer-reviewed psychological literature is “misinformation”.


      • Au contraire, if you’ve visited the site you’ll know that the author has spent some considerable time pulling apart the propaganda and mis-representation in terms of fallacies and cognitive biases, whether or not they’ve appeared in peer reviewed journals.

        If you are happy to accept the flawed original findings, particularly those such as Sharpley and Heap, considering one of them has made a part-withdrawal of their original findings, that’s fine by me.


        • “the propaganda and mis-representation in terms of fallacies and cognitive biases”

          Arguing against somebody by claiming they have a cognitive bias, is itself a fallacy (a circumstantial ad hominem, in fact).

          Sorry, but nobody is going to take seriously a website that uses arguments like this:

          “Does NLP work? … The answer … is fairly obvious… If the NLP modelling technique, and the NLP-related techniques really didn’t work then someone would most certainly have noticed by now.”

          Or even more unbelievably:

          ” .. the scientific establishment … share the misconception that nothing can be “true” unless it can be empirically verified using the scientific method. In practice this claim demonstrates exactly why NLP techniques (which is what we’re really talking about) are not readily amenable to “scientific” validation”


          • Hi TB

            Your posts do indeed mirror your blog. Which is something of a pity since the blog comments on whatever it is you think of as “NLP” are completely inaccurate.

            Here are a few items of genuine information. I respectfully invite you to address the information itself rather than just cutting and pasting material from elsewhere and then simply quoting from my work as though your personal disapproval is somehow prima facie evidence that my material is somehow at fault.

            1. In the blog we are told that the VAK learning styles are based on “NLP”.

            (a) “NLP” is a specific modelling technique. *And nothing else.”

            (b) In the FoNLP (field of NLP – includes the modelling technique + NLP-related concepts and techniques + training in NLP and/or the techniques), visual/auditory/kinaesthetic/olfactory and gustatory are referred to as the five representational systems (and are obviously directly related to our 5 primary senses).

            At no time have these been presented as “5 learning styles” by the co-creators and only genuine authortities on the subject, Bandler and Grinder.

            Quoting “proponents”, “advocates”, “supporters” of “NLP” is invalid UNLESS what they are saying is consistent with the claims, statements, etc. made by Bandler and Grinder.

            2. If the VAK learning styles are indeed related in any way to the FoNLP then whoever made the link does NOT understand the nature of “preferred representational systems” – the sensory mode that someone is focused on at any given moment. Because a person’s PRS is ENTIRELY context-dependent and can change as rapidly as every 20-30 seconds if the context is shifting that rapidly.

            So the assumption that each student has “A” PRS is a complete non-starter from a FoNLP perspective.

            3. It is also interesting to note that when I discussed this with Professor Scott Lilienfeld recently – in regard to a recent article in SCIAM MIND, he seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would imagine that he and his colleagues – in discussing schools where students get a T-shirt with their alleged “learning style” – V, A or K – on it had anything to do with the FoNLP.

            4. So the claim that YOUR interpretation of the “evidence” is backed by scientists is not entirely justified.

            In fact your whole emphasis on allegedly “scientific” support for the invalidity of “NLP” is without a secure basis, since psychologists aren’t scientists.

            You might care to read the material at http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/nlpfax32.htm

            It explains why the most heavily researched concept and technique in the whole FONLP are NOT amenable to genuinely scientific testing.

            Not because Andy Bradbury says so, but because Monica Harris (now a full professor) and Professor Robert Rosenthal, both social psychologists at Harvard at the time, give a clear explanation of why it isn’t possible.

            (I’m sure you will at least recognise Rosenthal’s name since he was co-author of “Pygmalion in the Classroom”, a rather important study of the effects of teacher expectations on their pupils.

            5. For detailed evaluations of Sharpley’s articles – both deeply flawed – at
            http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/sharpley1.html and

            http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/sharpley2.html

            6. As to whether anyone should take notice of what I write, I refer you to

            http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/response.html

            It is a VERY lightly edited version of an article published in Dr Michael Heap’s annual magazine “The Skeptical Intelligencer”.

            I assume you know of Heap and his reviews (1988, 1989, 2008) of just over 60 articles and dissertations
            – all of which concentrated on the PRS concept and the predicate matching technique.

            7. I guess I should also point out that I have discussed Dr Roderique Davies’ article with him and he assures me that it was written as a “provocation piece”, so to speak, deliberateky designed to stir up a debate. If you’ve read it you will know that it relies quite heavily on Sharpley’s articles – and actually highlights several of the basic flaws in Sharpley’s work. For example:

            “Sharpley himself, as summarised by Dr Roderique-Davies (2009. p.60), concluded:
            (a) the PRS cannot be reliably assessed;
            (b) when it is assessed, the PRS is inconsistent over time; therefore,
            (c) it is not even certain that PRS exists; and
            (d) matching clients’ or other persons’ PRS does not appear to assist counsellors reliably in any clearly demonstrated manner
            (Sharpley, 1987. p105)

            Insofar as Sharpley was simply reporting the results of the various studies, the conclusions were valid. The problem arose when Sharpley overstepped the bounds into the realm of judging whether the experimental results referred to genuinely authoritative NLP-related claims. And because neither he nor the experimenters had that kind of knowledge, his judgements were entirely invalid:

            (a) the PRS can most definitely be reliably assessed – it is the sensory mode indicated by the subject’s most recent use of a sensory predicate;
            (b) when assessed correctly, PRSs are not inconsistent over time – because people do not have a single PRS. They generally use different PRSs according to context;
            (c) the existence of PRSs is built into the definition – see point (a); and
            (d) matching clients’ or other persons’ PRS does not appear to assist counsellors reliably in any clearly demonstrated manner – except when the Bandler and Grinder recommended (1976, 1979) “track and match” approach is used (see Hammer, 1983; Graunke, 1984 and Graunke and Roberts, 1985).”

            From an evaluation of Roderique-Davies’ article, in preparation.

            I repeat, I invite you to address this information in a constructive manner rather than simply trying to brush it off as not being credible.

            If Dr Heap was willing to give over half of one issue of his self-financed magazine to a commentary on criticisms of the FoNLP then anything less on this blog will speak volumes for the real worth of the allegedly serious observations you have posted.

            But of course it’s your blog, and it’s entirely up to you whether you chose to present it as a credible source of information.

            Andy Bradbury.
            Degree in social psychology (U. of Sussex)
            17 years experience and use of NLP and NLP-related techniques in business.
            Master Practitioner qualification with special focus on the use of the FoNLP in education.
            Author of “Develop Your NLP Skills”, first published 1997. Now in its 4th English language edition. Translated into more than 15 language world-wide.
            6th form college tutor and deputy head – 9 years, approx.
            Trainer (IT sector, etc.) – 18 years


          • Okay, forgive me if I don’t wade through your whole comment, I’ll just address the first strawman.

            I am not using the theory of VAK learning styles to argue against NLP. I am using the fact that VAK learning styles draw on the pseudo-science of NLP to argue against VAK learning styles. So whether NLP practitioners endorse the VAK learning style theory or not is irrelevent.

            As to the more general point about NLP, I really don’t want to discuss it in any further detail here.

            How about I start a thread on the Bad Science boards about it?


          • It’s here:

            http://badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=17576


  14. Sorry, I have perhaps not been clear enough in what I just said, or at least not clear enough to be understood by NLP people.

    Just to clarify: I do not want this blog post to end up with a mountain of comments about NLP. This was not what this post was about, and anything I mentioned about NLP came from academic literature, which I do not want to discuss in any more depth *here*.

    However, if you feel you really need to get across some point about NLP then I have started this thread on the Bad Science boards:

    http://badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=17576

    I feel that such a forum is an ideal place for this sort of discussion. Please join me there, rather than adding comments here which are never going to be approved.

    Thank you.


    • Sheesh! That’ll learn you! You should just *never* even *mention* NLP in anything other than awestruck terms or you’ll be deluged …


      • Not really. ‘teaching battleground’ made his point about misuse. I’d go along with that. It IS misuse.

        You can shout as loud as you like saying NLP is cr4p, you are entitled to an (INFORMED or otherwise) opinion. It’s a shame that many people who use NLP misrepresent it and defend some of the indefensible sh1t such as ‘quantum linguistics’.

        I suspect that this is small beer to the myriad problems you face in your profession anyway.

        “Good luck”


  15. This is my fault for approving Martin and Stevie’s comments having said that I didn’t want a discussion of NLP here, but I didn’t really intend to restart discussion of NLP and I wish to discontinue it now.

    If anyone wants to discuss the validity of NLP with me then there is a thread on that topic on the Bad Science forum that I linked to earlier.


  16. Have just discovered your blog and really enjoyed this post. It seems to me that there are two kinds of teachers – those who are engaged with thinking about their practice and with the question ‘what is learning?’ and those that just ‘deliver the National Curriculum.’ A bit like posties.

    For the latter kind, I reckon that imposing VAK is no bad thing, as a half-baked pseudo-psychology for what they do is better than no psychology at all. It’s something for them to hang a meta-cognitive hat on. A bit like those cricketers who just played the Ashes and their silly Power Balance wristbands: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12135402

    After all – they still won, didn’t they?


    • Steve,

      there is a lot of evidence that confidence contributes to performance, so on the face of it something that is merely cargo-cult voodoo science, yet provides a feeling of confidence, can boost performance. However, elite sport is rather unforgiving and provides far more immediate feedback for negative performance than does teaching, which has, in contrast, not yet devised a reliable performance measuring system (as Andrew has recently noted, we don’t even know what we want to teach). If the Aussies were using Power Balance wristbands, Crystals, or other forms of pseudo-science, you can bet that they are quietly being dumped. A few England players might swear by Power Balance wristbands for a few years, but watch them dissapear after the next inevitible decline in performance.

      Conversely, teachers have no decent feedback. Worse, there is no evidence gthe false confidence it gives them has any link to their ability to teach or the performance of their pupils. It is almost certainly harmful, not least because of the opportunity cost. All that bullshit spouted on training days could be replaced by some decent peer mentoring.


  17. “This is my fault for approving Martin and Stevie’s comments having said that I didn’t want a discussion of NLP here”. Hmmmm interesting that you think of not approving comments…reminds me of something…http://obamalondon.blogspot.com/2011/01/inexplicable-edits-on-sarah-palins.html

    I agree that VAK is rubbish and that we all have a number of preferred ways of learning


    • Given you were slagging me off on twitter earlier today and then stopped me reading your feed as soon as I replied, I think you are in no position to makes snarky comments about whether I allow right of reply or not.

      Regardless, past experience has seen the comments become unreadable when discussion has been completely unrestricted and so I have learnt that is is best to intervene to stop things going completely off-topic.


      • You now appear to be censoring me on your blog.

        That’s entirely your right, but it seems a little hypocritical after your comment here.


  18. Having read your blog i feel it is sad that you have worked in a number of poorly led comprehensives. Did you challenge what was going on? Did you end up leaving? If i had worked in the schools that you describe i would have left.

    But it is also strange that i have completely the opposite experience. Experience of inspirationally led comprehensives where all students are driven to achieve their best.

    Have you thought of moving into a grammar school or the private sector? Or as someone with your passion, moved into leadership to shape the curriculum of the schools that you work in?


    • I have left schools when I couldn’t stomach how badly they failed the kids in them, but this failure does appear to be normal. My experience of management is that you are expected to conform rather than to change things.

      As for your experience being different to mine, perhaps what you think is “best” for a child is not what I think. I apply the “would I let my own kids (if I had any) be treated like this?”-test and most schools fail it. You can form a very good judgement of a school, better than OFSTED’s, simply by asking if any of the teachers send their own kids there.


  19. […] if you’d like a second opinion on the matter, check out this blog emtry by a Britsh educator who thinks learning styles are “complete arse”.   Of this one by an industrial […]


  20. […] time to read the entire report, you might know that others have written about the subject.  Like a British educator who thinks that learning styles are “complete arse”.  And an industrial psychologist […]


  21. Perhaps the myth is driven by an educational egalitarianism that says everyone can and should go to college. Now with ‘learning styles’ you can make a purse out of sow’s ear and every child is college material if only teachers would find their magical learning style. I often wonder if some admin and parents would like some students to fingerpaint essays for advances level courses.


  22. […] Now far be from me to enter a dispute about any of this. You can read Old Anderw’s searing criticism of Learning Styles here. […]


  23. […] Now far be from me to enter a dispute about any of this. You can read Old Anderw’s searing criticism of Learning Styles here. […]


  24. […] but I will point you in the direction of  Old Anderw’s searing criticism of Learning Styles here and you can make up your own […]


  25. […] findings and ‘neuro myths’. Andrew Old exposes three of the most prevalent: brain gym, learning styles and one particular snake oil salesman. One of the foremost Learning Styles theorists, Harvard […]


  26. […] been convincingly and thoroughly debunked by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, bloggers like Old Andrew and Tessa Matthews, and head of ResearchEd, Tom Bennett. The claim that ‘all that matters is […]



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