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May 31, 2013

Science & Research

Learning styles, science, practice, and Disneyland

pearson-logo-fallon.jpg"Professor Daniel Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, is renowned for his work that focuses on the application of findings from cognitive psychology and neuroscience to K-12. Perhaps most of interest to English language teachers are his findings on "learning styles." As he wrote back in 2009, “There just doesn’t seem to be much evidence that kids learn in fundamentally different ways.”

In his latest blog post he writes, "Learning styles theories are not accurate representations of how children learn. Although they are certainly not guaranteed to lead to bad practice, using them as a guide is more likely to degrade practice than improve it." (emphasis mine)

He makes the point that "Any theory (or more generally, anything) can be a source of inspiration" and that "learning styles theories might serve as an inspiration for practice, but it holds no special status as such; anything can inspire practice." In conclusion, he says, "It would never occur to me that a Disneyland-inspired lesson is a good idea because Disneyland represents how kids think. But that slip-of-the-mind might happen with learning styles theories and indeed, it seems to with some regularity."

Read the full blog post.

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