3 Key Takeaways from the Learning Styles Debate
Many educators and instructors have witnessed the rise and fall of Learning Style Theory since it emerged in 1970. Today, there are over 70 different learning style systems and surveys designed for professional development, as well as to help teachers make the most out of their curriculum and presentation of material.
Through the years, some researchers have presented a lack of evidence for tailoring teaching methods to directly affect learning outcomes. Despite skeptical criticism, Learning Style Theory and learning style assessments have had a major influence on education, teaching, and learning. Learning styles are, in fact, still relevant today…but maybe not for the reasons you think. Here are some key learning style takeaways and why assessments should be included in an overall soft-skills program.
1. Individualized Preferences
Learning Style Theory is actually eye-opening! It raises the awareness of the importance of individualized preferences and for educators and learners to pay attention to what learning systems work best for each individual. If you don’t think about it, you may not notice that (1) you prefer different senses or modalities for absorbing information than other people (2) different people prefer and respond better to different teaching methods, teaching aids, and sensory stimuli. The takeaway to remember is that if one style or method of learning or studying doesn’t work, try an alternative until you find what works best for you. Individualized learning devices are recommended in and outside of the classroom to help you understand the way your students learn because not all teaching methods work the same for all learners.
2. Personal Strengths
Learning styles promote the knowledge of one’s own personal strengths in terms of learning, thinking, and retaining new information. A grasp of ALL of one’s own personal strengths (including individual learning strengths) is good to recognize early on in a student’s academic life so they can capitalize on learning efficacy. For example, some students excel in math and STEM while others in art and literature. Standardized testing identifies the areas of natural academic strengths and abilities as a diagnostic tool or academic planning tool. Likewise, a personal soft skills assessment is helpful to discover where to invest your energy and where you can make the most out of learning time. Recognizing other soft skills, such as communication and motivational preferences, has been proven to be a good predictor of success in matching personal strengths to job roles in companies. Today, this concept has created a billion-dollar industry as companies assess personal strengths (like personality) prior to hiring as a tool to help create more productive workforces.
3. Metacognitive Strategies
This may be the most important takeaway. Learning Style Theory and assessment is a great way to promote metacognition as a learning strategy. Metacognition, as a concept, has to do with “thinking about thinking” or being aware of higher-order thinking skills (meta) which includes specific strategies for learning and problem-solving. The significance of this type of cognition was popularized in 1976 by American developmental psychologist, John H. Flavell. Metacognitive learning strategies are supported by much positive research. For example, getting students to think about the strategies and environmental conditions during their last successful exam is a way to integrate metacognitive strategies into students’ learning routines.
When considering adding a learning style assessment to develop effective study skills, remember these three takeaways. Learning style assessment promotes better study skills through raising awareness of:
- Individual preferences
- Personal strengths
- Metacognitive strategies
The StudentKeys® System
The StudentKeys® system contains a complete set of six workbooks (including assessments for DISC personality styles, perceptual learning styles, and more) for students to discover and build upon their soft skills for personal and professional development. The StudentKeys® Perceptual Learning Style workbook includes a brief learning style assessment to help identify your students' primary and secondary perceptual learning styles according to the VAK model. The workbook also helps raise awareness of a student’s need to develop targeted learning, thinking, and retention habits and strategies. Discover how the StudentKeys® system can help your students become more self-aware, develop necessary soft skills, and make the most of their personal strengths.