And it’s going to shock you to find out that your intuitive sense that all those workshops and seminars and faculty development thingies were a complete waste of your time, was actually a scientific fact.

Are you a verbal learner or a visual learner?…For more than 30 years, the notion that teaching methods should match a student’s particular learning style has exerted a powerful influence on education. The long-standing popularity of the learning styles movement has in turn created a thriving commercial market amongst researchers, educators, and the general public.

The wide appeal of the idea that some students will learn better when material is presented visually and that others will learn better when the material is presented verbally, or even in some other way, is evident in the vast number of learning-style tests and teaching guides available for purchase and used in schools. But does scientific research really support the existence of different learning styles, or the hypothesis that people learn better when taught in a way that matches their own unique style?

Unfortunately, the answer is no, according to a major new report published this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The report, authored by a team of eminent researchers in the psychology of learning…reviews the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as “auditory learners” and “visual learners”), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible.

Nearly all of the studies that purport to provide evidence for learning styles fail to satisfy key criteria for scientific validity….Given the lack of scientific evidence, the authors argue that the currently widespread use of learning-style tests and teaching tools is a wasteful use of limited educational resources.

Had these ideas been offered up for the public good, we might chalk this up to a mistake, maybe an accumulation of glitches in the sociology of knowledge that leaves everyone believing as true something that is patently false.

But learning styles weren’t exactly sold for a song, now were they?

Perhaps the most important question that needs to be asked here is this: will the public see a refund on all this wasted money? Seems unlikely, doesn’t it? Learning styles will continue to generate income, at least for a few more years, because so many people have been sold on the idea.

Still, looks like the educational profiteers are going to have to go back to the drawing board if they want to keep raking in the millions and destroying education.

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