Recently someone posted that “science” questions the whole concept of specific learning styles. By learning styles, people refer to channels of learning such as auditory, visual, and kinetic or tactile (I distinguish movement from touch – that is moving around as in dancing or walking through a “city” taped out on the floor versus touching things as in using modeling clay). Then you have the different intelligences of Gardner, incl even vegetable.
Now we make fun of these things but we also overdo them. Both reactions stupidly oversimplify the issue. The real issue lies in the roots of our educational system. The worship of the logico-mathematical, high ratiocination, cognitive approach, understandably derived from the amazing accomplishments of science, has resulted in a curriculum so devoted to that one approach to learning that any drop in funding automatically calls for the elimination of the arts and physical education (though not the money-making sports teams which admit only the cream of the litter).
It is no wonder, then, that some educators, psychologists, and child advocates, along with intellectuals, have pleaded for some diversity in our teaching. No surprise here, but once someone theorizes about “learning styles” or something else, he feels obliged, at least to his publisher, to work the thing out into an elaborate “this is essential” game plan and then tour the country touting it and selling it to everybody. Adminsitrators, desperate for something to fill in-service slots with, jump on the bandwagon, and so the show goes on.
What started out as a simple plea for some diversity became “big business”, a way for people to make money. Is that a surprise? Is there a “financial intelligence”? If so, where can I get some? Wall Street, you say? Hmmmmm. How about ethical intelligence?
Addendum: personal experience. I saw a book being used at my local community college (if anyone has any idea what the title or author may be, let me know) to help students adjust to college academics. The usual inventory of learning styles was in there, but that was followed up by a whole host of activities typical of college: note taking, studying for tests, reading textbooks, setting up a term paper, and on and on; each had its list of how to go about it, DEPENDING ON YOUR LEARNING STYLE earlier identified.
Well, I went through all the lists. In fact, the truth to tell, I found the recommendations in all these activity areas that applied to my learning style did, in fact, conform to what I had for many years known about myself. I was quite impressed.
Maybe I was led astray somehow, but I do know I am much more auditory than most people; that stands out b/c most North Americans, at least those of European descent, as I am, are visual. I see very kinesthetic kids in the classroom. Do I make special lesson plans for them, as some books on teaching recommend? No. I just take them into account.
That was the original idea, I think.