Monday, April 16, 2012

Data-Free Reform: The Bunkum of “Multiple Learning Styles”

Every year teachers are asked to add more to their repertoire of teaching techniques, to work harder and longer to implement reforms that are supposed to improve student learning. If these reforms actually improved learning outcomes, the investment in professional development and teacher’s time might be worth it.

Teachers should be wary.

Administrators and proponents typically claim reforms are based on solid evidence and will enhance student learning and teachers routinely accept these claims, even though compelling evidence is rarely provided.

With scams like No Child Left Behind it was obvious that the benefits to students would be nominal or nonexistent and teachers opposed it from the start. However, teachers have uncritically accepted and embraced numerous other reforms and “theories” like Multiple Intelligences, popularized by Howard Gardner in the 1980s, and the notion that we must identify and teach to students’ unique learning styles.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham is now arguing that the evidence does not support the Multiple Learning Styles “theory”*--that is, teaching to multiple learning styles does not improve learning outcomes. You can read about it here (on Larry Cuban’s blog).

*I use quotes around the word theory because Multiple Intelligences and Multiple Learning Styles are actually hypotheses (i.e., educated guesses requiring confirmation through testing or evidence), not true theories (i.e., collections of related hypotheses that have already been repeatedly verified).

No comments:

Post a Comment