Different learning styles are widely used across the world in schools, in coaching settings and is the cornerstone of many lesson delivery methods. We have all found out somewhere on the way that we are either a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner and that we would do best by sticking to these methods. But how accurate is that?
The theory of learning styles was originally made by Kolb (1984). The thought process behind the theory was that if a student was struggling they would be helped if the teachers, who were teaching did so in the style that suited the student’s learning type the most. It is suggested that the information the student trying to learn will be processed more easily. This is seems like an intuitive and logical theory to adopt.
However there is little evidence to support this theory and a great deal showing its floors. Rogowsky, Calhoun and Tallal, (2015) stated in an investigation into the whether matching learning styles to instructional methods had any effect on comprehension, that “we failed to find any statistically significant, empirical support for tailoring instructional methods to an individual’s learning style”. So if there is no evidence to say that using specific learning styles can enhance a students learning capacity, then why is it so widely used?
Whilst looking through the literature I came across the work of Friedman and Alley, (1984). Their work looked at a number of case studies viewed practices found useful by teachers in America. One such study found that students “self concept was enhanced and they performed better in other phases of their learning experience as well”. We can interpret from this that the students found confidence in their own ability when learning in their preferred style because they are finding it easier to process the information. Although there is still no proof that learning styles improves intellectual performance. What we can take from this study is that using students or rider’s specific learning styles will increase the confidence in the session or lesson that you are running, which will increase the cooperation of the rider/student. “There was also evidence that students’ confidence in the success of the programme was increased”. It could be interpreted that this increase in participation enthusiasm can lead to further learning.
In summary, there is little evidence to support the use of learning styles in coaching and education. Despite this leaning styles are widely used and believed in. It could however be used to increase the confidence in a programme or session by the participant making the learning experience easier to process. Personally I will continue to use all the learning styles in my coaching although I will experiment in using non linear pedagogical method. In doing this I will create challenges by withholding information or giving information to the riders in a challenging way so they have to really think about what they are doing.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Rogowsky, B., Calhoun, B. and Tallal, P. (2015). Matching learning style to instructional method: Effects on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(1), pp.64-78.
Friedman, P. and Alley, R. (1984). Learning/teaching styles: Applying the principles. Theory Into Practice, 23(1), pp.77-81.