The visual one played a short animation whereas the verbal help gave a written explanation. From these measures combined, the researchers categorized the students as either visualizers or verbalizers, and then the students were randomly assigned to go through a text-based or picture-based 한의학과 lesson on electronics.
When a student hovered their mouse over keywords in the lesson in the text-based group, a definition and clarification came up. But in the picture group, an annotated diagram was shown instead. And after the lesson, the students did a test to assess their learning.
The students whose preferred learning style matched their instruction performed no better on the tests than those whose instruction was mismatched. The researchers ran the test again with 61 non-college-educated adults and found the same result.
But learning styles are a preference so how strongly do learners stick to their preference? Well, in a 2018 study during the first week of the semester, over 400 students at a university in Indiana completed the VARK questionnaire and they were classified according to their learning style.
Then at the end of the semester, the same students completed a study strategy questionnaire. So how did they study during the term? Well, an overwhelming majority of students used study strategies that were supposedly incompatible with their learning style, and the minority of students did not perform significantly differently on the assessments in the course.
I decided to try to solve this puzzle. There are, of course, many reasons for what I observed. But one topic that seemed to hold some magic, some explanatory power, was preferred modes of learning, modal preferences.
The visual-auditory reading-writing, kinesthetic, or VARK model came about from Neil Fleming, a school inspector in New Zealand. Describing the origins of VARK he says, I was puzzled when I observed excellent teachers who did not reach some learners and poor teachers who did.
And thus, VARK was born. No study revealed students naturally cluster into four distinct groups. Just some magic that might explain why some teachers can reach students while others can’t.
But how can this be? If we accept that some people are more skilled at interpreting and remembering certain kinds of stimuli than others like visual or auditory, then why don’t we see differences in learning or recall with different presentations? Well, it’s because what we want people to recall is not the precise nature of the images or the pitch or quality of the sound.
It’s the meaning behind the presentations. Some tasks require the use of a particular modality. Learning about music, for example, should have an auditory component. Similarly, learning about geography will involve looking at maps.
And some people will have a greater aptitude to learn one task over another. Someone with perfect pitch, for example, will be better able to recall certain tones in music. Someone with excellent visual-spatial reasoning will be better at learning the locations of countries on a map.
But learning style theories claim that these preferences will be consistent across learning domains. The person with perfect pitch should learn everything better auditorily but that is not the case.
Most people will learn geography better with a map. Review articles on learning styles consistently conclude there is no credible evidence that learning styles exist. In a 2009 review, the researchers note, the contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing.
If the classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated. – What we’re expecting is, if your style was honored you’re going to perform better than if you had some experience that conflicted with your style.
And this is where we don’t see any support for the learning styles theory. – One of the reasons many people find learning styles so convincing is because they already believe it to be true. For example, they might already think that they’re a visual learner, and then when a teacher shows them a diagram of, say, a bike pump and suddenly the concept clicks, well, they interpret this as evidence for their visual learning style.
– You already believe that learning styles are right. When you have an experience the first thing you think is, is that in some way consistent with learning styles? And if it is, you don’t think further.
– When in reality that diagram might just be a great diagram that would have helped anyone learn. When we already believe the world to be a certain way, then we interpret new experiences to fit with those beliefs whether they do or not.
So if learning styles don’t improve learning, then what does? Well, there’s a large body of literature that supports the claim that everyone learns better with multimodal approaches where words and pictures are presented together rather than either words or pictures alone.
Now there’s gonna be words as well as the picture. We’re gonna see if this is any better. This is known as the multimedia effect, and it explains in part, at least, why videos can be such powerful tools for learning when the narration complements the visuals.
Duck. – Duck. – Heart. – Heart. – [Derek] In my Ph.D. research, I found the explicit discussion of misconceptions was essential in multimedia teaching for introductory physics. – How many is that? – Six. – Six, okay, that’s good.
– That is a whole 50% better. Do you think that was easier? – Yeah, yeah, 100%, 100%. – Yeah, with the words, yeah. – Ultimately, the most important thing for learning is not the way the information is presented but what is happening inside the learner’s head.
People learn best when they’re actively thinking about the material, solving problems, or imagining what happens if different variables change. I talked about how and why we learn best in my video, “The Science of Thinking” so check that out.
Now, the truth is, many evidence-based teaching methods improve learning. Learning styles are just not one of them. And it is likely, given the prevalence of the learning styles misconception that it makes learning worse.
I mean, learning styles give teachers unnecessary things to worry about, and they make some students reluctant to engage with certain types of instruction. And all the time and money spent on learning styles and related training could be better spent on interventions that improve learning.
You are not a visual learner nor an auditory learner or a kinesthetic learner, or more accurately, you are all these kinds of learners in one. The best learning experiences are those that involve multiple different ways of understanding the same thing.
And best of all, this strategy works not just for one subset of people but for everyone. (radio tuner chirping) This part of the video was sponsored by Google Search. Now, there are lots of topics out there that are controversial like learning styles, for example.
Most people believe learning styles are a thing whereas educational researchers find no robust evidence for them. And if you search for learning styles, you’ll get lots of sites with resources and quizzes.
But if you search for learning styles debunked, well, then you’ll find articles about how there is very little evidence for the learning styles hypothesis. I think one of the most common traps people fall into is only searching for information that confirms what they already believe.
A common mistake is putting the answer you’re looking for right in the search query. A better idea is to try another search, adding debunked or false at the end, and see what comes up. And Google makes it easy to get more detail about the source of the information.
Just click the three dots next to any search result and then you can judge for yourself whether the information is trustworthy and if you want to visit the site. A Google Search is meant to surface the most relevant information for your query.
But it’s up to you to formulate that query, try a few different searches, and assess whether the information is reliable. And the whole point of Veritasium is to get to the truth. So I’m excited to encourage everyone to think more critically about how we get information.