Learning Styles

Just filled in a questionnaire about learning styles after reading about it on a secondary school forum which mentioned on a Moodle forum.

Though there are some issues with the way learning styles are theorised, I find quite appealing the notion that flexibility/diversity in teaching methods relates to flexibility/diversity in learning styles.

One problem with such questionnaires has to do with introspection which, as many cognitive scientists would argue, is unreliable as a way to learn about thinking. Of course, reliability and accuracy might not be the only features of the answers we get. But since such questionnaires are used to reveal patterns, the unreliability of introspection can be an important issue to discuss.

Filled in the questionnaire twice. The first time, I was probably trying to get a specific result, even without noticing. The second time, I tried to be as much of a realist as I could be and I think it worked. (Although, I may have tried even harder to get a different result.)
My results (on the second pass):
  • Visual: 3
  • Aural: 13
  • Read/Write: 12
  • Kinesthetic: 7
Those results make me multimodal aural and read/write, in the model used for this questionnaire. I think it's pretty accurate. Not that it draws a complete picture of my learning (and teaching) habits, but it does summarise some of my broad tendencies.
What hides behind such numbers is context. Though "learning by doing" isn't my forte, there are many situations in which it's my main learning mode. In fact, I really enjoy the playfulness of this "kinesthetic" mode of learning. Though I'm almost not visual at all, my visual memory really isn't that bad and I do rely on visual memory in several contexts. Websites and presentations with a lot of audio tend to annoy me. Part of the reason the read/write mode is almost as important for me as the aural mode is that most academic activities are associated with reading and writing.
Not that any of those issues are contradicting the model. Those who use the VARK (visual, aural, read/write, kinesthetic) model clearly take context into account (especially since multimodality is the most common pattern). My own emphasis on context is certainly linked to my ethnographic approach. And habits of connected learning.

Though the sensory model is appealing and widespread (even outside learning institutions), there are other approaches to the diversity of learning habits. For instance, I got much inspiration from a model described by Olivia Rovinescu, director of Concordia's Centre for Teaching and Learning Services. From what I remember of that model, critical thinking is conceived in connection with stages in cognitive development. As far as I can tell, Rovinescu's model relates to a reevaluation of W.B. Perry's work (which, itself, was based on Piaget's work). As an informal learner of such pedagogical theories, I'm quite taken by several approaches to learning described by the models themselves. For one thing, these models help me describe my own learning habits and strategies.

Should I now take MBTI tests? ;-)

No comments: