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Posts Tagged ‘hank

Since some people would rather watch a video bite than read articles, I share SciShow’s Hank Green’s 2.5 minute critique of “learning styles”.

Video source

From a review of research, Green highlighted how:

  • the only study that seemed to support learning styles was severely flawed
  • students with perceptions that they had one style over others actually benefitted from visual information regardless of their preference

This is just the tip of the iceberg of evidence against learning styles. I have a curated list here. If that list is too long to process, then at least take note of two excerpts from recent reviews:

From the National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine:

… we found virtually no evidence for the interaction pattern mentioned above, which was judged to be a precondition for validating the educational applications of learning styles. Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis. We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.

In their review of research on learning styles for the Association for Psychological Science, Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, and Bjork (2008) came to a stark conclusion: “If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” (p. 117)

In Deans for Impact, Dylan Wiliam noted:

Pashler et al pointed out that experiments designed to investigate the meshing hypothesis would have to satisfy three conditions:

1. Based on some assessment of their presumed learning style, learners would be allocated to two or more groups (e.g., visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners)

2. Learners within each of the learning-style groups would be randomly allocated to at least two different methods of instruction (e.g., visual and auditory based approaches)

3. All students in the study would be given the same final test of achievement.

In such experiments, the meshing hypothesis would be supported if the results showed that the learning method that optimizes test performance of one learning-style group is different than the learning method that optimizes the test performance of a second learning-style group.

In their review, Pashler et al found only one study that gave even partial support to the meshing hypothesis, and two that clearly contradicted it.

Look at it another way: We might have learning preferences, but we do not have styles that are either self-fulling prophecies or harmful labels that pigeonhole. If we do not have visual impairments, we are all visual learners.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

Learning is messy and teaching tries to bring order to what seems to be chaos. The problem with learning styles is that it provides the wrong kind of order. Learning styles has been perpetuated without being validated. A stop sign on learning styles is long overdue.

Video source

This video by Hank Green highlights a finding in research that a more effective way to learn is to teach.

Researchers tested the effect of students being told to teach content vs being told that they would sit for a test. However, all the students (including the ones told to teach) were tested. What were the results?

Participants expecting to teach produced more complete and better orga- nized free recall of the passage (Experiment 1) and, in general, correctly answered more questions about the passage than did participants expecting a test (Experiment 1), particularly questions covering main points (Experiment 2), consistent with their having engaged in more effective learning strategies.

However, the study seemed to stop short of recommending that students actually teach to learn better.

I know this teach-to-learn strategy works because this is how I conduct my courses and workshops. But do not take my word for it.

The serendipitous publishing of a MindShift article on students teaching other students sheds some light on the why this works.


  • can find ways to make the content more relevant and exciting
  • are more creative with relating concepts or ideas
  • are closer to the “a-ha” moments and reach their peers in a more visceral way

I have also reflected on at least two other occasions on why teaching to learn is effective.

In writing about my second dimension of flipped learning, I mentioned how teaching requires learners to practice content delivery and to be active sense-makers.

Learning Pyramid by dkuropatwa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  dkuropatwa 

Note: Take the percentages with more than a pinch of salt. The numbers cannot be substantiated.

When I shared the learning pyramid and justified my three dimensions of flipped learning, I mentioned how teaching was a process of cyclic processing, reprocessing, and reflection that honed a teacher’s internalization and treatment of content.

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