I quickly drew this up in response to the conversation going on over at Hapgood about Learning Styles vs Introversion.
In my work, I frequently ask faculty to consider accessibility and diversity of learning approaches (minus the smug vacuous assertions and arched eyebrow, I hope).
I certainly don’t think you can take some little questionnaire, like a cross between a horoscope and a Cosmo quiz, then suddenly declare, “I’m a Virgo visual learner drawn to drama!“. I also don’t think all professors must provide a visually rich presentation for my learning style-star sign-hairdo preference.
I realize the notion of learning style is controversial and its scientific validity is questionable. The problem resides that in our attempts at sense-making we tend to reduce everything to bite-size blips, thereby reducing complexity and simplifying the essence of something into pure nonsense. The same thing happens to Bloom’s Taxonomy but that does not mean we should dismiss the notion of higher order thinking or learning styles altogether.
By the time you are in a position to teach, especially in higher education, you have already mastered what is required to be a successful learner. Historically, there has a strong preference towards written, text-based modes of presentation and assessment. Learning is inherently a social process and as teachers, we tend to replicate our own experiences. This means that faculty and grad students responsible for learning in higher education, who have been socialized into their profession will also show preference for lecture-based learning scenarios and assessment mostly based in writing assignments. Countless course syllabi consist of 2 essays, 2 midterms and a final exam. The dominant xMOOC template replicates this as well, with the auto-grading killer app removing the prof altogether.
We do need to consider learning styles and accessibility in our learning. In Ontario, it’s the law to ensure accessibility for all. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilites Act is couched in a human right that everyone has the equitable right to communicate as an individual.
The Centre for Applied Special Technologies has championed universal design for learning which asks us to consider multiple modes of representation, expression, and engagement. This is more complex than a reduction to a learning style because learning doesn’t fit neatly into tight little categories, but keeping Kolb’s cycle in mind, you can design your learning with multiple entry points and multiple ways of showcasing your knowledge.