‘Ditch personalised learning’ – experts

by Brett Henebery13 Mar 2017

Personalised learning is often hailed as a ground-breaking approach to ensuring that all students’ and workers’ learning preferences are taken into account.

However, it might be time to rethink this learning method.

Professors Steven Pinker from Harvard University, Dorothy Bishop from Oxford University and Uta Frith from the University College of London, among others – wrote a letter warning that this approach is both ineffective and harmful to learners.

To coincide with International Brain Awareness Week, which begins today, a letter –organised by Professor Bruce Hood, chair of developmental psychology in society at the University of Bristol – set out to challenge common misconceptions about learning.

According to Hood, a recent poll of more than 100 head teachers of independent schools found over 85% believed in learning styles, and 66% used them in their schools with many sending teachers on courses and 6% paying for external consultants.

“It is hard to establish the cost to the education system of using learning styles. Some schools have it as part of their teaching ethos whereas others bring in external consultants or send teachers on training courses,” the letter states.

The scientists point out that aside from the cost in terms of time and money, one concern is that learning styles leads to belief that individual employees and students are unable to learn because the material is inappropriate.

“The brain is essential for learning, but learning styles is just one of a number of common neuromyths that do nothing to enhance education.”

Hood went on to say that most people believe they have a preferred learning style – either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic – and teaching using a variety of these styles can be engaging.

However, he added that the claim that learners will perform better when the training is matched to their preferred sensory modality (learning style) is simply not supported by the science and of questionable value.


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