An Appalachian Mountain Proverb goes: It’s not what you don’t know that’ll hurt you, it’s what you do knowthat ain’t so.
I thought of this proverb when reading Benedict Carey’s New York Times article, Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits. He reports on a survey of learning-styles research that appeared in the journal, Psychological Science in the Public Interest. The authors found no credible evidence that matching teaching styles with learning styles (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic or right-brain/left-brain) helps people learn more effectively. They write:
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.
Given that attention to learning styles has permeated the field of employee training and development, I think we need to take these findings very seriously. Is the learning-styles emperor naked? Or, is there still reason to believe that understanding and identifying learning styles has relevance to learning in organizations?