Learning Styles at University

Back at the beginning of September, I received my reading list from uni. Book upon book about learning styles.

Considering all I’ve read over the course of the last year, it was playing on my mind when I went to enrol.

I flicked through the pack of documents we were handed and inwardly sighed when I found three questionnaires to be filled in to determine what sort of person I am. I really didn’t want to be that person – some sort of know it all, questioning things on their very first day.

During the afternoon, we had to fill in the first of the questionnaires to find out if we were reflectors, pragmatists, activists or theorists (Honey and Mumford) and were separated into our respective groups to discuss how accurate we thought it was, how well did the descriptions fit us and what the limitations were.

After this, we were given time to complete the other questionnaires.

So far, so frustrating.

We were sent on our merry way with some tasks to do before the next day school, which included writing up our findings from the questionnaires (allowing me to put my point across) and reading some articles about learning styles. About the ‘dogma invading our classrooms’, about how ‘VAK-uous’ it all was. Better. We were to write a critique about one of these articles so everyone must have gotten fairly well acquainted with at least one of them.

Roughly a month later, we all reassembled for day school 2. We’d all done some research on a chosen theorist – Bloom, Maslow, Kolb, Goleman and Illich, which we then fed back to our peers.

Then it got a little bit interesting.

We were asked to raise our hands if we thought learning styles were of value and use. A lot of hands went up. We were asked to raise our hands if, after all of our research, we thought that learning styles were questionable and of little value. I raised my hand as soon as the tutor started formulating the question. I was quietly joined by a few others.

Split into groups to formulate some arguments for and against, I found myself in a group of five. In the middle, the undecided of about seven or eight and then, at the other side of the room, a huge group of at least twenty, perhaps more.

Patiently, we listened to their side of the argument. We didn’t make it to the end of ours before an outraged person interrupted. Obviously, we were the enemies of children and education, denying them the chance to learn in the way that really suits them. Of course, we batted back with all we could (research? Proof? Evidence?) but they were pretty closed off to any other opinion.

It was actually a bit prickly at the time.

The undecided remained undecided.

I tried.

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