Prod it

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I pinged a post out yesterday about learning styles and, like many of my rants, this one prompted lots of discussion.

As I said in my reply to the original post about the topic, if you are able to create a real-world learning intervention that takes learning styles into account – and proves that such an intervention produces better learning results than a non-learning-styles intervention – there is a prize of $5000 to be won. This prize has been available since 2006 – 15 years – and has not been won because there is no evidence that designing to a preferred style makes any difference in what a person learns or how they perform as a result of learning that way.

With the number of people researching learning theory annually, wouldn’t the prize have been won if there was evidence to support it?

Quite reasonably some people pushed back against my (deliberately) provocative wording. Yes, people find this stuff useful and they’ve been around for a long time. As I’ve written before though, trepanning and bloodletting were considered useful to solve headaches in the past. We’ve learnt that in almost every case they’re of no use any more. This was based on science, data and the experience of research into how things worked.

I get that people want an ‘edge’ to market their services. A freebie questionnaire that people can download and engage with seems harmless enough. What happens though is that it’s not treated as a harmless superficiality. People take these things seriously and legends of learning styles, like cockroaches, refuse to die. I also understand that this is what people ask for – buyers can be uninformed and want to purchase what they believe is the ‘right’ thing. This is, as ever, a prompt to become an engineer over a shopkeeper.

I was encouraged by the people recognising that there’s still work to do to to help eradicate these myths. If you want to change something, as always, #ItStartsWithMe.

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