Learning styles (LS) generally refer to the set of factors occurring as patterns of learning behavior and attitudes among students, which can be utilized as effective method of teaching.
A set of LS poses as influences to the approach preferred by a learner when acquiring knowledge. In the academic world, the use of learning styles as basis for teaching methods became popular as educational practice as far back as the 1970s. The approach though is not without criticism, since every individual possesses different cognitive, physiological and affective behaviors.
In a typical learning environment, several learners interact with a single teacher. Ideally, assessment of individual learning styles is undertaken to determine the most preferred modes of instructions that will optimize the educator’s teaching method. Recent studies though expressed skepticism regarding learning styles as determining factors. The common contentions are the unreliable measurement and the absence of systematic studies supporting such measures.
The Seven Basic Learning Styles
There are seven (7) basic learning styles, namely Auditory, Visual, Kinaesthetic, Kinaesthetic-Auditory, Visual-Auditory, Visual-Kinaesthetic, and Auditory-Kinaesthetic-Visual. Auditory refers to learning by listening, Kinaesthetic means learning thru physical activities, while Visual pertains to learning by way of images, examples, charts and the like. The rest therefore are combinations of two or three learning techniques.
Visual-Auditory teaching methods usually combine oral and written instructions and materials. Visual-Kinaesthetic LS enables a student to learn faster by carrying out tasks related to a lecture. Such tasks may include creating posters, powerpoint presentations, conducting surveys, and other similar activities. Auditory-Kinaesthetic uses sound related physical activities. Teaching methods usually task students to convert a certain lesson into a song, create a commercial jingle or music video.
Studies show that it is unlikely that one individual has only one learning style. Yet it has been widely observed that one learning style is dominant over another. The important point driven at by LS critics is that teaching methods must not be confined to learning styles claimed as the most effective. Utilizing instructional methods attuned to one LS at a time, gives students a chance to develop less dominant learning senses. In time, teaching methods may later advance to using multi-sensory learning approaches.