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Should We Match Teaching Styles to Learning Styles?


There has been much discussion over the years of multiple intelligences, and learning styles, and being right or left-brained. Often the identification of a particular style or tendency comes with a prescription to adapt teaching styles to learning styles. Right-brained people, we are told, should be allowed to be creative while their left-brained counterparts should be presented with analytical explanations. Auditory learners need to have information presented verbally. Visual learners need information presented graphically. And so on.

These views are understandable, says a recent article in Scientific American Mind, because, Rather than implying that some students are better or worse learners overall, it suggests that all students can learn well, perhaps equally well, given just the right teaching style. The SA Mind article goes on to debunk the myth.

In fact, there is growing evidence that catering to students learning strengths may only be teaching them to avoid their weaknesses. Because weak areas in cognitive processing can be built up, students can become overall stronger learners by developing those areas that weren’t as strong. Studies of various types of memory strongly suggest that being exposed to information through multiple forms is better for all learners because it provides more hooks for retrieval of the information later.

Perhaps it’s time to start referring to the multiple intelligences in each individual not as a way to spare them from the trouble of learning in ways that don’t come as easily, but as a recognition that the more intelligences we can each develop, the stronger learners we will be.

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