, 16 tweets, 13 min read

This week’s #MedEd #Tweetorial will focus on #LearningStyles. Courtesy of my @uicdme coursework with @mededdoc

What are learning styles?
Is there evidence to support them?
Should we tailor our teaching (or learning) to them?

Let’s get started.
@uicdme @mededdoc 2/

What are learning styles?

This article by Pashler et al (doi.org/10.1111/j.1539…) defines learning styles as

“the view that different people learn information in different ways”
@uicdme @mededdoc 3/

To most of us, the concept of learning styles makes intuitive sense.

One popular model (by Dunn and Dunn) includes the concept of “modality preferences” where individuals prefer that information appeals to one of the senses: auditory, visual, tactile, or kinaesthetic.
@uicdme @mededdoc 4/

In Dunn & Dunn’s learning styles model, these “modality preferences” may be represented by an individual saying,

“I learn best by ‘doing’ something. I just can’t learn by listening to a lecture”


“I’m a ‘visual learner’. I need to see pictures and diagrams.”
@uicdme @mededdoc 5/

But are there other learning style models?

Well, this report (leerbeleving.nl/wp-content/upl…) by Coffield et al from 2003 detailed more than 71 learning style models from the literature.


That’s a lot of learning style models!
@uicdme @mededdoc 6/

I think many of us do have learning preferences (ie. ways that we prefer to learn). BUT, the larger question here is:

Does tailoring teaching to an individual’s “learning style” result in better learning outcomes?

People have strong opinions, but let’s look at the evidence
@uicdme @mededdoc 7/

First, Pashler et al 1999 point out that it’s important to make a distinction between learning preferences and the learning-styles hypothesis.

Let’s define these terms more carefully below.
@uicdme @mededdoc 8/

What are learning preferences?

Learning preferences just mean that learners prefer to learn information in a particular way (e.g. by reading, watching a lecture, working in a group, etc.)
@uicdme @mededdoc 9/

What is the “learning styles hypothesis”?

The “learning styles hypothesis” claims that learning will be more effective or efficient if learners received instruction tailored to their individual learning style.
@uicdme @mededdoc 10/

So I know this is what you’re waiting for – what does the evidence say?

Well, learning preferences probably exist (let’s be honest, you knew this already based on your own experiences).

But what about the learning styles hypothesis??
@uicdme @mededdoc 11/

This quote from Coffield’s 2003 review summarizes what we know:

“It is important to note that the field of learning styles research...is characterised
by a very large number of small-scale applications of particular models to small samples of students in specific contexts.”
@uicdme @mededdoc 12/

And, basically, despite MANY studies on learning styles, there is no convincing evidence that tailoring teaching to an individual’s learning style leads to better learning outcomes.

So what does this mean for our teaching?
@uicdme @mededdoc 13/

In summary, the evidence shows:

1) Learners have learning preferences.

2) But, tailoring our teaching to an individual’s learning style does not help them learn better.
@uicdme @mededdoc 14/

So how should we choose a teaching modality?

Well, it’s probably more important to choose our teaching method based on our content & other evidence-based teaching techniques.

For example, to teach suturing, you probably would have students practice rather than lecturing.
@uicdme @mededdoc 15/

If you want to read summaries of the “pro” and “con” arguments for learning styles, then I highly recommend these articles that I read in my class @uicdme with @mededdoc.

Pro: doi.org/10.1111/j.1745…

Con: doi.org/10.1111/j.1539…
What are ur thoughts on learning styles? Do you think they exist? Do you use them in your teaching/learning?

@gradydoctor @karenlawmd @Armstrws @VarunPhadke2 @ReenaHem @BSchwartzinSF @StefanTigges @GStetsonMD @HollyGoodMD @MDdreamchaser @davidschulman @d_golden @EmilyAbdoler
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