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Out Of Style: Exploring the ‘Learning Style’ neuromyth and when to bust it with Professor Phil Newton

The idea that we have a ‘best way’ to learn; whether it’s visually, verbally, via touch or one of another 67 ways is not new. At the same time, neither is the research that debunks this theory. Odd then that not only do we as individuals and parents still hold on to this idea but that the overwhelming majority of teachers do too. Just what is it, that makes Learning Styles so hard to reject?

This week we’re looking at “Learning Styles” why it is considered to be a neuromyth and whether it matters. 

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Nathan McGurl, Founder of The Study Buddy is joined by Professor Phil Newton. Phil is the Director of Learning and Teaching for the Swansea University Medical School. Phil teaches Neuroscience across a variety of programmes in the School. He also teaches evidence-based education as part of the School’s online programme. Phil has also written numerous papers including “How Common Is Belief in the Learning Styles Neuromyth, and Does It Matter?

In this episode, we look at the Learning Style concept and touch on the dangers of trying to determine a preferred style in students. We also examine why it can be so hard to dissuade people of its effectiveness as a cognitive theory and why it is more important to focus our attention on the science of learning instead.

Most of our students think of themselves as a visual learners; they tend to draw out mind maps, focus on the aesthetic and perhaps doodle their way through note taking. Thinking that they learn better one way, rather than another, means that our students tend to focus on activities that lean to their “stronger suit”. Anastasia thinks she’s a visual learner because it helps to keep her engaged. She “understands” better this way.


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