Student learning styles still matter

I believe in empirical evidence.  But there is often a difference between what studies show and what teachers know from experience. I’m referring now to a controversial study concluding that lessons designed to appeal to different student learning styles do not accelerate their learning (“The Stubborn Myth of ‘Learning Styles,’ “ Education Next, Summer 2020).

If that’s the case, then why pay attention to individual differences in the first place? We know that so much of what makes teachers effective is their ability to connect with their students.  That’s why class size is important.  Large classes do not allow teachers to get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Yet in 2019, a newsletter published by the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University concluded: “There is no practical utility in knowing students’ learning styles.”  I find that hard to believe. If so, why not just treat all students as a monolith and proceed to design lessons accordingly?

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