“Nonsense” – this is what Baroness Greenfield, the director of the Royal Institute and a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, has to say about learning styles. There are numerous theories on children’s learning styles. Some say there are more than 70 different learning styles, the most popular (and controversial) being the VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic).
A very popular notion is that some children learn visually. They learn more and faster if they are presented information in a visual way, for example, images, charts, and videos. Some students are auditory learners, that is, they learn most effectively if they listen to information. The third type of children are kinesthetic learners and learn by touching and doing things. It all sounds pretty reasonable and plausible. Some children do have a better visual memory than others who might prefer to play with physical models while some other kids prefer reading books. So what’s nonsense about the VAK theory?
Many researchers have conducted research and argued that there is no such thing as VAK learners. People learn things the best way based on the kind of content they are learning. In geography, they have to see a map to understand the location and shape of countries, they have to listen to pronunciation to understand the nuances of languages, and they have to ride a bike to learn biking. I have long believed that the VAK theory is nonsense. I have not once seen someone design or myself designed a learning product while taking into account the different learning styles. Why doesn’t anyone care about the learning styles if it has such a profound effect on our children’s learning and future? Because you can’t. A technology-based learning product is designed with the best possible way to help children learn. A good product uses sound instructional design principles, learning theories, and user interface design. A great product even takes into account the users’ behavior.
It’s unfortunate that many people believe strongly that children have different learning styles though they don’t understand the implications themselves. Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, had in 1999 proposed the theory of multiple intelligences. It was a controversial but highly popular theory at that time though it never found a real application. But the theory does make sense.
The VAK theory, however, doesn’t. And that’s why Baroness Greenfield calls it nonsense.