Among the hustle and bustle of trying to get to the refreshment table at a recent neuroscience seminar, I overheard a remark:
“We should consider designing learning interventions for the brain and not the learning style”
As a Learning & Development (L&D) specialist I have a huge interest in the complex process of learning. Over the past year I have witnessed learning styles being used as a precursor to training events within one global corporation and at least one education provider. The context has been “this is how you will learn best”. However, to suggest that learning is enhanced through the identification of a preferred style and subsequently leads to greater performance is a neuromyth.
Welcome to the ‘neuromyth’.
A neuromyth is a commonly-held false belief about neuroscience. There are many neuromyths and ‘Learning Styles’ is one of the most well-known and increasingly challenged across learning spectrums. It has had startling traction across many domains of society and is increasingly being addressed. There is no scientific evidence to support its claims that learning is enhanced through the identification of a preferred style and that learning in that ‘preference’ leads to greater performance.
Visual, auditory and kinaesthetic styles (and variations thereof) are very much a part of many establishment’s education, learning and development programs. Whilst they are established concepts they need to be challenged. This does not dismiss the notion that there are different styles of learning but does question upon what basis claims are made.
The advancing discipline of neuroscience is bringing insight and opportunities to redress the way we design learning. Neuroscience has shown us how neuroplasticity can enable us to be lifelong learners whilst technological advancement has delivered a multitude of learning platforms. At the fore of this is a recognition that humans process information in many ways. ‘Learning Styles’ do not reveal neurological pathways, memory formation or brain processes. It is a limiting self-belief and can lead to individuals being closed to and rejecting different ways of learning as they believe they have ‘a style’ which is optimal for them.
Neuroscience is not the panacea to effective L&D but it is offering promising insight. It is constantly evolving so critical evaluation is required. As trainers, educationalists, L&D professionals, coaches, academics and employers we are equally responsible for drawing attention to the advances in neuroscience as well as challenging the neuromyths.
We are in an era striving to be free of labels and stereotypes. We are constantly discovering new ways of being the best we can be and contributing to society with our uniqueness.
Be individual, learning is not a style, it’s an adventure.
Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & Collaborator