The Myth Of Learning Styles
Well it seems that the concept of personal “learning-styles” has met with recent criticism. In an article in Science Daily, “Education: Learning Styles Debunked” researchers involved with the psychology of learning questioned the scientific testing basis for the “meshing hypothesis” which postulates that accelerated learning is best accomplished when instruction meshes with the psychological, neurological and even sociological needs or dispositions of the learner. The criticism revolves around the methodology of the survey-style testing. The lack of “randomizing research designs” in forming the conceptual framework behind learning styles is less than scientific. The conclusion is that learning-style tests and teaching tools are a waste of educational resources and time.
The theory which started to gain popularity in the 70’s has generated no less than seventy different description modalities over the last forty years. While there are good intentions involved in these personal learning-style systems and theories, the complete scientific story of how learning is accomplished neurologically is still not fully known. The non-scientific tests, such as those found in books and on the internet involved with determining dominant learning aptitudes, are not fully verified scientifically and are random in their design and execution. People, even after being exposed to these tests, were still not very good at completely understanding just how they learn a given task nor how adopting a certain learning-style had accelerated and codified their learning.
My interest in this topic came about from the online discussions about learning banjo by tablature or by ear. The common-sense understanding from most people online was that there is a “learning-style” that is best for you and you should keep trying different approaches until you find the best that is suited to you and your goals.
But, should the teaching style conform to the student, or should the student adapt to and practice the skills that best foster music learning? Of all the learning-style classifications, ie., “visual-verbal” “sensory-intuitive” “active-reflective” or “sequential-global,” music ultimately depends upon the activity of producing sounds. Listening to develop musical hearing entails copying and repeating (sometimes endlessly) a sound on your instrument. Actively and repetitively listening to a recording first is a much easier way to learn than using tablature to teach you to hear sound. It's very difficult to hear when you are reading a page.
One thing is sure - practice and persistent application is the best way to discover how you learn the best rather than taking internet surveys and getting lost in a teaching-style smorgasbord. Repetition and practice conquers all!