Kinesthetic Learners – damage caused by learning styles.

Some time ago on Twitter someone asked about the actual cost of teachers using the meshing of learning styles hypothesis as a way of structuring learning. Was the cost that great?

The simple answer is reached by thinking about the training costs. Consultants, like me, don’t come cheap. 8-))

The second cost is the opportunity cost. You could have been learning something more worthwhile in the time spent learning about and then planning for different learning styles. Children will have wasted time taking a ‘test’ to see which style they were.

The above all come quite quickly to mind.

Another ‘cost’ is the deception teachers and others were under through having been taught and then having used an incorrect, better to say unevidenced, theory. Bit like believing that trolls actually live under bridges. Silly.

But the effect I have not yet seen anyone account for concerns those kids who were identified as kinesthetic. What happened is that they were given kinesthetic activities to do. Card sorts were popular. Making things from cardboard. Placing answers on cards and posters around the room. they did not learn a great deal from these activities but it mostly kept them quiet.

The damage was that these activities diverted our attention away from what these kinesthetic learners actually needed. They fell further and further behind and this was justified as they were kinesthetic learners who were not really suited to academic learning. they sometimes did well at sport, or pottery, or making things in design technology. They got put on the workshop mechanics courses at the local FE establishment. They did bricklaying.

What they mostly needed was reteaching in how to read and to increase their general knowledge. They had low literacy skills not because they were kinesthetic learners but because they had poor reading skills. As Pamela Snow puts it they were victims of ‘edugenic academic failure’. This is academic failure caused by education!

That is a real cost of matching teaching to learning styles.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

What do we want to know about a child after they have been taught?

As a result of a post by Harry Fletcher Wood, I think that the above question is being answered wrongly. Harry wrote about formative assessment and touched on an idea that I have been mulling for a while. Harry’s blog was in response to David Didau’s repeated and correct assertion that we cannot judge learning over the course of a lesson. This assertion is annoying as it is the very thing we want to know about. Or is it? Do we really want to know what a child has learned?

Imagine some sort of perfect teaching where each child learned precisely what the teacher intended. Would we need to assess what was learned in that ideal situation? I hope you see that the answer is no. We just pile on with the next lesson and learning continues like a steam train chugging along the line.

No, if we knew that what had been taught was what had been learned then we would not need to asses.

So that made me ponder why we even tried to assess what they had learned. How about we assess what they had not learned? rats! That then falls into the DD trap. Can’t do that. All we get in a lesson is performance can do or performance can’t do.

But Harry to the rescue. What he suggests is really what we want to know is if any child is leaving the lesson with wrong information. Do they have any misconceptions?

That is then what we assess. We seek wrong stuff. Teachers of any experience know the typical misconceptions children have and that is what we are seeking. We seek so that we can correct, as soon as possible. It can form the basis of our planning for the next lesson.

It can also tell us that we need to alter how we teach the same piece of work the next time, with a new class. In a few weeks time, we can have our first attempt at assessing what has been retained. What has been learned.