Idea of teaching to learning styles has enjoyed widespread adoption in North American schools but there is little evidence to support it.
But now Gardner has decided to set the record straight. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Gardner states that not only does his theory of multiple intelligences have nothing to do with learning styles, but “there is not persuasive evidence that the learning style analysis produces more effective outcomes than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.” He then goes on to say, “If people want to talk about ‘an impulsive style’ or ‘a visual learner,’ that’s their prerogative. But they should recognize that these labels may be unhelpful, at best, and ill-conceived at worst.”
Why should all of this concern the public? Because far from helping, educational fads like learning styles may actually be harming our students. As an example, Ontario’s elementary math scores have been falling for five years in a row. And while Education Minster Liz Sandals blamed teachers’ lack of math skills, there is no evidence that teacher demographics have changed over this period. What has changed is that we have adopted more trendy ways of teaching math, such as “discovery learning” that encourages students to use their own learning styles and be more creative.
This has essentially led to the creation of a two-tiered system whereby parents who can afford it are sending their children to places like Kumon for private math tutoring, while those children from less affluent families are stuck not knowing how to do math. This is something we simply cannot afford. Indeed, a recent study by the OECD found that the math skills of Canadians are already below average.