The best known definition is probably Neil Fleming's VARK model, which identifies four main learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. Developed in 1987 in New Zealand, it rose to prominence as the first to systematically present supporting content and materials for students, teachers, and schools to use.
For example, the theory outlines that auditory learners are best able to learn a language through listening and conversation exercises. Visual learners are best at absorbing and processing information in a visual form like diagrams and slideshows. Learners with reading/writing preference learn best through textbooks. Kinesthetic learners benefit from active language activities that keep them engaged and motivated.
Fleming's work and the term learning styles are still widely used across education and within language learning.
A leading critic, Dr. Daniel Willingham, is robust in his response to learning style theories. He stated that: "kinesthetic learners don't exist, and learning style don't exist." More specifically, criticism tends to focus on four key areas.
It is important to leave educators with some new inspiration that they can use in the class with students. As Harrington suggests, let's see VARK as a multi-modal style rather than an individual style. Many studies support this idea, showing that we retain vocabulary better when it's paired with images and gestures as opposed to simply reading on a page or simply paired with images. it appears that more is definitely better.
Dr. Willingham advocates the use of "task-dependent learning styles" where particular tasks may require or be better suited to students using a visual, auditory, writing/reading, or kinethetic approach.
There's a wealth of other teaching approaches grounded in a solid evidence base that educators are not currently using. One approach advocated by the British Council, for example, suggests leveraging students' prior knowledge can also be effective, particularly when educators help them to make connections with new information.
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