WHAT ARE LEARNING STYLES?
The term ‘learning style’ refers to the fact that when people want to learn something, they all use their own methods and strategies. Even though the strategies we use can differ according to what we want to learn, each one of us tends to develop general preferences that apply to all situations. The tendency to use certain methods more than others constitutes our learning style.
It’s not a revolutionary concept that we don’t all learn the same way or at the same speed. In any group where more than two people start studying a subject together, all starting on the same level, we’ll find that after very little time, there are great differences in knowledge for each member of the group, even though seemingly all of them received the same lectures and did the same activities and exercises. Every member of the group learns in a different way, has different doubts, and progresses better in some areas than in others.
These learning differences are the result of many elements, such as motivation, previous cultural knowledge and age. But these elements don’t explain why we frequently find students with the same level of motivation, of the same age and with the same cultural knowledge who still learn in different ways, in such a way that, while one is good at redacting texts, the other finds it easier to do grammar exercises. However, these differences can be the result of their different ways of learning.
Both from the student’s point of view and the professor’s point of view, the concept of learning styles is especially attractive because it gives us great possibilities of achieving more effective learning.
The concept of learning styles is directly related to learning as an active process. If we consider that learning is a passive way of receiving information, then what the student does or thinks is not very important. But, if we see learning as the way in which the receiver creates information, then it’s pretty obvious that all of us create and relate the received data in line with our own characteristics.
The different models and theories about learning styles offer a conceptual framework that helps us understand the behaviors we observe every day in the classroom, how these behaviors relate to the way our students learn, and the type of approaches that can be more efficient in any given moment.
But, reality is always much more conceptual than any theory. The way in which we create the information and learn it differs according to the context or according to what we’re trying to learn, which means that the way we learn can differ from one subject to the next. So, it’s important not to use learning styles as a tool to fit students into closed categories. The way we learn constantly evolves and changes in the same way we do.