In the last few decades, there has been a surge of theories and models to explain the differences in the ways people learn. But, out of all of these theories and models, which is the best?
The answer is: all of them and none of them. The word “learning” is a broad term that encompasses different phases of the same complex process. Each of the models and theories focuses on learning from a different angle. When you watch the entirety of the learning process, you perceive that these theories and models that seemed contradictory to each other are not really contradictory, and they even complement one another.
As teachers, and depending on which part of the learning process we focus our attention on, sometimes we’ll want to use a model, and sometimes we won’t.
One possible way to understand the different theories is the following three-step model:
- Learning always begins after the reception of some kind of information. Out of all of the information we receive, we select a part. When we analyze how we select the information, we can distinguish between visual students, auditory students and kinesthetic students.
- The information we select should be organized and connected. The model of the brain hemispheres gives us information about the different ways to organize the information we receive.
- Once that information has been organized, we use it in one way or another. Kolb’s learning cycle distinguishes between active, theoretical, reflexive and pragmatic students.
Naturally, this separation of phases is fictitious, and in practice, these processes are confused with one another due to being closely related. The fact that we usually select visual information, for example, affects the way we organize that information. We can’t, therefore, understand someone’s learning style if we don’t pay attention to all its aspects. Apart from the theories related to the way we have to select, organize and work with the information, there are models that classify the learning styles according to other elements like social behavior.