I remember an energetic lad on the PGCE once who, after my class (on phonics, but I’m not going there) chatted as we went for coffee from the vantage point of walking along the wall. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ve been cooped up all morning in lectures, so I’m feeling a bit kinaesthetic.” Having for some years by then cited the oft-used Sharp, Byrne, Bowker paper with the wonderful title VAK or VAK-uous? Lessons in the trivialisation of learning and the death of scholarship it was a little irksome: I was relieved to find he was only joking. A quick interjection, but it showed me how much the language of learning styles had entered the classroom. It was as if the quick solution works best not because it is a quick solution to anything, really, but because it is marketable: it has an instant hook to pull in the punters.
In the current resurgence of the debate (if that is what’s happening) I miss my former Brookes colleague, John Geake, who was one of the first to tell me, when I joined the staff here, that such things had no basis in neuroscience. Today’s blog from Steve Watson, which responds to the jibes from Gibb and the letter from real neuroscientists is therefore something of a rematch. He admits – and I’d agree – that there is a lot of woolly thinking about neuromyths, but what really strikes me is how he points to learning styles as being used as “a symbol of the maleficence of progressive education.” I hadn’t thought of it like that. In his blog Steve goes further, and poses the big dilemma I want to end with:
When academic colleagues launch a public attack on learning styles, I wonder why they do not take a more critical stance on what is happening in our education systems.