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Tired of Learning Styles

If you want to or plan to learn about your learners, don’t spend time surveying them about learning styles. Asking a learner about their own learning style when considering how to build a solution is similar to the now cliche Henry Ford ask, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Never ask a customer what they want, you job is to find out what they need.

You’ve seen online surveys about “what type of learner are you?” usually resulting in a score of V A or K; visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (and sometimes including R for “reading/writing” to spell it with a bite, VARK). This might be good in helping self-identify, but has been proven to be deceptive and detrimental when building learning solutions based upon them. Especially since VAK is one of 70 learning styles.

VAK and other learning styles can make it seem you can easily categorize your learners in order to better serve them, but in reality your learners probably still won’t have a better experience and won’t develop a sense of ownership over their own learning. Having learners identify with a style may hinder them from being accepting or even dismissive towards types of solutions that may appear to be other. A style is a trend, simply a myth about behavior.

Learning styles tend to feel good like you’ve accomplished something at your organization—identifying the learning styles is a good talking point to the higher ups about how you can build targeted learning solutions, but really you just sabotaged yourself. You’ve just compiled shallow insights that will not have much impact on your solutions, learners, and the organization.

A few alternatives to learning styles:

Learn something about your learners for real. Conduct actual research by utilizing techniques from User Research.

Adapt different learning strategies that your organization can develop in an agile way. These may seem like only for studying and for a younger audience but you can use the same premise to develop learning for adults.

Learn more about why Learning Styles is a dangerous myth.