When Strengths Become Limiting: Learning Styles

Photo Credit: Jen Roberts
I admit to not giving a whole lot of credence to the value of catering to a student's particular learning style. Sure some students may be more auditory, others more visual and some doggedly kinesthetic, however the world isn't going to cater to their learning preference and neither will I. It's a tough love stance, but let me explain.

There is some content information I typically teach my students, but most of that content is increasingly a Google search away. I much more highly value a student's ability to critically analyze a piece of writing, their ability to write sound arguments supported by credible evidence, and their ability to produce high quality work cooperatively. Any self supporting adult in our world is going to have to be able to teach themselves, or find the resources to learn new skills and information daily. The best thing I can teach my students is how to learn.

So, why would I allow myself or my students to accept that their learning style is fixed and limited? If a student comes to my class and tells me that he doesn't like to read, I help him find the right books, talk to him about those books, and encourage him to recommend those books to others. I do not say, "Oh, you're not a reader? Well, I guess that's your style then." So why would I accept a statement like, "I'm not a visual learner." If you don't learn well visually lets work on improving that for you.

When a student comes to my class and there is something they don't do well or feel confident about, I try to help that student build competence in that area, including learning styles. Knowing your preferred learning style may help you when you need to learn something fast, but I want to help my students to work on strengthening all their learning modalities.