PSY 101 Psychology in General (2)
Page last updated January 25, 2018
What primary jobs do people hold with
different degrees in psychology?
(cont'd from last class)
Consider the issue about myths in Psychology raised in our last class and one particular myth:
Students Learn Best When Teaching Styles Are Matched to Their
(Lilienfeld et al., 2009)
There are many
many books published which promote the notion of
- The fact that psychological science calls something a myth doesn't mean that there aren't many books and many supporters of the mythical idea.
- Furthermore, those who argue on behalf of the idea are generally neither bad persons nor doing so in bad faith. They really believe what they are suggesting and hope that their idea(s) will help others.
this myth will offer helpful advice like this:
But, for psychologists who study the idea(s) put forward such as learning or teaching styles, they will ask some very direct questions. Based upon Christian Jarrett's (2015) article in WIRED, consider the following questions and responses:
- What does the idea (myth) claim specifically?
- The claim of learning styles more specifically argues that children have a preferred channel or mode of learning based upon how that learning is taught, for example, via listening, via seeing or reading, via active doing, via collaborative work with others, etc.
- But even more specifically, are these "modes of learning (learning styles)" distinctive? Different from one another? And, how many are there? Do they overlap?
- Research shows that "learning styles" (LS) come in many different forms. One research survey (Cassidy, 2004) found that there are at least 71 different types of "learning styles" while another report (Kirschner & Merriënboer, 2014) noted that, if we dichotomize learning styles into opposing pairs (visual vs. verbal learner), there are more types of learning styles than there are people living on earth.
- As Lilienfeld et al (2009) illustrates, "For example, the VAK model is based on learners’ preferred sensory modalities (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), whereas the Honey–Mumford model, which divides students into activists, reflectors, theorists, and pragmatists, doesn’t even address the issue of sensory modalities. There’s no agreement on what LS is, despite decades of study."
- Another way of asking this question is, "if the claim is true, what would you predict would be the outcome or result of that claim?" What is the evidence that teaching according to learning styles is beneficial?
- If the claim of learning styles is true, then on average students who are taught according to their preferred channel or mode of learning will ultimately learn more than students who are taught using a non-preferred channel or mode of learning. What is the evidence to support the link between academic learning and learning style?
- Yes, there are some studies that have found an advantage to learn according to styles. But, the majority of research fails to find a strong relationship between learning outcomes and style. As Pashler et al (2008) argue in their evaluation of the research on this topic: "Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis. We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice" (Abstract).
- Are there any factors which might bias the results of testing the claim?
- Understandably, parents have a strong motive to see their children do well and teachers have a strong motive to show their work is effective. (And, of course, publishers have a motive to promote the sales of their books.) Thus, if the evidence that is used is drawn from either parents or children, how do we eliminate the potential bias in their evaluations?
- The absence of experimental research in most LS studies (which would address the problem of bias in the very way the research was carried out) suggests that there is a major problem here.
- Further, as Lilienfeld et al (2009) point out, "Among the 3,604 ERIC entries related to LS, less than one quarter are peer-reviewed articles. Likewise, Coffield et al. (2004) compiled a database of thousands of books, journal articles, theses, magazine articles, websites, conference papers, and unpublished literature. Few were published in peer-reviewed journals and fewer still were well-controlled studies"
- Does the idea/myth of learning style as crucial for guiding teachers' approaches ignore important weaknesses of students, that is, by emphasizing one approach to learning do students fail to develop other crucial ways of learning?
- As Jarrett (2015) argues, learning style-based teaching addresses a student's strength. Is that too limited? Might it be better for the student to improve other forms of learning than their strongest one?Jarrett (2015) points out that in the United Kingdom, 96% of teachers believe in the notion of learning styles and teaching styles. In the United States, there are probably just as many who do so, too. Psychology as both a science and a profession claims that popular ideas are not necessarily true ideas. Rather, as we will look at below, they need to be grounded in good research and be proven to be helpful.
Seven Unifying Themes in our Psychology Textbook (pp. 18-22)
Psychology as a Field of Study
Visual illusions (Michael Bach, Universitäts-Augenklinik Freiburg)
Cassidy, S. (2004). Learning styles: An overview of theories, models, and measures. Educational Psychology, 24(4), 419-444. http://www.acdowd-designs.com/sfsu_860_11/LS_OverView.pdf
Jarrett, C. (2015, January 5). All you need to know about the 'learning styles' myth, in two minutes. WIRED. https://www.wired.com/2015/01/need-know-learning-styles-myth-two-minutes/
Kirschner, P. A., & Merriënboer, J. J. G. van. (2013). Do learners really know best? Urban legends in education, Educational Psychologist, 48(3), 169-183, doi: 10.1080/00461520.2013.804395
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2009). 50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science int he Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf