To determine whether there was any evidence that learning styles resulted in better learning, scientists did a study to try and answer two questions:

Is it true that you learn better when instruction is in your preferred learning style? And is it true that you are at a disadvantage when learning in another style?

What do you think they found?

You can probably guess.

There was no correlation between the preferred learning style and effectiveness. They also could not find any backing evidence that individual learning styles led to better learning – in fact, many studies couldn't validate learning style theory or contradicted it entirely.

They couldn't answer yes to either question.

Instead what they found was evidence to back a different claim:

The most effective learning happens in the medium that best facilitates application of knowledge.

OK... what does this mean exactly?

In terms of traditional classroom subjects, it means that learning geometry is most effective through visual instruction for all learners whereas learning poetry is most effective through auditory instruction for all learners. Just because you might prefer to visualize a poem doesn't mean you'll be able to learn it easier.

How does this apply to developer content and education?

It means that if you're teaching a conceptual idea, like edge computing, a diagram or visualization will be more effective than writing it out or saying it out loud.

If you're teaching someone how to use your SDK, a hands-on demo or code sample will be more effective than passively reading the code or "following along" in a video.

This makes sense when you think about it – how is watching someone type code in a YouTube video actually teaching you to code? Developers learn by doing and that means getting hands-on with the code, not sitting idly by.

But don't you make video training courses?

I do... but I don't think it's the best method to teach coding. (gasp)

In a video, you have auditory and visual instruction being used, which is good but when it comes to code – it's not active learning, it's passive. This is why Pluralsight is emphasizing more hands-on experiences now in courses – because they know that developers learn better and engage more with labs and challenges (which translates to sticking to the platform more, wink).

What about neurodiversity and learning disabilities?

I'll tackle that tomorrow.

Have a lovely day,

Learning styles are a myth, part 2

Want devs to love your product?

Hi 👋 I'm Kamran. I'm a consulting developer educator who can help your DevRel team increase adoption with better docs, samples, and courseware.
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