There are some reasonable questions to ask about learning styles after claiming they are a myth, like:

My cousin/nephew/daughter has {LEARNING DISABILITY} and can only learn with {LEARNING STYLE}.

Are you saying that doesn't exist?!

Ahhh! No. A learning disability is different than a preferred learning style.

It's important to be clear about what we're talking about. The claim is that learning styles are a preference, and preferences don't lead to actually learning better. That's the myth. Different people learn differently – there's no question about that!

The book does go into some detail on how folks with learning disabilities can still learn effectively regardless of (what they perceive as) their learning style. That's because the two most important factors for learning are language fluency and reading ability.

For example, folks with dyslexia have a hard time with reading ability but they can learn to work with and around the issues. The brain is amazing in its capacity to compensate for a disability. This means that the learning style (reading) doesn't really matter – what matters is improving fluency and ability to read.

Here is the relevant passage from Make It Stick:

Experiments by Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin at MIT have found that individuals with dyslexia do poorly at interpreting information in their visual field of focus when compared to those without dyslexia. However, they significantly outperform others in their ability to interpret information from their peripheral vision, suggesting that a superior ability to grasp the big picture might have its origins in the brain's synaptic wiring.

There's an enourmous body of literature on dyslexia, which we won't delve into here beyond acknowledging that some neurological differences can count for a lot in how we learn, and for some subset of these individuals, a combination of high motivation, focused and sustained personal support, and compensating skills or "intelligences" have enabled them to thrive.

There is no "good and bad" learning – there is only effective and not effective learning. Learning styles are only one piece of the effective learning puzzle, not the only piece.

So, I repeat: learning disabilities and neurodiversity are absolutely real issues. They aren't myths. We have a neurodiverse developer population (over 22% according to the latest State of Developer Relations survey). My wife works with kids with autism in her school and sees every day how they learn differently. I know developer educators diagnosed with ADHD who have learned to turn it into a superpower. We must be thinking about this – just as we treat web accessibility as a priority.

I see it as a learning accessibility issue (La11y?), not a learning style issue.

So ultimately, is this an issue of semantics? How does this matter for the developer content we create?

I'll answer this tomorrow.

Have a lovely day,

Learning styles are a myth, part 3

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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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