Differentiated instruction has come to dominate the field of public education, and with that development teachers and teacher education programs have attempted to identify methods that may be used in the classroom to successfully differentiate for students. One of the most common methods of differentiation has been to focus on sensory modalities- learning through visual, auditory/linguistic, and to a somewhat lesser extent kinesthetic means. Thus, content is formatted to appeal to either visual senses or, alternately, auditory/linguistic senses. This has come to be associated with learning styles instruction which is based on the matching (or meshing) hypothesis. This hypothesis posits that students have a preferred sensory modality for instruction (i.e. they may be a visual learner or an auditory/linguistic learner), and if the teacher presents material in their preferred modality (i.e. auditory/linguistic instruction for auditory/linguistic learners), then learning will be enhanced. This assertion has been widely adopted in public schools, universities, teacher education programs, and textbooks in countries around the world. However, research has consistently shown that the matching hypothesis is not correct and that tailoring instruction to students’ purported learning styles does not benefit learning. Instead, research in education, psychology, and neuroscience supports dual coding as a more accurate model. Dual coding suggests that humans have separate but related cognitive systems for processing auditory and visual information. If too much auditory (i.e. verbal/linguistic) information is presented to students, then they experience cognitive overload and much of the information is not retained. But if instead verbal information is limited and paired with related visual information, then the visual processing systems are engaged which essentially increases memory storage capacity and thus promotes retention. So regardless of students’ purported learning style, all students and humans in general tend to learn better and retain more when auditory and visual information are combined. The implication this has for the classroom is that teachers should strive to include visual material such as pictures, images, charts, graphs, drawings, illustrations, PowerPoints, videos, etc. that support the concepts that are being communicated through written and verbal academic language. There is no need for teachers to assess students’ learning styles or to try to construct lessons based on them. Instruction should be based on specifics of the content (i.e. science via experimentation and math with graphs) rather than based on sensory modalities without regard to the academic content.
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Nova Science Publishers
- Date submitted
19 July 2022
- Additional information
Josh Cuevas is a professor and educational psychologist at the University of North Georgia.
Book or Journal Information:
Student Achievement: Perspectives, Assessment and Improvement Strategies