What are Learning Styles?

Learning Style definition

Learning styles are preferred or efficient methods of acquiring, processing, storing and manipulating information, based on the theory that individuals differ in how they best take in and work with information. Prominent in Western classrooms, a variety of assessments are used to discover a student's learning style so that education can be tailored to achieve the maximum effect.

There are many different mapping models in learning style theory. American theorist David Kolb emphasised four primary styles:

  • Converger – use abstract concepts, experimentation, practical application of ideas and deductive reasoning
  • Diverger – reflective observation and concrete evidence or experience, good at seeing things from a different angle and creative endeavours
  • Assimilator – good with abstract concepts and reflective observation, inductive reasoning and use of theoretical models
  • Accommodator – concrete experience and experimentation, prefer engaging with the world to learn rather than study theory

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford identified four actions which defined four different learning styles: having an experience, reviewing the experience, drawing conclusions from the experience and planning the next steps based on the experience.

There are widespread criticisms of learning style theory. Some studies suggest that the meshing hypothesis – which asserts students learn best when taught using a method linked with the student's most prominent learning style – is not the best effective form of teaching. Some commentators suggest that from a neuroscientific point of view, there is no basis for learning styles. Many educational psychologists point to a lack of evidence behind learning style theory.