Coming back up for air so I can rant about “learning styles”

Hi all. As you can see, I haven’t posted on here for awhile.

This school year has been crazy, as I’m adjusting to a new teaching position. Though I definitely could have written more, I’ve chosen to spend it doing non-education related things, like enjoying all Colorado has to offer.

Today it’s raining, so it’s not offering me much. I’ve been meaning to blog for awhile (I even have a little reminder on my phone on Sundays to blog, which I’ve been directing my opposition defiance toward (“I won’t blog! You can’t make me!”) I’ve been on the edge of teacher burn-out lately, as most are these days, so I’ve left the blogging up to someone else.

But I’m back, maybe just for this post, maybe not! Who knows?

Awhile back, my students had to complete a survey imposed by the Colorado Department of Education as part of its ICAP program, which has something to do with preparing students for college and career success. The survey, although I cannot recall its exact name, was focused on determining a student’s learning style—whether it’s “kinesthetic,” “auditory,” “visual,” etc. It seemed to be based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, appropriated into the “learning styles” pop psychology that had me schooled at some point into believing that it was true and valid.

I remember having this discussion back in college during a class, when we were all flabbergasted—why can’t learning styles work? We so desperately want it to be, and it sounds like a great solution to all the perceived learning deficits many of our students have. But there is no conclusive research that supports that a teacher should teach to a student’s perceived learning style, but in fact that we actually all learn visually and auditorily. Like, a student cannot just go through school without having to read words, and vice versa.

This cognitive dissonance made me run a quick google search to see if Howard Gardner himself had anything to say about this, and he does. It’s a short article and is clear about what all this means, and how teachers can address multiple intelligences.

This frustrates me because the education world is full of myths that intelligent, thoughtful people can get behind. It frustrates me when a state department of education proliferates those myths, misinforming teachers and students and then requiring them to go take some other standardized test to boot in the name of “accountability.” Or the seeming myth of “school choice.”  I feel as if we’re always getting conflicted messages about how to teach, what to teach, and why. What I’ve been learning is to just let the noise pass and do you, boo. Just do you.

Any other teachers out there in the same position? Any tips to deal with this and not get discouraged? Help!

-S

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