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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


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In defence of learning styles....

Tom Barwood

If there is one thing which has upset and annoyed me over the years as a consultant it is the speed and petulance with which the education establishment picks up on, tries to implement and then discards various educational ideas. Preferred Learning Styles is one of these ideas. The problem is that in this wholesale acceptance and then wholesale disregard of different ideas we end up throwing out the baby with the bath water. 

Most of the wholescale disregard for certain ideas stems from the entirely heavy handed and blunt way in which ideas are championed and then implemented. The original subtlety and finesse with which the ideas were created seems to go out of the window. Top amongst these ideas have to be Preferred Learning Styles, Hemispheric Dominance, Brain Gym and Multiple Intelligence. Debunked by scientists as cod science and politicians who state that they don't 'believe' in them they then become forbidden words in education yet in doing so we lose some really valuable tools and frameworks for differentiation, innovation and creativity.

The most important point to stress on PLS is that of course it is impossible to 'be' one or the other (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic). Unless you have had your eyes poked out, your ears bunged up or your hands chopped off you have to be a combination of all three. However in times of stress you will tend to revert or resort to one sense over the other two to attempt to either learn or teach a concept. 

The notion of PLS is taken from NLP and is seen to be one manifestation of your representational system i.e. how you represent the world to yourself. This representational system will tend to be illustrated through your language. 

What I am at pains to point out to students is that by knowing your preferred learning style you can take responsibility for how best to learn but that you also register far more of what you learn when you use more than one sense (normally your eyes for reading!).

I also like to point out to teachers that you can frequently get to a log jam with some students where your teaching style and their learning style don't match up resulting in exasperated conversations along the lines of 'Why don't you see what I mean?', 'Because I don't get what you are saying'.

So, please don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Look at the different styles as a great way of stopping you from getting into a rut of teaching and crippling creativity and innovation. Play around with the senses (like they do in primary schools) and then when you have done that start to ask yourself what you could do with taste and smell!!!