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Neil MacKay
Dyslexia Friendly Strategies & Support

Learning Styles

The theory of learning styles is bad science.  I write this with a little regret because I was an enthusiastic exponent before I looked more carefully at the science – or lack of it.  On reflection, what I was probably doing was looking for individual differences in the was my students preferred to think, process and deliver and then giving them permission to personalize.  The article quoted below changed my thinking and can be found here for further reading.  The researchers commented:

 "We found little good evidence to suggest that using pedagogy influenced by the idea of learning styles significant effect on motivation or achievement."

The article examines a range of “style gurus,” effectively  demolishing  the ideas upon which the theories are based.  As always it is a case of caveat emptor and, as school budgets become more and more squeezed, it is essential that we choose evidence approaches which give the best bang for our buck.  It is for this reason that other example of bad science, including Irlen Syndrome, Reading Recovery and Visual Dyslexia, are now being called to account.

In another worrying case of bad science supplanting validation by independently reviewed evidence, here is a major upheaval in Austrlaia at the moment over the Arrowsmith Programme which seems to be accepted and adopted by “powers that be” despite an almost total absence of peer reviewed  research into efficacy and impact.  The warning signs should have been clear long ago when much of the  evidence presented in support was testimonials from parents.

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I shared the ideas and methods that I learned in the course with my colleagues in a sharing session after the final examination in the 2015-2016 school year. I recommended colleagues to attend this course as this is the most stimulating and inspiring course that I, as a teacher with more than 20 years of experience, have ever attended. Not only is the course presenting theories, it also introduces a lot of practical teaching ideas, teaching aids and resources such as websites to colleagues. I will suggest the principal to allocate funds and human resources to build up teaching materials and aids such as vocabulary writing cards with sound boxes, alphabet arcs and clothes line and pegs for sentence building, etc.
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