History of Learning Styles

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The process by which people perceive and process information is as distinctive as the individual. A set of factors, behaviors and attitudes is used to identify learning styles and options to facilitate learning. The amount an individual learns is directly related to the degree to which the educational experience is geared toward his learning style, rather than his intelligence. The study of learning styles has changed over time and continues to evolve as more is discovered.

1 Early History

In the beginning, research focused on the relationship between memory and oral or visual methods. In 1904, Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, developed the first intelligence test, which spawned interest in individual differences. The study of learning styles was the next step: In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori, who invented the Montessori method of education, began using materials to enhance the learning styles of her students. Dr. Montessori believed that students do not demonstrate mastery of subjects through a multiple-choice answer sheet, but through their actions.

2 1950 to 1970

The study of learning styles declined for approximately 50 years before re-emerging in the 1950s. The decline was due to the rise in emphasis on IQ and academic achievement. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom developed a system known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, which took another step toward defining learning-style differences. Isabel Myers-Briggs and Katherine Briggs developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in 1962. Further advancement was made when the Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model was introduced in 1976, generating diagnostic instruments for evaluation.

3 1980 to Present

From the 1980s to the present day, different learning-style models have been developed building on previous discoveries. In 1984, David Kolb published his learning-style model, where he determined that learning styles are closely related to cognitive skills. In the '90s, the emphasis was placed on having teachers address learning styles in the classroom through adjustments in curriculum that incorporate each style, giving an equal chance for students to learn.

4 Bloom's Taxonomy

Developed in 1956, Bloom’s Taxonomy classified learning styles into six distinct levels of cognitive thinking: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Bloom’s structure was designed in the shape of a pyramid, with knowledge on the bottom as the foundation, and evaluation at its peak. Bloom’s Taxonomy is widely used in today’s classroom.

5 Kolb Model

According to David Kolb, the learning cycle consists of four stages: experiencing, reflecting, thinking and acting. The learner experiences the material, reflects on its outcome, thinks about or assimilates the information and finally acts on the information. Acting can lead to experiencing, which starts the cycle over. Kolb designated each level with a unique name: diverger, assimilator, converger and accommodator.

6 Recent History

Pedagogy, which refers to the method of teaching according to learning styles, has been used to train teachers to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom. Since teachers are accustomed to teaching in their individual style, the move has been to introduce other styles into the classroom. With the introduction and increased usage of online courses, the importance of learning styles has grown; tests are administered to tailor courses to the individual.

Joe Chandler is a marketing consultant with experience in education, customer service, and business and consumer electronics. Chandler has been writing for a year. He has over 20 years in corporate America and education, with an M.B.A. in marketing. He is a Navy veteran trained in nuclear power plant operation.