Gavin Reid's new book covers a lot of ground, but is not an easy read. He acknowledges the bewildering complexity of the various theories relating to learning styles, and the sometimes conflicting results obtained from different "instruments" designed to assess them. He provides some useful links to websites devoted to different approaches. He suggests that teachers should use their own structured observations for their assessment of learning styles, and he offers a useful, if rather complicated, framework.
Great emphasis is placed on the need to give learners control over their learning. Some of the ideas relating to specific areas of the curriculum, for example, the suggested approaches to the teaching of modern languages, are likely to be particularly valuable. Reid also outlines strategies using learning styles for pupils with learning differences, including attention disorders, dyslexia, developmental co-ordination difficulties, number difficulties, and those on the autistic spectrum.
Faced with the bewildering array of competing theories, however, teachers may find that "the easiest strategies to implement in the classroom are the visual, auditory, kinaesthetictactile approaches". As Reid explains:
"These can be built into what can simply be termed 'good teaching'."
Perhaps, after all, the simplest approach is the best.
Tandi Clausen-May Principal research officer, National Foundation for Educational Research