Don't push outmoded learning styles

13th September 2013 at 01:00

I was interested to read that newly qualified teachers should not rely on "trendy innovations" ("10 things I wish I'd known", 6 September). So why are some schools and education authorities still pushing the use of VAK (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) and NLP (neurolinguistic programming) learning styles?

Given that VAK and NLP are either discredited or extensively adapted to modern pedagogy, is it wise to force staff to use such methods? Psychologist Howard Gardner now says he never intended his original seven criteria for classifying intelligence to be the definitive means of grouping them - so much so that he never created a test for these styles; these have been created by others to make money.

The feeble evidence for VAK was examined by Sharp et al (EducationalFutures, 2008) and Guy Claxton, professor of the learning sciences at the University of Winchester, has been vocal in his disapproval of the VAK model.

I have also heard of schools in Scotland telling staff that they will be marked down on observations depending on whether they use VAKNLP learning styles to teach students "because How Good is Our School says so" (no it doesn't) and "inspectors demand it" (no they don't). Then we have 14 separate NLP continuing professional development courses: for 12 staff at a cost of #163;135 each, this comes to #163;22,680!

Teachers interested in educational research should read Tom Bennett's book Teacher Proof, which gives many examples of how "voodoo" courses are wasting taxpayers' money, teachers' time and getting in the way of educating our children.

There are far too many education departments and teachers nationwide who are pushing this sort of thing because they either don't teach at all or haven't done so for years and have no idea about current practice and teachers' workloads.

I and many colleagues read educational research extensively in order to improve our teaching. I often feel that many don't, so they never consider the latest research and lazily rely on outdated, often harmful and certainly discredited "fads".

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