Updated 1/7/2022

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The use of learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing learners) has been steeped in controversy, despite academics still using the techniques.

Although there is little evidence regarding the benefit of learning styles for students, a 2012 study said that 93% of UK schoolteachers agreed with the statement: “Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred Learning Style.” In 2014, schoolteachers believed that learning styles were beneficial in some way. However, there is also the view that if teachers “pigeonhole” a student into a particular learning style, it may be harmful to the learning process because that student won’t get a chance to explore new and different types of learning styles. 

“In my professional experience, students appreciate having multiple modalities to choose from,” Jonathan Reddoch, instructional designer, said. “I certainly try to include equivalent written and audio/visual content as much as possible in the online courses I’ve designed. Redundancy helps students learn and they like having options.”

A study by Frontiers found that 58% of academics in UK Higher Education believe that Learning Styles are effective, but only about a third actually use them. 90% of academics did agree that there is a basic conceptual flaw with Learning Styles Theory, but about one-third of academics said they would continue to use Learning Styles despite being presented with all the evidence. 

A Learning Style is thought to be a way to better enhance a student’s ability in the classroom. For instance, visual learners are said to work best when they see and observe whatever is being taught, be that as pictures, diagrams, written directions, and more, whereas auditory learners are thought to work best with auditory stimulation. 

Kinesthetic learners are tactile learners—people who need to work with their hands to really understand the process.

Reading/writing learners are thought to work best by reading out the problem, then writing it out. These learners prefer written words, and tend to overlap with visual learners.

An alternative to Learning Styles is looking at the specific learner and what works for them. Western Governors University suggested that implementing multiple different types of learning theories is the best chance for success.