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Visual and auditory, neurological myth?  probably

Visual and auditory, neurological myth? probably

Facts to remember

The concept of visual and auditory features is common, but difficult to validate
– Individuals' perception of their personal profile often does not match what tests reveal
– Attempts to link profile and learning style show no effect on learning

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Origins of theory

In 1975, Quebec neurologist Raymond La Fontaine had built his clinical experience on the assertion that people are divided into two sensorineural divisions: auditory and visual. This concept was later popularized by writers La Fontaine's principlepublished in 1979. In the same year, American authors published a book based on this idea: Teaching through the strengths of the medium – concepts and practices. In this work, the authors distinguish three profiles, each corresponding to a different way of learning: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

More than 40 years later, the so-called learning styles approach has become more or less accepted among teachers, parents, and the general public. In 2020, British researchers Analyzed 37 studies were conducted with 15,405 teachers. They found that 89% of them supported this theory and 80% used it.

On the other hand, scientists are still struggling to validate this approach.

A style that is difficult to define

Theoretically, there are three ways our brain acquires and processes information Means This information is better mastered if presented in a format that is “compatible” with our sensory profile. For example, a visual student prefers pictograms, graphs, and graphs, while an auditory student prefers verbal explanations. A kinesthetic person will need to touch their environment and physically interact with it to learn.

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This theory is also called the VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinetic) model and is the most well-known of many learning style models: a report In 2004, British researchers identified 71.

According to American researchers who conducted Review scientific data In 2009, several studies showed that students generally have a preference for learning style. In other words, if asked, they would describe themselves as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.

The problem arises when we try to verify the validity of this perception. in Study published in 2006The researchers asked individuals about their preferred learning style, and then had them fill out a questionnaire to determine their learning style. The result: the identified pattern matches the pattern that people attribute to themselves only in 45% of cases.

In the 2004 British report, the authors noted that there was no consensus on the best way to define learning style. In fact, most of them seem to be based on participants' reported preferences.

Little impact on learning

But even if we accept that students have preferred learning styles, do these preferences affect their academic performance?

This is what proponents of the learning styles model claim, as this model assumes that the teaching method, in order to be effective, must differ from one student to another. This approach is called the network hypothesis, as the authors of this article explainreview From scientific literature published in 2009.

As early as 1995, American researchers had done just that Analysis of 36 studies. Their conclusion was that students who received instruction that matched their preferred learning style achieved higher achievement. In 2005, Another meta-analysis I came to the same conclusions. However, in both cases, another team of American researchers (V 1998 And in 2007) These results were criticized due to the presence of bias in the analysis.

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The difficulty, as the authors of the 2009 literature review note, is that several steps must be taken to prove the network hypothesis. You must first evaluate the students and determine their learning style. Each student should then be randomly assigned to the teaching method. Finally, if the hypothesis is correct, we should note that students who receive a teaching method that is compatible with their style are those who succeed best. However, there are very few studies that have gone this far to evaluate the validity of the theory.

And in 2012, new analysis It was even concluded that the majority of studies that used this approach obtained negative results.

in Open letter Published in 2017, about three dozen professors in psychology, neuroscience, or education insisted that existing studies had found no, or very little, evidence to support the three-sensory profile theory. In 2020, in text Opinion published on the website ConversationLuc Russo, a professor at Laurentian University's Cognitive Health Research Laboratory in Ontario, dismissed it as a neuromyth: Even if there are differences in brain development from person to person, he wrote, that doesn't mean in-person teaching is necessary. necessary.

“Yes, it is true that out of the 100 billion neurons that the brain has at birth, a unique network of synaptic connections develops. On the other hand, no, this development does not make the brain completely individual, to the point of preparing it to better process information in the so-called “dominant” sensory modality. “. »

In 2023, in A Another literature reviewSteven Brown, a postdoctoral researcher in Alberta, concluded that none of the studies “provide empirical support” for the network theory, for which he also uses the term neuromyth.

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Multi-sensory teaching instead of personalized teaching?

In defense of the network hypothesis, Authors A Literature paper He wrote on Cognitive Styles in 2014 that it is not because the network hypothesis has not been confirmed that the concept of learning styles is invalid.

In other words, humans can have approaches that are sometimes visual, sometimes auditory, and sometimes kinesthetic. So the idea would not be to personalize teaching to each student, but rather to use a variety of methods.

Researchers also emphasize that some formats are better suited to certain content, regardless of a student's preferred learning style. For example, to learn tango, you have to perform the steps, regardless of whether you are visual or auditory.

Luc Rousseau also emphasized that the visual, auditory and motor areas of the brain are interconnected: this is actually what allows our brain to process information optimally.

Judgment

Although students may have personal preferences about how information is presented to them, there is no evidence to suggest that tailoring instruction to “visual” or “audio” profiles promotes academic success. At most, we can agree that diverse learning strategies can only be beneficial for all students.