The Myth of Learning Styles: Why Open Learning is More Crucial to Growth and Success

As the younger generation now likes to find purpose at places where they can be accepted for who they are, business owners and HR professionals face new challenges in building a work culture that fits all.

Topics surrounding diversity are a trend lately, and every day we come across people fighting to bring cultural or gender awareness to their communities. Our society is steadily growing to become more tolerable, thankfully, and most of us like to think that we are finally shifting away from traditional taboos. However, the risks of typecasting within an organization remain a concern for many. And while inclusivity often gets tied into the matters of race and gender, we seldom take that into consideration when it comes to building learning environments.

The Neuromyth of Learning Styles

A lot of us grew up associating ourselves as a specific learner. Are you more likely to retain contents through visuals, audio, or do you prefer learning hands-on?  Teachers like to think that they can reach every student just by tailoring their teaching methods to each person’s learning “strengths”. Meanwhile, students blame their scholastic failures on their teacher’s inadequacy to fulfill the above. The thing is, there is no evidence to back the idea of learning styles at all; some neuroscientists even believe it’s causing harm.

As we enter a new phase of work where adaptability is crucial to success, rigid and fixed learning formats will only impair one’s ability to adapt and grow. Diversity and inclusion, in this case, should be promoted and practiced with the incentives to encourage all types of learning styles and cultures.

Encourage “Open Learning” Instead

To be clear, we are not giving up the spirit of appreciating individual differences, and we don’t deny the fact that some people may find certain learning methods more appealing than others. What we’re trying to express here is the importance to put our focus on “the needs of the learner as perceived by the learner,” as quoted in John Coffey’s editorial from The Opening Learning Movement. With that being said, open learning begins simply by acknowledging that people:

  • perform best when they have control over how they learn
  • learn more efficiently when there is meaning or an urgent need to understand something
  • repeat actions associated with rewards and recognition
  • retain information by asking questions, rather than being asked

Although the neuromyth of learning styles was formed with good intentions, an effective learning strategy should consider not only the candidate’s cognitive abilities, but also the person’s intellectual curiosity, goals and personality, as measured using our pre-employment tests. Understanding these distinctions is first and foremost the responsibility of an employer or manager. Sometimes, less is just more.