“Learning styles” seem to be very popular these days in education. However, the notion that each person learns differently is likely a myth (Olson, 2006; Feldon, 2005; Willingham, 2005). It is not a different learning style students enter instruction with, but different prior knowledge and experiences. In fact, when students receive instruction within their “style” of choice, they often perform more poorly on assessments (Salomon, 1984). The explanation for this discrepancy is that students exert less mental effort on tasks they prefer due to perception of ease. Therefore, the students are not as actively mentally engaged in the learning activities. Additionally, we must consider the biological nature of learning. Human beings, in a physiological sense, are not very different and learning is a chemical/physiological process occurring in the brain. Why should we think one person’s brain works fundamentally differently than another? We do not think this about other organs. Perhaps, instead of focusing on students’ “learning styles” we should focus on what representation best suits the content being learned. Instead of thinking some students are “hands-on” learners while others are not, we must realize that all students will benefit from concrete representations of concepts.
I think presenting ideas that students have learned in formats that they like is the way to go. I agree that you cannot present information to students in all these ways. However, spending time tapping into what they already know, identifying misconceptions, and focusing on metacognition is meaningful for learning.