‘No evidence of a good way to categorise learners in order to teach or train them’


Speaking on a recent webinar on neuroscience, organised by the CIPD members Linkein Group, Bristol University’s Dr Paul Howard Jones told listeners that despite the fact we all have learning preferences there is no convincing evidence to suggest that teaching someone in their preferred learning style gives them any benefit.

Answering questions on learning styles and neuroscience, Howard Jones added that there has never been any evidence of a good way to categorise learners in order to teach or train them.

Listen to the audio clip:

Howard Jones’s comments follow on from a recent article by Peter Honey, creator of the Honey and Mumford model of learning styles, who said that he felt the use of his learning style labels had caused them to become fixed, something that he regrets:

There is one big regret; that our decision to use the word ‘styles’ and the labels, activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist, conveys the impression that styles, like blood groups, are fixed. Too frequently this becomes an excuse not to change. This, of course, is a complete misunderstanding of the whole point of helping people to identify their learning preferences. For me, the whole purpose of identifying existing preferences is to understand what to do to expand repertoires so that people become more effective at learning from a greater range of learning experiences, i.e. so that they are firing on all four learning cylinders and not just chugging along using one or two preferences. No one is born with ready-made preferences, they are acquired (learnt) and therefore amenable to modification.

Honey was prompted to write a piece reflecting on his learning styles work after he was asked if he still believed in them. This was his response to the question posed on the Twitter backchannel at the Charity learning Consortium Conference.


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