What’s Wrong with Using Learning Styles?

Reflections from DevLearn: Can preconceptions about learners limit their ability to learn?

At last week’s DevLearn event in Las Vegas, we launched a new survey. We’re asking L&D professionals their opinions on Neil Fleming’s (and others’) model—that individuals fall into distinct learning styles, like Visual, Auditory, Read-Write, and Kinesthetic. (If you’re reading this before October 16th, there’s still time to take the survey!) The topic is thought-provoking, to say the least.


Many of us have been told we have a particular learning style. “You’re such a visual learner” and similar phrases come often from teachers and instructors. This seems to make intuitive sense—because we all have unique personal attributes and preferences. But are there unintended, negative consequences of using (and believing in) these labels?

I won’t leak too much of the survey content; you’ll have to take the survey for that. However, applying a label—accurate or not—may insert an artificial limitation in the mind of the learner. Believing oneself to be a visual learner, and not a read-write one, may artificially self-limit one’s progress in learning a subject that naturally involves a lot of reading or writing. Do you agree or disagree with this idea? Take the survey and share your opinions!