Learner Profiles: Stop Using Learning Styles, Start Using the Learning Sciences

We are embarking on an era of transformational change in education where we have a vision of creating learner-centered environments where learners pursue their passions and interests and develop agency with the knowledge, skills and dispositions so they are future ready for careers yet to be imagined. The question is:

Why are we still using the traditional approach of learning styles to develop learner profiles?

Let’s take at the research and what it says about learning styles.

 

Why Stop Using Learning Styles?

As we are transforming education from the traditional teacher-centered environments to a personalized, learner-centered environment we need to reconsider the learning styles approach that has no basis in research. Classroom teachers and academics have been using learning styles for over four decades to understand learners. During this time the notion that teaching methods should match a learner’s particular learning style has had a powerful influence in education, however, a study published in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest challenged the concept of learning styles and their affect on performance.

Despite the preponderance of the learning styles concept “from kindergarten to graduate school,” and a “thriving industry” devoted to such guidebooks for teachers, Pashler found there wasn’t rigorous evidence for the concept. He wrote:

Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis. We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice.

The four prominent cognitive psychologists in this study found no evidence for validating educational applications of learning styles into general education practice. This was their conclusion:

Research conducted over 40 years has failed to show that individual attributes can be used to guide effective teaching practice. Rather than being a harmless fad, learning styles often perpetuates stereotyping and harmful teaching practices it is suppose to fight.” (Pashler et al, 2009).

So as schools move from a traditional system to a personalized, competency-based system, we need to evaluate the traditional tools we have used around learners and learning and teachers and teaching, and understand how a learning science can be used to nurture and build a culture of learning.

 

Start Using the Learning Sciences and the UDL Lens


Empower learners with the UDL lens

We need to stop using learning styles and start using Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a research-based set of principles based on the learning sciences to guide the design of learning environments and innovative sustainable systems that are accessible and effective for all learners. UDL tells us that there is variability in the way each learner learns: their strengths, challenges, aptitudes, talents, and aspirations.

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ is designed so that we see the learner in every child. It offers key information about the learner’s strengths and challenges in how they access and process information, how they engage with content and how they express what they know and understand. The terms Access, Engage and Express also serves as the “common language” between teacher and learner where daily conversations can take place about learning with a process to identify the tools and skills that could support a challenge or enhance a strength in their Personal Learning Backpack™. This leads to a Personal Learning Plan™ (PLP) where each learner can set goals to acquire the necessary skills to become an independent and self-directed learner, a learner with agency that has ownership to their learning.

 

Ownership to learning requires the learner to understand how they learn.

Empower Learners with the UDL Lens

Start the next school year with having every learner create a Learner Profile. From the learner’s perspective, the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ in a Learner Profile would give him or her an opportunity tell their story of who they are and how they learn by:

  • sharing their strengths, challenges, preference and needs in how they access and process information, engage with content and concepts, and express what they know and understand;
  • express their interests, talents, aspirations and passions;
  • set learning goals and actionable plans with teachers to support a challenge or enhance a strength; and
  • have regular conversations about their learning with teachers, peers, and parents.

Let’s take a closer look at the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ and how a learner can share how they learn by using a Learner Profile (LP) that also includes their interests, talents, passions, aspirations and the words that would describe them.

The information in the Learner Profile (LP) helps each learner tell their story and how they learn with their teacher. This is the foundation from which conversations, relationships and partnerships in learning are built. What are the possible messages and outcomes from a learner using the Learner Profile?

  • It helps validate the learner and how they learn.
  • It tells the learner that you care about who they are.
  • It creates a community of learners based on trust and respect.

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” – Dr. James Comer

 

3 stepprocess to develop agencyTo learn more about how to personalize learning and the three-step process of the Learner Profile, Personal Learning Backpack™ and Personal Learning Plan™, refer to How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper by Bray and McClaskey (2016) or the blog posts on the Learner Profile, Personal Learning Backpack and Personal Learning Plan.

 

 

 

Access, Engage and Express, Personal Learning Backpack and Personal Learning Plan are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

Reference: Paschler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., and Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9, 105-119.  https://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf


Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization (PDI) Chart, v3 Infographic

Celebrating 6 Years of the PDI Chart with the PDI Chart, v3 PDI Chart version 3Infographic!

6 years ago this week the Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization (PDI) Chart was published. Millions of educators from around the world have downloaded the PDI Chart. It has been translated in many languages and it is found in schools, classrooms, academic publications, state DOE sites, educational blogs and articles.

I am excited to create and share this PDI Chart, v3 Infographic designed specifically to mark this anniversary!

Barbara Bray and I created the first PDI chart in January 2012 so that educators and parents could understand these terms from the perspective of the learner. We also wanted to clarify the differences between these terms as there was and still is confusion around them. Please note that there are distinct differences between these three terms: Personalization is learner-centered, Differentiation and Individualization are teacher-centered.

Personalization or Personalized Learning always starts with the learner where he or she has ownership to their learning.

I welcome you to share this PDI Chart, v3 Infographic or the standard PDI Chart, v3 located under the Toolkit tab. Please use it for action research, in your classroom, professional learning, and staff meetings.

 

Look next for the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments, v5 Infographic coming out soon!

 

If you would like to receive our newsletter or the upcoming Insights on Personalized Learning, please complete the information below.

 

Empowering Learners™ with The Learner Profile

Part 1 of the 3 Part Series on Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage, and Express to empower learners.

The excitement in starting a new school year is happening across the country. Educators have spent the summer preparing for the beginning of the school year, attending workshops on new curriculum, understanding how to use data with their new learners or getting acquainted with competency-based report cards. But stop there! What about the information that tells you how to engage and motivate your learners? How do you discover the learner in each child from the beginning of the school year so this is the best year yet? What about how each learner learns best and how to develop agency with each of them?

The Process to Develop Learner Agency

This post is part one of a three-part process that uses the UDL Lens to Make Learning Personal for all learners. If we want to create learner-centered environments where the learner takes ownership to their learning, then we need to empower each learner to understand how they learn.

Learner Profile Personal Learning Backpack Personal Learning Plan

 

Part One: The Learner Profile (LP) helps learners discover how they learn best.

Part Two: The Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) identifies tools, apps, resources, skills, and strategies for learners to support their own learning.

Part Three: The Personal Learning Plan (PLP) guides learners to achieve the goals and skills they need to be self-directed and independent along with pursuing their passions and aspirations as they plan for college or career.

 

The UDL Lens: Access, Engage and Express

Universal Design for Learning® (UDL) is a researched-based set of principles developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) in the 1990’s to help guide the design of instruction and learning environments. The idea behind UDL is to reduce barriers to learning and optimize the level of support and challenges to meet the needs and interests of all learners in the classroom. In December 2015, UDL was included in ESSA where it was it indicated that it was the scientifically-based approach to personalize learning.

UDL is the lens to understand how learners learn as it is based on the research in the neurosciences in how we actually learn. The three principles of UDL are:UDL lens of access engage and expres

  • Multiple Means of Representation
  • Multiple Means of Engagement
  • Multiple Means of Expression and Action

Educators wanted to understand these terms so that they could apply these three principles in daily teaching and learning practices.

In 2013 the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ was created to do just that; to empower the learner with the UDL Lens so they could understand how they learn. All learners are unique and have variability in how they access and process information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand.  Access, Engage, and Express™ is the UDL Lens to help learners how they learn and to guide teachers in universally designing their instruction.

Discover the Learner Using The Learner Profile

Each learner comes to school with strengths  and challenges along with a set of interests, talents and aspirations. We often discover some of these qualities through the course of the year by having conversations, by how each learner responds in class or through a set of data that has been collected from standardized testing. But what if you could discover the learner in every child at the beginning of the school year using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™?

Every learner can benefit from creating a Learner Profile. It tells us about a learner that learning styles or an Individual Education Plan (IEP) does not tell us. Here is an example of a learner that may have similar challenges as some of your learners, but we want you to look closely at this learner’s strengths along with his interests, talents, passions and aspirations.

Now think about the learners in your class and in your life. What are their strengths and challenges in how they Access, Engage and Express™? How do they need or prefer or need to access information, engage with content and express what they know and understand? What are their talents, interests, passions, and aspirations? Who are you as a learner?

Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to understand learners can not only help a teacher to better design instruction and learner materials, but first we need to empower the learner to tell their story and how they learn best.

Your Learner’s Story Leads to a Partnership in Learning

The Learner Profile using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express

This learner has reading, writing and organizational challenges. Children with this profile often do not see themselves as learners. In this case, when this learner uses the Learner Profile, he can now tell his story and have a conversation with his teacher about who he is and what he may prefer or need to support his challenges and enhance his strengths. He can also share what his interest and talents are, what he is passionate about and what he aspires to be. It is really clear from his LP, that art and drawing means a lot to him.

Let’s take a closer look at his strengths where he visualizes what he hears, likes to teach his peers and present in class. Now we understand this learner’s strengths and challenges, preferences and needs including what engages him about being an artist. With this first conversation, the relationship between teacher and learner begins.

When learners use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to share how they learns, it helps them tell their story of who they are as learners. Above all, it validates them as learners and listening to them says how much you care. Telling their story helps them develop self advocates of their learning and ultimately it builds a strong partnership in learning between the teacher and learners.

What a great way to start of the school year! It is going to be the best year yet!

 

The Learner Profile (LP) helps each learner tell their story and how they learn with their teacher. This is the foundation from which conversations, relationships and partnerships in learning are built.
Locate the “The Learner Profile Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express” Infographic under the Toolkit menu.

This infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License

This post was adapted from a previous post published at http://www.personalizelearning.com/2016/08/the-learner-profile-get-up-close-and.html

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This is Part One of a three part on using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to develop a learner with agency. We have introduced you to the Learner Profile (LP) and how it can be used by both teacher and learner to discover the learner. 


In Part Two, we will take the Learner Profile and develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) that includes tools, apps, resources and the skills the learner needs to become an independent, self-directed learner; a learner with agency


In Part Three, we will take the PL and PLB and demonstrate how to help learners develop agency with an effective Personal Learning Plan (PLP). In the PLP, learning goals with action steps to develop independent learning skills will be illustrated along with college, career, personal and citizenship goals. 


All of this along with templates can be located in Chapter 4 of How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper.

Universal Design for Learning is a registered trademark of CAST, Inc.  Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey. Empowering Learners is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.