Pander to every learning style with adult learning media?

We had a fabulous time with our session at ACRL Virtual Conference yesterday: When Nontraditional is the Norm: Shifting the Instruction Paradigm for Adult Online Students

Most of the attendees worked with adult students on a daily basis, which was a big win for us.The audience shared as much as we did from their expertise working with adult learners.

We're launching off of the shared insight at our main website: The Nontraditional Norm

One area that we didn't go into in depth was learning styles. This is the "eat right & exercise" of instructional design. Everybody knows that people have learning styles and that goll-durn-it, they should be accommodated.

But is it really that simple?

One of the reasons we decided not to talk about learning styles for adults is that the easily delivered mantra of 'accommodating diverse learning styles' gets more intricate and complicated the more you dig. Mark Bauerlein summed up the conflicting and lack of research succinctly in his Chronicle post 'Learning Styles' No Basis for Policy.' You can follow all the other Chronicle weigh-ins here.

Even if we agree with the premise that as many learning styles and learner categories should be tailored to as possible, you have:
  • Concrete experience
  • Reflective observation
  • Abstract conceptualization
  • Active experimentation
  • Convergers
  • Divergers
  • Assimilators
  • Accommodators
  • Left brain
  • Right brain
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Activist
  • Reflector
  • Theorist
  • Pragmatist
Of course, like with many topics, Wikipedia offers the full list for the lazy blogger.

The point is, where do you start? The average learning media designer, sitting down at the computer, may not have easy access to his/her audience. Certainly, very few have the benefit of extensive audience testing with tools like PEPS: the Productivity Environmental Preference Survey, the Canfield Learning Style Inventory or the Learning Style Questionnaire.

For learning media designers, our students might be mostly abstract, hidden and vaguely defined.

So, what do you think? How do we figure out our design ratio of audio to visual or concrete random to random sequential?

I have my pet answer, which I will share next week.

- Erika


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