A Blog Post That Does NOT Contain Politics

As a coach, the majority of my job consists of teaching. Actually, I wager about 90% of being a coach is teaching- skills, movements, and intangible things like attitude-  and the other 10% is goofing around with the kids. We have fairly regular dance parties during training sessions.

 via vomzi.com

via vomzi.com

I came across this interesting article on Thefederalist.com about learning styles. The main focus of the article centers around the idea specifically relating to how we intake information: auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. I, too, learned about these various styles and employ them while coaching the various athletes I work with on a daily basis as well as teach interns how to coach using the three styles as a framework for conveying information.

Well, turns out that a lot of us are operating out of a theory that’s mostly a myth.

According to the article, systematic studies over past several years have debunked the idea that presenting material in a manner to fit the particular learning style of an individual is more advantageous or effective for learning than others. The thrust of the author is that despite the wealth of new information debunking the learning style theory, it is still being taught in teacher education and it believed by 90% of the population. In fact, a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist, Daniel Willingham, from the University of Virginia has a very helpful (and short) video within the article explaining why the theory is incorrect. (If you don't want to read the whole article, the video sums up the argument pretty well.)

In short, the theory really is only valid if we wanted to test someone on the characteristics of the delivery method- auditory, visual, or kinesthetic- not the actual content of the message. This is the whole point of using these "learning styles": to help people learn information more effectively. If the goal is information retention, the method of conveying information seems to be, according to the research, much, much less important than we thought. Willingham does note that there are absolutely people who are predisposed to retain information in one of the three areas more than the other, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn via another method.

How does this relate to fitness?

I see two applications.

The first being that whenever you’re teaching someone new information, the method you use is not nearly as important as how you present the content; the content within the message is much more of a determinant whether or not someone will understand.

For example, even if you use a fancy powerpoint with visual cues and fun sounds at strategic points, if the content that you’re sharing is confusing (i.e. using language that is too technical for a lay person, presenting information out of order, or just flat out hitting them like a firehose with words) the target pupil will have no idea what he or she is supposed to learn. In contrast, speaking precisely, using devices such as analogies or metaphors, and breaking down complex concepts into simpler ones, even spoken in monotone to a blind-folded student would be easier to receive and understand.

The second, I have ranted and raved in the past about misinformation being spread throughout the fitness industry. Myths are perpetuated by uniformed individuals or media groups because of either sensational headlines or emotion-based “tips” that have little to no actual evidence of efficacy or truth. I am, selfishly, slightly happy to see that we’re not the only industry plagued with myths that refuse to die.

Give the article a read; it’s a nice break from all the political bruhaha that’s dominating the interwebz. It’s definitely worth it and will spark thoughtful discussion.