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Cainntear
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 Message 41 of 55
03 October 2010 at 12:18pm | IP Logged 
grunts67,

No need to apologise -- it gives me a great opportunity to point out that the whole learning styles market is pure conjecture. As leosmith said 3 years ago:
leosmith wrote:
I've heard that while most lnguists agree there are different learning styles, nobody has been able to
a) determine students learning style, and
b) teach them in a way that takes advantage of this knowledge
with results that are better than those of a multi-learning style curriculum. My questions are
1) is this true
2) what's up with that?

The paper I linked to confirms that no-one has ever found a way to determine an individual style and teach to it in a way that produces better results than simply delivering an all-round "good" curriculum.

I wouldn't waste your time worrying about learning styles.

EDIT: malformed link.

Edited by Cainntear on 03 October 2010 at 12:18pm

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Iversen
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 Message 42 of 55
03 October 2010 at 1:40pm | IP Logged 
I can give a few practical examples of differences in learning style - maybe not formulated according to the wellknown systems, but ...

For instance I want to see ALL morphological tables in a language before I start putting content in any of the slots. But the authors of text books nowadays all hack them into tiny pieces and mix them with exercises and text samples and games and what have you. But could the truth be that there isn't one single reader/learner around who learn better through that method?

I learn best through writing - of course I have to know how to pronounce the words for my inner ear from the beginning, but I simply don't remember things that I hear, and I don't care much about understanding spoken sources until I'm fairly advanced as a reader. But all courses I hear about are based on the concept of listening rather than reading and translating.

I don't mind learning words in isolation. For me learning words is a two-step procedure: first you pin them on your notice board, and then you find out what they are used for. Genuine sources are required for phase two, but a dictionary is more than enough for phase one.

I would leave a course rather than participate in silly dialogues with people who speak a language worse than me. And requirements to play silly word games would have the same effect.

I hate small talk. Most people seem to like it.

So how come that the linguists haven't found one simple all-compassing and provable style model? Considering the output of some academic pedagogical tests it could be these people typically can't abstract from the classical teacher-pupil situation, whereas those people who don't fit into that system simply choose to avoid it.

Besides it is very difficult to make tests with methods adapted to different styles. Language learning is such a protracted and demanding task that it would be almost inhuman to ask subjects to be taught against their preferences for maybe several years just because of an experiment. And it is doubtful how much you can deduce from short term and very limited experiments, especially if the methods proferred aren't close to anything a sensible language learner of any style would use.

One example of the folly of behaviouristic pedagogical studies is the everpresent use of meaningless syllables. Language learning is all about making utterances meaningful so any test based on meaningless syllables just proves the inanity of the researcher.

Edited by Iversen on 03 October 2010 at 1:57pm

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Cainntear
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 Message 43 of 55
03 October 2010 at 2:29pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
I can give a few practical examples of differences in learning style - maybe not formulated according to the wellknown systems, but ...

You're mostly talking preferences here, how you chose to learn, not how you learn most effectively.

Quote:
For instance I want to see ALL morphological tables in a language before I start putting content in any of the slots. But the authors of text books nowadays all hack them into tiny pieces and mix them with exercises and text samples and games and what have you. But could the truth be that there isn't one single reader/learner around who learn better through that method?

I half agree with you, but half don't.

I used to like tables, because I understand them. But before that I didn't like them at all, because I didn't understand them. But more to the point, you can only really learn one thing at a time. By having the table in front of you, you get to build your own structure for learning. By not presenting the table, a course builds its own structure for learning.

As an experienced language learner, you are capable of building your own structure. Most learners aren't.
The success of a course that break up the paradigms and present them bit-by-bit is based on how well the structure it presents is planned.

So there's two reasons you may not like this style of course: unwillingness to accept the teaching style, or simply that the course is badly structured. Sadly, it's normally the latter.

You're looking at it backwards, though, and unfortunately so are most course writers.

Morphological tables are not a single item to be "broken down" or "hacked up" -- it is a structure of related forms to be built up. A course that teaches individual forms separately and never relates them to each other is not a good course.

Which isn't to say that you're doing everything wrong -- you're not. Everything you say about how you learn focusses on building relationships. It's just your conscious opinion of your learning that doesn't seem to match your style. You do seem to be starting with individual items from the table and relating them to each other. You don't intuitively think of the table as one thing, but you have been acculturated by your early learning to think of the table as an item.

Quote:
I learn best through writing - of course I have to know how to pronounce the words for my inner ear from the beginning, but I simply don't remember things that I hear, and I don't care much about understanding spoken sources until I'm fairly advanced as a reader. But all courses I hear about are based on the concept of listening rather than reading and translating.

It's important to remember that writing in itself has a mnemonic effect. You can cram a lot more using visual information, but we all know that cramming and memorisation aren't learning.

I would have agreed with this if I hadn't done the MT Spanish course. The thing about MT is that the pace is almost perfectly pitched at the learner. If you go too fast in an all-audio course, the student fails visibly. If you go too fast with writing, the student can cram and rely on memorisation, which in the end gets in the way of learning.

Of course, you have trained yourself over the years to cope with filing these massive amounts of information, which is a skill, not a "style". Anyone could theoretically learn it, but is it efficient?

Quote:
I would leave a course rather than participate in silly dialogues with people who speak a language worse than me. And requirements to play silly word games would have the same effect.

I hate small talk. Most people seem to like it.

The reason you hate these things is that you really don't learn anything. The reason they like them is because it helps them make-believe that they're learning. If what they're doing is their "learning style", then their style must be defined as "pretend learners".

Quote:
Besides it is very difficult to make tests with methods adapted to different styles. Language learning is such a protracted and demanding task that it would be almost inhuman to ask subjects to be taught against their preferences for maybe several years just because of an experiment. And it is doubtful how much you can deduce from short term and very limited experiments, especially if the methods proferred aren't close to anything a sensible language learner of any style would use.

Why would it be "inhuman"? People pay good money to go to university and spend several years being taught against their preferences for several years. If they're getting the course for free, and possibly even getting a few quid for their time, it's a win-win situation.
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Iversen
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 Message 44 of 55
03 October 2010 at 9:39pm | IP Logged 
Cainntear wrote:
You're mostly talking preferences here, how you chose to learn, not how you learn most effectively.


I have seen this argument before, and sometimes it may be true. But you haven't proved it to be so in my case. I may be forced by extern circumstances to do something which I know isn't optimal, or I can't do the things I think would be efficient - for example I listen far too little to genuine speech, and I can't travel nearly as much as I would like to. But left to my own devices I have developed study methods which suit me like a glove, and I have done so by seeing what worked and what didn't. And of course my preferences play a part in that, insofar that methods or study environments which you hate aren't likely to produce results. Give me just one concrete reason to believe that it would be better to scrap that and succomb to some general method that supposedly suits everybody.

Cainntear wrote:
As an experienced language learner, you are capable of building your own structure. Most learners aren't.


That's correct, and actually I have written that I don't expect total beginners who haven't learnt a foreign language before to do well without some guidance from a teacher or mentor (though there may be exceptions).

But you make one false assumption: " You do seem to be starting with individual items from the table and relating them to each other". No, I actually want to see the whole picture first because I want somewhere to put my individual items, and furthermore I see a table as a visual thing - which is why I make green sheets with 'my' preferred layout. It would be confusing to deal with different layouts in different books, or even worse: with no structure at all, but just shattered fragments in the chaos of a modern textbook. I'm sure that this is more than a preference, and it takes just one succesful learner who cannot do this to prove that there are at least two learnings styles at play.

Cainntear wrote:
You can cram a lot more using visual information, but we all know that cramming and memorisation aren't learning. (...) The thing about MT is that the pace is almost perfectly pitched at the learner.


Some of us know that cramming and memorisation is an important step in learning. They have the same role as physical training has for sportsmen - and some even like it. But what you say is that if my audio sources spoke at exactly the correct pace then I would prefer listening to reading? Well, that remains to be proven. I have never listened to MT, and the setup with a dumb male and a semismart female student and their omniscient teacher sounds like just the kind of class room teaching I have left behind me in disgust. But my aural sources could certainly be better (speed, clarity AND content), and then I might use them earlier in my study.

Iversen wrote:
I hate small talk. Most people seem to like it.

Cainntear wrote:
The reason you hate these things is that you really don't learn anything. The reason they like them is because it helps them make-believe that they're learning. If what they're doing is their "learning style", then their style must be defined as "pretend learners".


I tend to agree with you on this one. But find just one learner who get totally stuck without somebody to talk to, and then we have got two different styles.

Cainntear wrote:
Why would it be "inhuman"? People pay good money to go to university and spend several years being taught against their preferences for several years.


They obviously want the exam, but that doesn't prove that they enjoyed the study methods they had to endure. And I have for once a concrete example. I flunked in one (and only one) subject during my study time: French conversation. I analyzed the situation and recognized that I hated the conversation courses. So I stayed away from ALL courses for half a year and just participated in one 'French' weekend and besides I went on a two weeks Interrail tour in France. With no teaching involved for half a year I passed the test without any problems with an absolutely satisfactory note.

So by your logic it would be a win-win situation for me to participate in a two year conversation course, learn to hate French and maybe lose my exam, just because some researcher wanted to experiment with my preferences?

PS: immersion by travelling is also one of my preferred methods, - along with wordlists and other techniques based on writing. But classroom courses is definitely not on my list of favorites.


Edited by Iversen on 04 October 2010 at 9:34am

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Cainntear
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 Message 45 of 55
04 October 2010 at 1:48pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
But you make one false assumption: " You do seem to be starting with individual items from the table and relating them to each other". No, I actually want to see the whole picture first because I want somewhere to put my individual items, and furthermore I see a table as a visual thing - which is why I make green sheets with 'my' preferred layout. It would be confusing to deal with different layouts in different books, or even worse: with no structure at all, but just shattered fragments in the chaos of a modern textbook. I'm sure that this is more than a preference, and it takes just one succesful learner who cannot do this to prove that there are at least two learnings styles at play.

Well I would argue that your big picture serves a slightly more definable purpose -- it allows you to break down the language and take the time to analyse the language down into a learnable form. Your learnable form is the series of links and patterns you discover, and then you learn them.

I maintain that any sorting or memorisation occurs prior to the learning process and is not actually a part of it. If the end result of your analysis is something that others could learn, then that is what I mean by everyone learning in the same way.

The inability of an inexperienced learner to analyse a language down to a learnable form is not a difference in learning style, but a lack of a specific (learnable) skill.

Quote:
Cainntear wrote:
You can cram a lot more using visual information, but we all know that cramming and memorisation aren't learning. (...) The thing about MT is that the pace is almost perfectly pitched at the learner.


Some of us know that cramming and memorisation is an important step in learning. They have the same role as physical training has for sportsmen - and some even like it.

"Know" or "believe"? As I say above, I feel that cramming and memorisation is external to learning, and is really a matter of building an internal learning environment.

I used to think the same as you, but because I studied MT concurrently with trying to learn different languages in other ways, it slowly clicked that he was teaching pretty much exactly the way I had been learning, just that he'd taken away all the tricky analytic stuff that I'd had to do previously to get at the actually learning.

Language is nothing like sports training. Even "mindless" sports training trains a muscle (but most sports training is not mindless: if you kick a ball off a wall 1000 times, you have to aim 1000 times, kick 1000 times and get in place to receive the ball 1000 times -- active engagement with the real physics of the football). But the only muscles in language learning are the ones involved in pronunciation.

There are two main ways to bend your right elbow: contract the right bicep or grab your right forearm with your left hand and bend it that way. Only the first option will improve the athletic performance in your right arm -- the second only trains the muscles in the left arm.

When you cram and memorise, you're not using the same neural structures as when you actually speak, so if you want to make an analogy to physical training, it's like using the left arm for your right-arm bicep curls.

It cannot therefore be a part of the learning process -- it's going into the wrong area of the brain for that.

Quote:
But what you say is that if my audio sources spoke at exactly the correct pace then I would prefer listening to reading? Well, that remains to be proven. I have never listened to MT, and the setup with a dumb male and a semismart female student and their omniscient teacher sounds like just the kind of class room teaching I have left behind me in disgust.

That's not the method at fault. If you'd had one-on-one teaching with the man himself they wouldn't have been there.


Iversen wrote:
I tend to agree with you on this one. But find just one learner who get totally stuck without somebody to talk to, and then we have got two different styles.

Not necessarily. What are they using the other person for? If you can replicate for yourself internally the external stimulus that they need, then you are using an additional skill, but learning in the same way.
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Iversen
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 Message 46 of 55
05 October 2010 at 12:56pm | IP Logged 
Cainntear is using his considerable argumentative prowess to define everything that could be a style as something else, and I'm sure that he has ended up with a system that serves him well. But that doesn't mean that I agree with him.

For me hating and despising and being consistently bad at a certain activity or technique is part and parcel of having a certain learning style. And so is enjoying and valuing and being consistently excellent at other activities and techniques. If it could be shown that you could change these things as easily as you change your clothes then I might see them as a incidental and ephemeral attitude, rather than something that is deeply engrained in a person's mental profile, and then I would also be speaking about preferences rather than styles.

But I have seen no evidence that the differences are so superficial. On the contrary: for me there are definite learning styles, and factors like attitude, skills (inborn or acquired) and even deeply engrained habits are not alternatives, but vital ingredients in the definition of these styles. And the more I read and hear about the way other persons learn languages or even think the more I become convinced that these differences are fundamental. And insofar you can define clusters of attitudes-skills-habits you have got 'styles'.

It is quite another matter whether you can perform scientific experiments that can isolate and validate those styles. But that's a practical problem, not something that push them out of existence - I already have expressed my scepticism about the prospects of setting up relevant, pertinent and fruitful experiments scenarios that don't infringe on the fundamental human rights of at least some guinea pigs.

PS: I also continue to see vocabulary 'cramming' etc. as vital parts of language learning, even though actually speaking may involve other brain areas. It is not like training the left arm instead of the right one. Language learning starts with discovering a language and deciding to learn it, and it never ends. Even rummaging through a dictionary is language learning, and doing wordlists or making green sheets is the epithome of language learning - as much as or more so than asking for a baguette in a French boulangerie.


Edited by Iversen on 05 October 2010 at 2:31pm

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Cainntear
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 Message 47 of 55
06 October 2010 at 12:06am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
Cainntear is using his considerable argumentative prowess to define everything that could be a style as something else, and I'm sure that he has ended up with a system that serves him well. But that doesn't mean that I agree with him.

OK, maybe I'm partly guilty of that, in which case I'm missing my own point.

Quote:
For me hating and despising and being consistently bad at a certain activity or technique is part and parcel of having a certain learning style. And so is enjoying and valuing and being consistently excellent at other activities and techniques

That's a side issue, because the big claim about learning styles isn't that people like or dislike certain ways of learning, but that people learn better and/or quicker with certain styles of learning, and others will find that method slower.

Quote:
It is quite another matter whether you can perform scientific experiments that can isolate and validate those styles. But that's a practical problem, not something that push them out of existence - I already have expressed my scepticism about the prospects of setting up relevant, pertinent and fruitful experiments scenarios that don't infringe on the fundamental human rights of at least some guinea pigs.

Quite, and the paper I mention says that it doesn't disprove learning styles.

However, the practical problem can't be dismissed easily. If there is no data on how to teach to learning styles, then no-one knows how to teach to learning styles. As that is where we are today, learning styles have no place in the planning of courses or learner materials.
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Iversen
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 Message 48 of 55
06 October 2010 at 10:22am | IP Logged 
If those people who a paid to do pedagogical research can't or won't deliver a wellfounded checklist and a repertoire of methods with a proven effect on pupils with different profiles, then the alternative is to use common sense. And for me common sense is that pupils are as different as teachers are, and they have the same right to be taught according to their profiles (which include preferences) as teachers have to choose their preferred methods. Though of course the game stops if certain methods (or a certain attitude) means that the pupil (or teacher!) can't show any results.

If a certain teacher's ideas about common sense means that everyone has to be taught by the same methods then my common sense would indicate that such a teacher such be avoided like the plague. Luckily most of the teachers I remember from my longgone childhood and study years did recognize individual differences, and most teachers used a variety of methods, but I do remember a few individuals who never should have had that job.


Edited by Iversen on 07 October 2010 at 12:31am



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