The VARK

Again.

People are talking about the VARK again. Most research has discredited the VARK. Just Google it and you’ll see the debate pop up right away. But I still like it, the same way I like astrology, Tarot cards, and various other personality tests. The VARK is a framework that can over-determine or define people once we buy into it too much, and any framework or typography can lose its helpfulness if its overly rigid (hardening of the categories”).

Lately, I have been rethinking my commitment to this schema, and why I like it, because POD folks trash it regularly. Their skepticism and rejection is entirely reasonable. Critics say VARK took hold simply because it is just so darned intuitive. Anecdotal reasoning easily falls victim to the fallacy of hasty generalization and conformation. But, by golly, it just feels so right. Therein lies the rhetorical power of the anecdote. And the usefulness of the VARK.

So, I remain committed to the VARK, and here’s why:

1. It reminds us that people learn in different ways, and that we must “mix it up” in the classroom. It’s a handy toolkit for “mixing it up” strategies.

2. It reminds us that teachers shouldn’t teach to themselves. That teachers are often guilty of expecting everyone learns like they do, and has the same experience and path to learning. The VARK paradigm forces us to consider differences.

3. I believe deeply that kids today learn kinesthetically because of today’s digital environment. Now, even though the idea of “twitch speed” has also been challenged, it still rings true to me, especially when I see bored kids twitching with their cell phones in class. Kinesthetic learning is simply the “learn with your hands” philosophy from back in the day, whatever day that was, when people learned by crafting, and kids spent more time running around outside. Nothing wrong with that

4. VARK provides a quick framework for explaining our cultural shift from print to digital literacy, which is a focus in my public speaking class

Sure, astrology, Tarot, and other personality tests are often self-fulfilling prophecies. Indeed, students might have no preferred learning style, like they have no authentic Tarot card; however, VARK-conscious learning activities get them engaged. Apparently, the jury is still out on active learning. But if I cannot make it through class without being bored, how can they?

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