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EL Research

Debunked ‘learning styles’ theory still part of gold-standard EFL qualifications

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...But Cambridge English has now pledged to remove the phrase from Celta and Delta syllabuses

by Claudia Civinini

Cambridge English Language Assessment has been referring to the concept of ‘learning styles’ in its Celta and Delta EFL qualifications even though the theory has long been debunked by academics, it has emerged.

The Cambridge English Teaching Framework, which underpins the two qualifications, contains references to learning styles – ‘visual, auditory, kinaesthetic’ – under the competency area ‘understanding learners’.

Teacher trainers have confirmed that trainees on these courses have been required to show an awareness of their students’ learning style, both in their assignments and their teaching practice.

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What’s the harm?

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by Claudia Civinini

With the debunking of any pseudoscientific theory and practice comes the inevitable question: what’s the harm? Even if learning styles are not backed by evidence, why shouldn’t teachers use them in their classroom if they believe they are effective?

Experts said that learning styles theory uses up time and resources that could be better allocated, and can sometimes become excuses for ineffective teaching or poor student behaviour.

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‘Negative emotions should not remain hidden’

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By Claudia Civinini

Many teachers worry about their students’ foreign language anxiety (FLA), and at times don’t really know how to deal with it, a survey of teachers across the world revealed last month (see the April edition of the Gazette).

But Dr Christina Gkonou from the University of Essex, who has researched FLA extensively, has some advice for teachers. Dr Gkonou confirmed that, according to her research, anxiety is the most common negative emotion among language learners, and that it is subjective and context-bound.

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“Make teachers aware of the basic principles of science”

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 by Claudia Civinini

The Gazette spoke to a number of experts about how time could be better spent on teacher training courses instead of learning about discredited educational theories such as learning styles.

Professor Paul Kirschner said that teachers should be better trained in ‘human cognitive architecture’ – how the brain learns and processes information. ‘This would be much more useful than worthless and actually harmful tricks such as learning styles.’

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‘When Students Cry, I Get Anxious’

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By Claudia Civinini

Teachers are worried about their students’ language anxiety. To find out how they deal with it, we surveyed ten EFL and Italian teachers the world over, from England to Australia. EFL teachers’ challenges seem to concern mainly students’ psychology and class dynamics: some reported that one student’s anxiety can affect the whole class, and that it is difficult to integrate an anxious student into a group.

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