multi-modal learning

Several of my colleagues have already written about learning styles being debunked and proven to be a myth. I’m not going to rehash what they’ve already covered so well. This post is about an alternate method, called multi-modal learning, which is not a myth. It can be easily confused with learning styles, so I feel that it deserves some clarification.

What is Multi-Modal Learning?

Being exposed to a concept or idea in multiple different ways increases understanding and retention. That’s the basics behind multi-modal learning. It’s not about choosing a “right” way of presenting the content, the way learning styles supposedly is. The point is that if you investigate something from several perspectives you’ll have a broader and deeper understanding of it. As a result, it will also be easier to remember.

Why Does it Get Confused With Learning Styles?

The different modalities that can be used to learn something overlap with learning styles. You can read or write about something. You can talk about something or listen to someone else talk about it. You can interact with or build something. You can make lists, tables, flow charts, pictures, models, etc. There doesn’t seem to be a standardized list of modalities, but you probably get the idea. And it’s easy to see where these can get mixed up with the “visual,” “aural/auditory,” and “kinesthetic” classifications that are often associated with learning styles.


The Art of the Brick, an exhibition of artist Nathan Sawaya’s all-LEGO® creations, has one gallery showing re-creations of famous pieces of world artwork made entirely out of LEGO bricks. I watched and listened to the introductory video. I saw the LEGO artwork. I read the informational plaques that explained the original pieces and Sawaya’s re-creations. I discussed the experience with the other people I was attending with. I recognized many of the works based on my previous knowledge. We took pictures. There was even a plaque on the wall with a quote from the artist that suggested that this could be a great way for kids to get excited about learning art history, through LEGO bricks. As the gallery clearly showed, you can also learn about things by building them. There was even a room at the end where you could try your hand at making some LEGO creations.

The whole experience was multi-modal. And you bet I remember it quite clearly.

Do your learners a favor. Forget about learning styles. Start using multi-modal learning instead.

If you’d like to read more about training, learning, and instructional design check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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