George Fell - First Aid and Outdoor Activities - Level 5 project


Let's take a look at the VAK modalities as taught on lots of paddlesport coaching courses. This is a big idea in teaching too, so there's been lots of research done on it. As far as I can tell, it's been around as an idea since the early 1900s. It appears as part of a well established model of learning created by Dunn and Dunn, in a lot of NLP books and is a central pillar of Fleming's model of learning.

Nobody has any issues with the fact that we can receive information through Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic (and indeed olfactory and gustatory) channels. Nor is anyone going to argue that we'll all have different aptitudes at using those channels (in the same way we all have different heights, favourite flavours of ice cream and preferred types of boating).

The problem comes when I label someone as say a visual learner, and treat them accordingly.

The tests that have been done suggest that;

  • There's a stronger correlation between what you teach and the VAK channel than there is between different learners and the VAK channel. E.g experiencing subtleties of feather in a bow rudder is going to be a kinaesthetic thing whatever type of learner you are. (14)

  • For the teaching of reading and in special needs teaching, there's evidence that trying to match teaching to the learners VAK preferences doesn't improve learning. (8), (9), (13)
  • Once again I'm not saying that as paddlesport coaches we shouldn't use VAK. I'm saying that its main value is in giving us a starting point to invent exciting new ways to coach skills, rather than a set of labels to put on people

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