File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_2000/bourdieu.0004, message 25

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000 05:52:49 -0500
Subject: Re: Habitus and learning styles...

At 04:51 PM 04/14/2000, you wrote:
>At 23:42 13/04/00 -0400, you wrote:
>>Thank you for your thoughtful replies to my initial question.
>I am really enjoying this thread and the discussion thus far has been
>useful to me in a number of ways.
>For me the whole notion of learning styles is problematic however.  So far
>we have had reference to the different learning styles of women and men
>(women are more emotional!) and also here is a question about the learning
>styles of different cultures so I would like to add some more questions.

I agree that 'learning style' is a problem.  In the field of education in
the U.S., I've seen more & more attention paid to teaching to learning
style than ever.  And yes, women do score differently on MBTI than do men,
generally speaking.  And yes, there are empirical studies that show that
women do respond differently (at least initially) to different teaching
styles than do men, generally speaking.  And yes, this kind of observation
is also found in race-centered education research.  

What this research is good for is to point out that not everyone has the
same habitus, and it also points to symbolic violence - the
misrepresentation of one or a few learning styles as the truly most or only
valid ones.  

But I only mentioned two scales (that I thought people outside the
discipline would have heard of) among many that are used to distinguish how
people know and learn.  The models themselves are problematic.  For
instance, sometimes employers use instruments like MBTI to determine what
to do with employees.   MBTI generally (empirically this is so) shows that
women are more often than men subjective knowers and thus women have less
legitimacy in most workplaces reinforced by the results of this instrument.
 MBTI is not necessarily used to create space for different ways of
knowing, but rather to reinforce the ways of knowing that are considered
legitimate for the job (extraverts are good salespeople, for instance), by
placing those with certain personality traits at the moment into positions
that employers feel require someone with those personality traits.  

And all the authors of the instruments claim that there is no progression -
no learning style is better than another.  But as B. in 'Distinction' isn't
claiming that some people have better taste than others, but rather that
certain tastes are more legitimate than others, I would say the same about
learning styles and about epistemological stance.  Subjective knowing is
not as highly valued as objective knowing, thus your initial reaction Margot!

>First is the way we learn synonomous with the way we think?  Sorry for this
>one but I am not a philosopher!
>Do we or can we retain the same learning style over time?

I don't think we do.  The classroom, the school, the academy are
self-perpetuating fields of struggle.  If we come to higher education from
a place where we were more subjective, they'll fix it up right quick if we
are to succeed.  

This leads me to wonder more about the movement to teach to learning
styles, though.  Does this blow apart existing misprepresentations or
simply reinforce them by making distinctions without questioning the
arbitrary nature of "taste" for certain learning styles over others?  This
is where the teacher becomes bound in the web, too, I think.  Is it good
for your career to teach in a "relaxed" manner (and I realize this is
undefined but let's just leave it as a placeholder for alternatives to
traditional lecture format), for instance?  

>What exactly are the 'boundaries' of any one learning style?
>Do we have multiple learning styles?

I suppose it would depend on the field in which we are learning.
>What IS a learning style?
>I think 'learning syle' is as slippery an animal as 'habitus' and 'field'.
>With  these I just begin to think I have some ideas of what they are when
>the meanings seem to slip away, but I am learning. After a very
>entertaining discussion about habitus last year I realised it is in a sense
>a heuristic device not to be reified. Learning styles may have to be
>treated in the same way.

OH YES.  Somehow, the term "learning style" leads me to think of some
characteristic that is relatively enduring, but I think after reading your
comments that learning style depends on what the situation calls for.
Otherwise, we Bourdieu listers would be awful cocktail party companions.


Deborah Kilgore
Assistant Professor
Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Iowa State University
N 232 Lagomarcino Hall
Ames, IA  50011-3195
office) 515-294-9121 email)


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