After taking a look at the Riggs Institute’s website, a concerned tweeter recently asked: “RIGGS (sic) seems to support and promote the idea of learning styles? Is that so?”
Yes and no.
While there are many ways to understand the idea of learning styles, when some educators hear the term Learning Styles (often capitalized in the literature) they think of a particular method of teaching. According to a recent report on this topic, “The basic idea behind the use of ‘Learning Styles’ teaching is that learners can be categorized into one or more ‘styles’ (e.g., Visual, Auditory, Converger) and that teaching students according to their style will result in improved learning.”
The Riggs Institute has never supported that method of instruction, which has now been repeatedly tested and debunked.
So why does the Riggs Institute mention “learning styles” on their website?
A careful read of their website will reveal that the Riggs Institute is promoting Dr. Orton’s research-based conclusion that regardless of particular learning preferences or neurological strengths, beginner readers can be helped to form strong neural links between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic inputs by teaching through multiple sensory pathways simultaneously.
For example, when learners look at the symbol (m), hear the sounds (“m”), say the sound (“m”), and write the letter (m) during explicit phonics practice, they are attending to that which needs needs to be learned while deliberately creating neural networks (i.e., mapping) between sound, symbol, and movement (speech and writing).
This multi-modal practice technique, used also during initial spelling and writing activities to help children map grapheme-phoneme relations in whole words in order to retain them in memory, deliberately integrates the four language strands of speaking, listening, writing, and reading to help children recognize letters, words, and phrases. Introduced by Dr. Samuel Orton and further developed Romalda Spalding, it is highly recommended by many who are familiar with the needs of children who have organic or developmental disorders related to reading and writing.
For example, in her Complete Handbook of Children’s Reading Disorders, Dr. Hilde L. Mosse, M.D., devotes over 50 pages of her highly informative text to a description of this method of integrating instruction to help all learners acquire automatic responses to letters, phonograms, and words, including learners who may have phonological deficits.
This is why the Riggs Institute’s approach uses simultaneous multisensory instruction (and practice) to facilitate orthographic mapping and accelerate learning for ALL children, regardless of their preferred learning “style” and in spite of any perceived neurological deficits. The practice technique strengthens weak processes and helps connect processes together, facilitating reading acquisition.
In summary, while the Riggs Institute makes room for the idea that children may have preferred learning styles, it does NOT support, and has never supported, the idea that children should be tested to discover their primary learning style and then taught through that style. It has always stood with Drs. Orton and Mosse in challenging that belief.
The Riggs Institute agrees that there is no one learning style that works, in essence they agree with the study – HOWEVER when we teach Riggs we don’t highlight or teach one way – we always teach through all four avenues (neurologically) so that all “learning styles” are addressed for every person sitting in the classroom as they are accessing essential information through multiple senses in order to link (i.e., map) them together.