Learning Styles

Learning Styles

In the March 25, 2010 article in the Oregonian, it stated that only one third of 4th and 8th graders showed full proficiency in reading and nation testing. This means that two thirds of Oregon’s 4th and 8th graders are reading below grade level. Why is the system failing our children? Over the last 29 years, there has been much discussion regarding the relationship between an individual’s learning style and the student’s ability to learn. (A learning style is the way a person learns best.)

One of the most documented learning style models, the Modalities (types of sensory perception), analyzes how people remember. Is the predominate manner of taking in information visual, auditory, or kinesthetic? If the predominate manner of gathering information is visual, they learn through their eyes by reading, writing, picture clues, bright colorful posters, or bulletin boards. If the predominate manner of gathering information is auditory, they learn through their ears. But this does not mean that their best means of gathering info is through lectures by the teacher. These auditory learners need to hear themselves say it to remember it. These learners used to be called the “Chatty Cathy”, those that seem to talk incessantly. Researchers are now learning that these students are not doing this verbal response to be social, but as a necessity to their learning. The kinesthetic individuals must learn by movement. The more movement the better, but they can participate in sedentary learning for short time periods if given a small object to manipulate quietly or by shaking or moving a foot or leg under the table. It becomes excrutiatingly painful for them to be required to sit still for longer then ten minutes at a time.

Knowing what you have learned about these three types of individuals, imagine how they respond in a traditional classroom setting. The visual learners feel right at home. They love bright colorful bulletin boards, desks all in a row, and the series of workbooks, reading books and reports. The auditory learners can survive in this setting, but usually not without getting in trouble for talking to their neighbor, whispering to themselves or blurting out the answer usually without raising their hand. For the kinesthetic learner, it is pure torture unless there are frequent breaks and something to manipulate other than a pencil. Given these descriptions, it will probably come as no surprise to you that there are children in our classrooms that are “falling through the cracks”.

In the 2005 article in Latitudesby the Association for Comprehensive Neuro Therapy, it was documented that in the general population, 29% were visual, 34% were auditory, and 37% were kinesthetic learners. Since our traditional classes and curriculum are designed predominately for visual learners who comprise of a little less than a third of the population, it can be no surprise to you that only a third of the 4th and 8th graders are reading at or above grade level. We are doing a great job with the visual learners. Unfortunately that leaves two thirds of the population (auditory and kinesthetic learners) failing or falling behind the norm.

Why can’t we revamp our school system or traditional school setting to incorporate aspects that are more conducive to learning for the kinesthetic and auditory learners? I know it can be done, because I’ve seen the curriculum I’ve developed and use at Imagination Rehab work successfully in a classroom setting, as well as in a tutorial setting. I does take additional effort on teh part of teachers. They frequently have to step out of their comfort zone because 89% of teachers are visual learners. It can done; it’s worth the effort.

We could help by making the classroom environment more compatible for kinesthetic and auditory learners. Have ball chairs available for those kinesthetic learners that need to move while sitting. Have ipods or walkmans available for auditory learners to block outside noise and help them focus. Have students chance position every ten minutes or break for a couple of Brain Gymexercises before continuing the class. Let children know how long they will be in each position and stick to it. Make sure there is equal time for everyone: time to talk, time to move as well as sit. Who says everyone has to set in a chair at a desk to write or read. Some may prefer a pillow on the floor, standing at a taller table, or pacing with a clipboard to write on. I think we need to reconstruct our classroom space and our concept of appropriate behavior for learning. In the lease, we need to be more flexible and accepting of different learning needs. If a child were in a wheelchair, he wouldn’t be asked to leave the wheelchair outside the door to his classroom. Why are we sentencing two thirds of our children to a similar fate because we can’t see the way they are different or what their needs are? How many children in our classrooms do you want to learn, three out of ten or ten out of ten? I don’t think we will see any remarkable increase in the percentage of learners reading at grade level until our school systems address teh inequity of the instruction of students with various learning styles.

Another thought to consider is revamping the present curriculum, greatly decreasing the number of workbooks used to teach, and allowing more diverse methods of instruction. How about giving the other two thirds of our students and equal chance to succeed in learning, and therefore, providing them with better opportunities in life?

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