Some Notes on Basic Learning Styles

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Some Notes on Basic Learning Styles

  1. 1. 1 Some Notes on Basic Learning Styles Created by Susan Bertolino and Elizabeth Sunflower As educators, we usually confront three learning styles in the classroom: visual, auditory,kinesthetic/tactile (the latter two styles are seen as equivalent in some schools of education.) Here is a diagram of the styles: Visual Learning Students who are innate visual learners account for about 35% of the population. With the increase in visual stimuli through the media, many people consider themselves to be visual learners, but that is incorrect. They have adapted to the dominant mode of receiving information. This can lead to poor learning behavior as these students have forgotten their true nature. A visual learner needs the following to retain information and learn new skills: 1. Diagrams 2. Maps 3. Photos and other images 4. Charts
  2. 2. 2 5. Videos 6. Colors (color coding is a good memorization tool) 7. Silent reading The expression “out of sight—out of mind” applies to the visual learner. He or she remembers faces, not names. When reading directions, the visual learner conjures up an image of the finished product. Visual learners have good spatial abilities: they rarely get lost, they have a knack for directions, they find things easily, they understand shapes and dimensions, plus they know when one object will fit with another. Carpenters, architects, graphic designers, navigators, painters and drafters are professions that suit the visual learner. A visual learner needs to see how something is done. He or she responds well to modeling a particular skill or behavior. Visual learners love puzzles from word searches to rubric cubes; they often solve them quickly. A visual learner is more apt to doodle in class or stare out the window if he or she is not engaged. (I am deliberately leaving phones out of these examples.) How can we help visual learners? 1. Encourage them to take notes in class. 2. Suggest that they highlight material in the text with different color markers. 3. Ask them to use bright colored tabs to divide pages in a book. Post Its makes some good ones. 4. Have them make up index cards with key information to study. 5. Make up powerpoints and put them on Blackboard as a reference. 6. Look for videos to upload to Blackboard as references, or show them in class if time permits. 7. Get computer software that helps them remember material. For example, there is a game called The Iliad that helps students remember facts, places and names from the text—excellent for visual learners. (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/iliad/iliadstart3.htm) Auditory Learners Innate auditory learners make up about 30% of the four dominant learners. They learn best through speaking and hearing. Auditory learners share the following characteristics: 1. They are talkative in class. 2. They enjoy music. 3. They relate best to the spoken word. 4. They process information best when they hear it.
  3. 3. 3 5. They prefer oral reports and presentations to essays. 6. They may hum, sing or whistle while working. 7. They remember names before faces. 8. They remember a text when they read it aloud or hear it. 9. They tend to use their finger as a pointer when reading silently. 10. They have trouble being quiet in class. 11. They enjoy telling jokes and stories. 12. They are especially good with foreign languages and have a keen sense of idioms. An auditory learner will have more trouble with graphs and visual data. They need to avoid noise or any extraneous sound while learning, as it will break their concentration. They need the freedom to express their thoughts in class, even if their ideas are not always well received by the instructor or other students. They tend to take charge in group learning activities and help bring out the ideas of the other group members. They tend to be very social both in class and outside. A frustrated auditory learning may look confused in class or ask the teacher to repeat what he or she is saying. That student may be less inclined to read email and more responsive to class announcements. The expression “once you’ve heard it, you’ve heard it” applies best to the auditory learner. Auditory learners gravitate toward careers in writing, teaching, music, law and politics. How can we help auditory learners? 1. Help them get an audio copy of the text. 2. Give time to reading aloud in class. 3. Encourage discussion. 4. Try not to interrupt when they are speaking unless absolutely necessary. 5. Ask them to explain concepts to the class, particularly if the class seems confused. Ask them to use their own words to explain a particular idea or development in the text. 6. Make sure they don’t feel silenced in the class. 7. Encourage them to sit up front so that they can hear well. 8. For exams, suggest that they study in a group or offer to have an informal study session. (If you have a Diamond Peer Teacher, they can handle the study session.) 9. Design reading activities in class in which they sing the words of the text— this could be especially effective with epic poems, but it can be fun with books like Vaccination Against Smallpox as well. 10. Don’t make all assessment written. Do oral assessment and presentations as well. 11. Organize debates in classroom discussion. 12. Use the Socratic method of learning with auditory learners.
  4. 4. 4 Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners: These students learn best by doing, not just observing. A tactile/kinesthetic learner likes to take things apart and put them back together. They thrive on movement. They are the first to volunteer if it means getting out of their seat and getting a chance to do something. They are often more independent learners as they already have a sense of how they will learn. A tactile/kinesthetic learning thrives in classes that emphasize performance. They often need props or examples of objects in a text in order to visualize them. A tactile/kinesthetic learner would rather act out a text rather than just read it aloud. It is unfortunate that education is geared less toward these learners once the primary grades are completed. A frustrated tactile/kinesthetic learner is restless. His legs may keep moving or her fingers may drum on the desk. These are the first learners to stop paying attention in class once they figure out that their needs won’t get met. They may be more prone to pull out their phone, fidget, or run to the bathroom during class. If a class is really insufferable to them, they will probably stop coming, despite the consequences to their grades. The expression “it’s like riding a bicycle” applies best to the tactile/kinesthetic learner. Here are some specific characteristics of tactile/kinesthetic learners: 1. Learning is both empirical and experiential. 2. They have keen motor memories. Once they have done something once, it stays with them. 3. They love hands-on activities. They like to do science experiments. 4. They enjoy field trips or having class outside. 5. They enjoy games of all kinds. 6. They may play a musical instrument very well. 7. They are not always good spellers. 8. They use their hands a lot to speak. 9. They may not have good handwriting. 10. They may be very good at sports. Many student athletes may be tactile/kinesthetic learners. 11. Since so much of education is geared to visual and auditory learners, they may give up on formal education unless they find a major and an educational environment that addresses their needs. 12. They are often seen as non-traditional learners. In certain school districts, tactile/kinesthetic learners represent the majority of referrals for learning disabilities. Many mistake them to be hyperactive or dyslectic.
  5. 5. 5 Tactile-kinesthetic learners end up in performance art careers, particularly dance and physical theater. They make good mechanics, actors, firefighters, athletes, stylists, physical education teachers, massage therapists and fashion designers. How can we help the tactile/kinesthetic learner? 1. Try not to dismiss them as inferior learners because they need different cues to access information. 2. Use games in class. Look online for ideas. You can design a class jeopardy, concentration, even card games based on the texts. 3. Use puzzles. Bring things for them to touch or sort like cards. 4. Try to encourage some physical activity. If it cannot be done in every class, set aside one class a week so that the tactile/kinesthetic learners can look forward to the activity. 5. Walk around the room and try to have a more physical presence so that they will feel encouraged to do the same. 6. Design learning activities like surveys, spontaneous calling out ideas and role-playing. 7. Design some cut and paste activities like collage. 8. If you know anything about meditation, dance, yoga or any movement therapy, use it in the class. 9. Take risks with your teaching, and they will love it. Get creative. 10. They may need to skim a book first, then return to read it more closely. They may also benefit by reading and doing, from walking around a room to reading on a treadmill. 11. They may also need to take notes while reading a book. However, they may not consult those notes in order to study. Encourage short study breaks as it will help their concentration. 12. Let them eat and drink in class unless you personally find that it affects your teaching.

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