If we use only one way to teach, children may never have an opportunity to discover, let alone develop their strengths.
- Jenifer Fox, Your Child’s Strengths
Learning is reflected in the way we respond to environmental, social, emotional and physical stimuli, in order to understand and process new information. Learning style is defined as the specific way we process that information. As an article, Learning Styles, on the University of Illinois extension site reports, most children in secondary school show a preference for one of the following basic learning styles:
- Visual – These learners learn by watching. They call up images from the past when trying to remember something. They visualize the way things look in their heads. An estimated forty percent of secondary students fall into this category.
- Auditory – Auditory learners respond well to aural stimuli in the learning process. They tend to spell phonetically. They can sometimes have trouble reading, because they don’t visualize well. These students learn by listening and remember facts when they are presented in the form of a poem, song or melody.
- Kinesthetic / manipulative – Kinesthetic learners learn best through movement and manipulation. They like to find out how things work and are often successful in the practical in the arts, such as carpentry or design. These students make up 50 percent of secondary students and have difficulty learning in a traditional classroom setting.
The word lecture dates from 14th century and is derived from the Latin lectus, “to read.” Its subsequent meaning as “a discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction” is from the 16th century. Interestingly while only about 10 percent of children learn aurally, nearly 80 percent of instruction is delivered by lecture – an auditory format. A mismatch between learning and teaching styles can leads kids to become disinterested in material or cause misunderstandings with teachers and parents.
Just as learners have a preferred learning style, teachers will generally develop a preferred teaching style based on their beliefs about what constitutes good teaching, personal preferences, their abilities, and the norms of their particular discipline. One taxonomy of teaching styles, uses a spectrum of styles going from teacher as authority to teacher as helper:
One of the challenges facing teachers who understand the differences in the learning styles of their students is how best to accommodate those differences. The other challenge is for teachers to overcome the natural tendency to revert to their own preferred teaching style – i.e. stay in their comfort zone.
Perhaps two factors may help overcome these two difficulties. First, computer technology offers the promise of being able to deliver visual, auditory and written material to students, as well as provide the opportunity for them to interact with and manipulate that material. Second, teaching may become more of a team effort. Leveraging the strengths of teachers is just as important as understanding the strengths and talents of the students they teach. Teaching teams could bring together a mix of strengths that could energize students of all learning styles. Collaborative teaching models are experimental and have their challenges, but could offer a more productive way to teach