"Learning is something of which we all have an understanding and in which we have all participated" Pritchard (2005:1).
As focused in from the previous literature review, I have performed a series of lessons on the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) learning styles and how it can be implemented into Art and Design.
Learning styles are something that personally interested me as a trainee teacher. The reason for this being my chosen topic emerged from a University lecture on Learning styles which interested me and made me aware of it afterward in my teaching placement, due to this awareness I was keen to develop my knowledge on it and understand the theory in a more deeper understanding on how children learn and how art and design opens ways of learning.
Being a trainee teacher for secondary education I felt it was a necessity to focus my research on the following areas to enable me to gain a deeper understanding of the learning styles and in terms of students preferences as well as how they actually learn.
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The study aims to focus explicitly on how students learn at their best whether it be through their preferred learning style as well as how they learn to their best.
Furthermore consideration and factors will be given to:
Investigation into VAK learning styles as well as others
Assessing the evidence against my own experience
Whether students choose their preferred learning style rather to the learning style they learn through best
The limitations and successes of labelling a student with one particular learning style
Changes from previous literature review
From the previous literature review I believe I have become more focused on my research as I have developed my understanding, my thinking and more in depth reading to make this a stronger study towards learning styles. I have also identified that I have only researched into VAK learning styles which has caused limitations in terms of my critical analysis. I understand that learning styles is a broad area but I have decided the main focus is VAK learning styles however also introducing key themes such as Howard Gardner's theories I am more clear and coherent in looking for evidence on this topic through assessment for learning and the student's responses and talking about their work. Even though I am still focusing on the implementation of VAK within a classroom environment , my thinking and understanding of assessment and outcome of this research has become more clear in terms of collection of data and research methods for analysing and evaluating the impact of my focus.
To broaden my knowledge on this topic, I have gained further reading to aid and develop my research. Adey (1999) states that:
"Children have preferred learning style and the strategies they use have a different effect on the use they make of any particular learning experience, whether that experience is provided by a teacher, a parent, a book, a television programme, or other means." As I have developed my knowledge and reading this is a factor I will look more in depth throughout this study.
My original lesson planning worked with sculpture with the students but due to technical difficulties with equipment and demand for material for A-level students I was unable to carry out the lessons. It was then decided to create a unit of work with textiles with would coincide with my research. I planned for lessons within the unit of work and adapted them to perform my research around learning styles focusing on VAK. I broke my lessons down by focusing in on one style per lesson. I structured each lesson ensuring that their learning and understanding was focused on the first 20 minutes of the one hour lesson before they carried out the task or activity.
Overview of lesson planning.
The first lesson (see appendix 1) is focused on the visual aspect of the learning, teaching and assessment. I understood that I couldn't make the whole lesson visual as students would become disengaged. However, I made sure that visual learning was dominant throughout the whole lesson by stopping the students for a moment to recap verbally and also in the starter of the lesson.
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"Learners who are visual-spatial usually have difficulty with the written language and do better with charts, demonstrations, videos and other visual materials." (Rourke 2002). From Rourke's statement I began the lesson with a PowerPoint presentation (see appendix 2) on textile printing and different techniques and designers (see appendices) ensuring there were colour and noise effects to keep it interesting for the students. I also ensured that images were dominant over text and engaged in a discussion about the images they observed (see appendix 3). I then showed them a demonstration based on their activity they would be completing by showing them examples of work. During the activity I had a transition where I selected some of the students work and got the students to discuss how successful they were and what improvements could be made. Therefore, students were not just learning of the teachers work but also their peer's work which also I feel worked as a motivational strategy. This transition was also repeated at the end of lessons.
Lesson 2 (see appendix 1) involved the similar structure of lesson only focusing and making auditory learning the dominant style. This lesson was on creating repeat patterns by hand. First of all I started with questioning and answering on their knowledge of repeat patterns. I created group discussions for the students were they would discuss on how they would construct patterns with certain imagery. This activity would draw as much information from them as possible and then fill in the gaps with my own knowledge. In addition, I am not just speaking to students; they are also getting involved and learning from each other and engaging through discussion. At the end of the lesson I selected students to present their work to the class and talk about how they created it and their way of thinking behind their work so students could listen and learn how they could have created work differently to improve it or learn how to create it through a different repeat structure.
Lesson 3 (see appendix 1) is moulded around kinaesthetic learning. This lesson was facilitated in terms of kinaesthetic learning as most lessons in art involve movement and practical work. This lesson was about learning about still life drawing. An interactive PowerPoint was presented at the start of the lesson were students were able to re-arrange the still life objects to gain the best composition. As kinaesthetic learners learn at their best when they are moving and touching. For the activity, they were able to move around the room to looks for objects in which they wanted to draw. As they completed that task, they set up their own composition to draw from and to touch the objects to experience the texture, scale and imagine how they would draw it.
Lesson 4 (see appendix 1) brings all three learning styles into play. "We do students a serious disservice by implying they have only one learning style rather than a flexible repertoire from which to choose, depending on the context" (Henry :2007). This statement is very valid. Taking this statement into consideration I ensured all three learning styles were running parallel to each other in the one lesson. This lesson involved batiking and transfer printing were the lesson is broken down and anticipates a lot of transition and movement between stations. A PowerPoint was presented (see appendix 4) and a demonstration is shown at each table and question and answering is active through the PowerPoint to ensure understanding. Students also gave feedback on instructions from the demonstration.
Through the unit of work I have used formative assessment where peer assessment, observing the students work, questioning and answering method etc will have taken place. Teachers can observe students in their natural habitats as students sit in their classrooms; interact with other students, read on their own, complete written work at their desks or tables, and so on. Finally, they can assign specific tasks to students and see how well they perform these tasks. (Anderson, 2003:24)
At the end of the unit I used summative assessment and graded each student on factors such as meeting deadlines, their overall effort, quality of work and their conduct after I assessed these issues I gave them an overall grade for the unit of work.
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As the research begins I will ensure there is confidentiality within the questionnaires and Unit overview sheets (see appendix 5). Each student was provided with the background on the research and in the learning styles to help them focus on what the outcomes will be. The research procedures were approved by an ethnics committee at Liverpool John Moore's University (see appendix 6)
"Action research is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems." Wikepedia website..
In this case I am using research methods to reflect and enhance my professionalism within secondary art and design education with staff and students. In other word, action research aim to answer the question "How can I improve what is happening here? Rather than answering the question of "What is happening here?" used in conventional research (McNiff et al., 1966). It has the benefit of been undertaken in school to make changes and improvements were needed.
Action research presents one way in which practioners could re-establish their professionalism by providing opportunities for combined school or college based professional development (Macintyre, 2002). The very nature of action research means that it is institutional focused, which is vital for staff development that is going to enhance practice (Twining and McCormick). In my experience in the classroom action research allows research to act in small scale which is perfect for this research assignment by using lesson plans designed around learning styles and using PowerPoint's, resources etc to be put in place. However, there are limitations in action research that I am aware of as I can become too involved in the lessons whereby makes it difficult to observe and therefore I can make no critical observations or research. It also means if the teacher has a dramatic amount of participation and involvement, they cannot record any observations and make reflections throughout the lesson.
The data was collected through the use of summative assessment records, questionnaires and interviews sheets both completed by the students who are participating in the lessons. As listed above the data will take the form of a quantitive collection be will have Qualitive analysis.
"Qualitative research seeks out the 'why', not the 'how' of its topic through the analysis of unstructured information - things like interview transcripts, emails, notes, feedback forms, photos and videos. It doesn't just rely on statistics or numbers, which are the domain of quantitative researchers." http://www.qsrinternational.com/what-is-qualitative-research.aspx
The results will be presented in pie charts and bar chart to show any trends, comparisons or contrast within each learning styles. This method will allow detailed analysis and provide other information. The formal assessment record shows assessment within the lessons taking into consideration homework's and their final textiles pieces along with the summative assessment with their effective participation in plenaries, discussions etc.
"Combining formative assessment to track students' grasp of lesson concepts as they learn, enabling adjustment of teaching practice, and summative assessment in the form of a test or quiz, which measures the level the student knowledge and understanding after the learning process. This is also a valuable tool for the teacher, as they may be better able to gauge the efficacy of their lessons and unit". (Cauley 2009)
However I am aware of the limitations of the quality of my research and collection of data. As this is only a very small amount of research it is fair to say that my results does not imply for every class and different school I have taught in have appeared different due to class bands, gender, year group etc.
"The development of standard questions by researchers can lead to 'structural' bias and false representation, where the data actually reflects the view of them instead of the participating subject." (Drever 1995) By giving students structures questions is limiting their actual views about the project.
The considerations put forward off confidentiality to the students due to their age. Therefore the parents consent in essential within this research so a letter of consent will be provided them with the background and purpose of the research etc and ensuring that they can remove themselves from the research at any time.
Evaluation of Results
"The main use of the questionnaire in classroom research is to obtain quantitive responses to specific predetermined questions". Hopkins (2008:118) for the researcher it is a quick and simple way of obtaining broad and rich information from the students. For my findings I have used my questionnaires to compare results and used my interviews to either support or find a contrast in the results.
Q1) Would you consider yourself a Visual learner, auditory learner or kinaesthetic learner?
As it was a group of 19 students I asked their sex in case there was a pattern in findings between sexes. From analysis of this question, it is evident from the graph that kinaesthetic learning is the most popular in both sexes.
However, there are a bigger percentage of females in the class, 5 boys and 14 girls. This factor has to be taken into consideration, as it affects the accuracy of the results as there are unequal amounts of girls and boys. On the other hand this was a good way to see how they think they learn, is it their preferred style or their learning style they actually learn with perhaps genetically. As previous stated in part 1 of the literature review Pritchard (2005) states that learning preferences refer to an individual's preferred intellectual approach to learning, which is an important bearing on how learning proceeds for each student, especially when considered in conjunction with that teachers expect from learners in the classroom.
Q2) what activities have you learned about the most?
For the next comparison and contrast the students were asked how they learned mot effectively through the lessons. It was recorded and collected by each learning style, for example: students that stated they were visual learners said they learned more through the demonstrations etc:
From the diagram above it is coherent that the kinaesthetic learners of the class learn best when they are carrying out the task and creating something apart from one student. I feel this is genuinely too as from my observation they were working better when they were creating their textile pieces and learning about techniques as they went along. The visual learners of the group found that PowerPoint's and demonstrations were more beneficial to them whereas auditory learners were almost balanced in terms of they learned the most in all activities.
Q3) what have you enjoyed the most about the lesson?
For my next question I wanted to find out whether question 2 ran parallel with this question to see whether students learned the best at their preferred activity within the lessons. I expected kinaesthetic learners to enjoy creating their textiles as it involves using their hands and moving. Here are the results:
It is safe to say that my prediction from my previous literature review was correct in this case that kinaesthetic learners learn and also enjoy. This will be discussed further later. It is also clear that 4 out of 5 of the visual learners enjoyed using the images provided in the activities for inspiration and something to work towards. However, auditory learners are quite confusing as 50% enjoyed listening and 50% enjoyed discussing ideas.
Q4) how has the teacher successfully engaged your attention in the lessons?
My next investigation was to find out how the teacher was able to engage students through the lessons to achieve maximum learning. Students were asked to state how the teacher successfully engaged their attention throughout the four lessons; it also was able to tell whether the teacher's structure of the lesson worked effectively to facilitate all learners. Here are the results:
It is easy to distinguish that using PowerPoint's within the lessons was the most popular for the enjoyment of the students, followed by the classroom activities during the lessons. From the chart it also shows that there is a range of activities the students thought the teacher successfully engaged them. This shows that the teacher did facilitate the learners in the best possible way. However, what does this say about learning styles? Is this evidence that preferred learning styles don't apply in every school, class or lesson?
Q5) how has the teacher successfully engaged your attention in the lessons?
The final aim from the questionnaire was to gain as much from the students where possible to ensure maximum learning for the future. Students were asked how the teacher could improve lessons to engage pupils for learning. The purpose of this question for my benefit to reflect and improve for my first year in teaching.
From the analysis of this graph it is clear that learners have choose their comfort area as the improvement .For example, the kinaesthetic learners has chose more practical work and more drawing which involves movement. This poses the question are they accurate? Are these results superficial?
After the Unit was completed students had a group discussion with the teacher on the whole unit, how they learned, what they learned and how they thought they would be assessed. Students provided feedback on this information throughout a Unit overview/interview sheet (see appendix 5).
Each student was able to answer the questions on "Uses of tie dye, batik and transfer print£ and the techniques behind it, were students learned this information at the beginning of this unit through PowerPoint. All students produced an answer for the interview question "When assessing this project as a whole, what do you think I will be looking for?" Students were able to highlight the key factors of assessment as the teacher repeated what was expected of them in each lesson therefore auditory learning was a key point when answering that question. Another vital question put forward to the students was "What have they learned?" This questions their knowledge on their work they produced. Each student responded to a high standard and explains what they learned. However, the most popular was learning how to apply the dye and images onto fabric which was demonstrated to them in lesson which they went on to carry out themselves and felt they thoroughly enjoyed the workshops. There is clearly a trend in terms of result within the Kinaesthetic learners as the were the most dominant within the results and remained almost uniform throughout all the results by showing evidence of kinaesthetic learning in the charts.
Students have learned how to use different effects on Photoshop and they demonstrated their learning through annotation work for homework (Appendix 7).
The unit was assessed (Appendix 8 ) taking into considerations different homework's, observing work progress, the quality of the final pieces, effort and behaviour within the lessons. Therefore it involved summative assessment with formative assessment. This was an ongoing record of assessment within the unit that was created for each student within the class.
As I monitored these factors and also difficulties students may have, there has been an ongoing progression and development in most students' grades. Can the implementation of the learning styles be a reason for this?