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Learning style can be defined as the different methods and preferences used by learners in the process of learning. Individual learning style and techniques abound in such a way that learners discover that they have a particular learning style with little or no use of the other styles. It is also possible for a learner to develop ability in less dominant learning styles with respect to an activity with little or no use of his/her predominant learning style. Hence, we can conclusively say that the best way to learn depends on the person's ability to discover his/her own learning style with respect to the activity involved.
The VAK model is the abbreviated form of the Visual-Auditory-Kinaesthetic learning styles model. According to this model, most people possess a dominant learning style; however some people may have an evenly balanced blend and mixed of the three learning styles. The VAK model is as depicted below:
Visual: Seeing and Reading
Visual learners learn best by watching a demonstration, looking at graphics, or reading. These learners will rather prefer mostly pictures and spatial understanding than listening to an explanation. An example of teaching activity that suits this learning style is demonstration.
Auditory: Listening and Speaking
Auditory learners would rather prefer listening to things being explained than reading about them. Reciting information out loud and having music in the background may be a common study method, as other noises may become a distraction resulting in a need for a relatively quiet place. An example of teaching activity that suits this learning style is lecturing.
Kinaesthetic: Touching and Doing.
This learning style is also referred to as 'Physical', or 'Tactile', or 'Touchy-Feely'. These learners process information best through "hands-on" experience. They prefer "action-doing" activities rather than the "sit still" activities. An example of teaching activity that suits this learning style is experiential.
It is worthwhile to note that if there is a mismatch between the student's learning style and the teacher's teaching style the student will definitely not understand what he/she is being taught; which can eventually lead to poor grades and low self esteem on the part of the student. Based on the aforementioned reasons, the teacher is expected to incorporate a variety of different teaching learning styles into his/her lesson plan in order to make the lesson all inclusive and enable them to learn more effectively.
Differentiation is defined as the act by which teachers/trainers using a range of different approaches and resources to accommodate the different individuals in the classrooms. The best way to meet pupil's different learning needs is to deliver the curriculum in a number of different ways; to differentiate the vehicle by which the skills, knowledge and concepts arrive, as well as presenting a range of tasks. The reason for doing this is because it ensures the maximum amount of pupil involvement, i.e. pupil planning, pupil assessment and pupil decision making.
Examples of activities that are appropriate to the three identified learning styles are as follows:
Visual: Using highlighter pens to annotate work.
Auditory: Introducing new words through language games.
Kinaesthetic: By providing opportunities for learners to do things.
Functional skills are practical skills in English, Mathematics and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). These practical skills which include employability, personal and developmental skills are expected to be completed by Learners undertaking the 14-19 Diplomas as part of their principal learning because they would soon be used as replacement for the current skills requirement in apprenticeships. The qualifications with respect to these skills have been developed up to level 2. The importance of these practical skills cannot be overemphasized as they are designed to allow individuals to work independently, effectively and confidently.
Embedding functional skills involves adding the three functional skills to a specific area to be taught so that learners can learn the specific subject in question and also simultaneously develop their reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, basic math, ICT etc. Embedding functional skills need only be at the level of the learners and the subject.
Below are a few ways of generally embedding functional skills:
Not accepting written work with poor spelling or grammar. Offer support if necessary.
Give learners worksheets to practise any tricky maths
Encourage them to use your course as a reason to upgrade their IT skills
It is expected that any lesson plan by the teacher/trainer should have these three different elements of functional skills embedded in them.
I will use a module in my specialist area (ICT) called Customer support provision for IT Professionals as an example.
The helpdesk customer support module is a Level 3 City & Guilds course that teaches learners how to handle customer complain and support queries in a professional manner. It is an ICT course and the scenario involves learners working for a Support company. It consists of three main tasks and two sub tasks.
Task A: Learners are to respond to 10 different emails from customers either complaining about the support services or requesting for assistance from the helpdesk. They also have to use database software to log all the calls they deal with on the helpdesk.
Embedded functional Skills in Task A: LITERACY and ICT. The learners have to write/compose a professional email response to complaints or request which MUST be grammatically correct. They also use Microsoft access to log the calls in a database.
Task B: Learners will work with a dataset on Microsoft Excel. They are to analyse the data and then write a report on their analysis. Their report MUST contain mathematical diagrams such as Pie charts, bar charts and graphs.
Embedded functional skills in Task B: MATHS (NUMERACY) creating pie charts, bar charts, graphs AND LITERACY writing a report.
Task C: Learners MUST create a handout that illustrates how to resolve common support problems. The instructions in the handout MUST be grammatically correct and easy to understand and then distributed to customers. Learners also do a short talk presentation for customers. The presentation must be based on a common support fault.
Embedded functional skills in Task C: LITERACY i.e. developing a handout and conducting a one on one presentation session.
There are many other modules similar to the one discussed above in my specialist area. These modules are embedded with all the functional skills and are designed not only to assess the learner's level of functional skills but also to help them develop the needed skills in employment and life.