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. They involveÂ educatingÂ methods, particular to an individual, that are presumed to allow that individual to learn best. It is commonly believed that most people favor some particular method of interacting with, taking in, and processingÂ stimuliÂ orÂ information.Â Based on this concept, the idea of individualized "learning styles" originated in the 1970s, and has gained popularity in recent years.Â It has been proposed that teachers should assess the learning styles of their students and adapt their classroom methods to best fit each student's learning style. The alleged basis for these proposals has been extensively criticized
Students, in fact all individuals, are most effective when they are taught in their personal learning style. In fact, there are three major types of learners: visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic. While most individuals without disabilities can learn using any one of these styles, most people have one for which they show a stronger affinity.
A Look at the Three Learning Styles
Visual LearnersÂ - Visual learners are those who generally think in terms of pictures. They often prefer to see things written down in a handout, text or on the overhead. They find maps, graphs, charts, and other visual learning tools to be extremely effective. They remember things best by seeing something written.
Auditory LearnersÂ - Auditory learners are those who generally learn best by listening. They typically like to learn through lectures, discussions, and reading aloud. They remember best through hearing or saying items aloud.
Kinesthetic Learners- Kinesthetic, also called tactile, learners are those who learn best through touching, feeling, and experiencing that which they are trying to learn. They remember best by writing or physically manipulating the information.
Learning Style Assessments
There are many tests available to help you and your students discover your best learning style. Generally speaking, however, if you are someone who is more likely to think in pictures, prefer to meet with someone in person, and are more likely to want visual diagrams when completing a project you have tendencies towards visual learning. Similarly, if you are more likely to think in terms of sounds, prefer to speak on the phone with someone, and want verbal instructions then you tend towards auditory learning. Finally, if you are more likely to think in terms of moving images like mini-movies in your mind, prefer to participate in an activity when you meet to speak with someone, and tend to jump right into a project without reading directions you tend towards tactile/kinesthetic learning.
How to Effectively Use Learning Styles in Class
In the best of all possible worlds, you would incorporate all three learning styles into each of your lessons. However, this is just not possible in the real world of teaching. In truth, it is often not hard to include both auditory and visual learning styles in your lessons. For example, you can have instructions written on the board and say them out loud. However, it is not always as easy to include the tactile/kinesthetic learning style into your lessons. The sad truth is that many students have this as their strongest learning style. It is best to not force the issue but instead find natural places to include kinesthetic learning. If your class warrants it, you could include simulations, role-playing, debates, or the use of manipulatives.
Concerns When Incorporating Learning Styles
Though rarer today then in the past, some teachers discount the importance of learning styles. They continue to teach in their one major method without trying to vary instructional methods. This is a mistake that will lead to less learning in the classroom.
On the other hand, many students and to a lesser degree some teachers make the mistake of thinking that they cannot learn using methods that are not focused on their learning style. This is also a huge mistake that in the end will result in less learning. If teachers do not help their students find ways to be successful learning information presented in any style, they are not helping them succeed in the future. The fact is that students will be faced with many different styles of teaching during the educational career. Only by finding ways to adapt and learn using other styles, will students end up succeeding.
Examples of ways that students can adapt:
Kinesthetic learners would include writing down information that they are to learn.
Visual learners could create word webs, venn diagrams, or other visual presentations of information.
Auditory learners could read a passage out loud from their textbook or from handouts.
A Look at Visual Learners:
A typical visual learner uses visualization techniques to remember things. They often have a good sense of direction because they visualize maps and directions in their mind. Many prefer to read information in a textbook or on the whiteboard rather than listen to the teacher lecture. They also enjoy doodling and drawing. Visual learners typically use sight words in their everyday terminology. For example, they might say "Let's take a look at this." or "Let's look at this from a different perspective." They remember details including colors and spatial arrangements.
Key Learning Methods for Visual Learners:
Visual learners learn best by seeing what they are being taught. Visual learners typically prefer images, maps, graphs, and other visual representations over other forms of instruction. They will find that if they include images, mind maps, lists, and other visual techniques in their notes then they will have a better chance of remembering key information.
Ways to Adapt Lessons for Visual Learners:
Including diagrams, mind maps, word webs, visuals, and other forms of graphic organizers will help visual learners get the most from your instruction. Teach students to use highlighters when going through their notes and to create flashcards when studying for tests and learning information. Try not to give only oral instructions before requiring students to complete an assignment. Further, stay away from lecture without accompanying notes and/or visuals.
A Look at Auditory Learners:
Auditory learners learn best by listening and talking aloud. They typically notice and remember sounds. They are good at remembering things that they hear. They are also good with words and language. They often read to themselves as they study. They are also often distracted by noise and sounds.
Key Learning Methods for Auditory Learners:
Auditory learners learn best through hearing the information. They often need to read the written word aloud to help them remember key points. Verbal repetition is an effective means of study for auditory learners.
Ways to Adapt Lessons for Auditory Learners:
Provide students with oral along with written instructions for assignments. Include whole group discussion in your class. Provide students with videos to complement the written text. Allow time for students to read out loud or talk through problems they might be having. Provide breaks from silent reading periods. Also, realize that those who are strong in auditory learning typically take longer to read a passage.
A Look at Kinesthetic Learners:
Kinesthetic learners typically learn best by doing. They are naturally good at physical activities like sports and dance. They enjoy learning through hands-on methods. They typically like how-to guides and action-adventure stories. They might pace while on the phone or take breaks from studying to get up and move around. Some kinesthetic learners seem fidgety, having a hard time sitting still in class.
Key Learning Methods for Kinesthetic Learners:
Kinesthetic learners learn best through doing including manipulating items, simulations and role plays, and other methods that physically involve them in the learning process. They enjoy and learn well from experimenting and first hand experience. Further, they learn best when activities are varied during a class period.
Ways to Adapt Lessons for Kinesthetic Learners:
Vary instruction not only from day-to-day but also within a single class period. Provide students with as many opportunities as your curriculum warrants to complete hands-on work. Allow students to role-play to gain further understanding of key concepts. Provide students with the opportunity to work in small discussion groups as they study materials. If possible, plan a field trip that can help reinforce key concepts. Allow students to stretch partially through the class if they seem to become restless.