Learning Styles Simplified
Aug 17, 2008 Learning Methodology 4060 Views
So much is made about the importance of learning styles and teaching methods. Here is a simplified breakdown of four basic learning styles and three basic modalities and my personal experience in using them.
"Work smarter, not harder."
Various authors and researchers have come up with different names for the basic learning styles. In my opinion, this can cause more confusion for the layperson than it solves because terminology lacks standardization. The same basic learning style can have four or five different names, depending on how many different books you read.
The bottom line is there appears to be four basic styles and three basic modalities. The styles themselves read similar to personality traits and the modalities are the ways that information is transported to the brain. While other styles and modalities appear in books and research, they are, more often than not, combinations of the basic styles and modalities listed below.
Often a person will have some, but not necessarily all, of the traits from a learning style. In fact, it is not unusual for a person to display traits from more than one style. It’s also not unusual for a person to process information by more than one modality.
As parents or educators, all we really need is to realize that learning styles and modalities are tools; tools that we can use to help our children process information more efficiently. Have you ever heard the statement “work smarter, not harder”? This is how we can use an understanding of learning styles.
To make things simple, I’m going to number each style. The number has no significance beyond separating each definition.
Style One: learns by doing, doesn’t necessarily like deep thinking, is spontaneous; often creative; does not like sitting still looking at books; prefers games, competitions, short presentations.
Style Two: likes clear, structured, well organized tasks; wants everything done in order; wants “just the facts not opinions, thank you.” Enjoys textbooks and works well with traditionally styled curriculum; has to work at being creative, but it is not necessarily a chore; not naturally spontaneous, and tends to be cautious.
Style Three: is a problem-solver, self-motivated, analyzes things, often prefers logical subjects like math and science; works well independently; enjoys long-term projects. Seems to work well with organized lectures as part of their curriculum.
Style Four: is very social, maybe even a “social butterfly” type thriving on personal interaction with many different people. Interested in people, ideas and principles of a subject, not necessarily the events themselves. Has to work at organization. They are often vulnerable to conflict and criticism. “Why” is a very important question to them.
Those are the four basic learning styles, and I can tell you from experience with my own children, trying to pigeon-hole or tag a child with only one label or style just doesn’t work. However, finding out which style is most dominant can help us to tailor activities so that the child can make the most of their learning opportunities.
The modalities come into play when we try and figure out how to process the information for the learning style. The three most common are:
Visual: receives information best through visual stimulation (i.e., pictures, diagrams, reading)
Kinesthetic: receives information best through touch and hands-on activities (i.e., craft projects, cuisenaire rods, science labs)
Auditory: receives information best via “sound bytes” (i.e., lectures, songs, books on tape)
Take each of your children and find out which style and which modality is the most dominant. After you have decided which learning style description appears to suit them best, and by which modality they process information best, you can go look for a curriculum or learning opportunities that will suit their individual needs.
But don’t be surprised that what once worked “best” eventually no longer does. Children evolve and change as they grow. It is a good idea to re-evaluate their style ever so often, especially if you begin to see that they are having difficulties or begin to dislike a curriculum, resource, or activity that worked well previously.
On a personal level, I dislike labeling people. I have found that it can cause confusion and often lacks constructive results. However, understanding learning styles and modalities, though at first glance a kind of label, has actually helped me deliver learning opportunities to my children more efficiently with more constructive and long term results. While I may focus our efforts on one style or modality, I try and include activities that would suit other styles and modalities to help my children expand their areas of interest and talents and to help them exercise areas where they need more development to balance out their skills.