Monday, February 2, 2009

Learning Styles & Teaching Styles

There's much talk about learning styles and teaching styles. It's thought that children learn best through their personal learning style, and that in discovering it you can teach more effectively, improving their retention. There are different methods of analyzing and naming the different learning styles, and chances are your child fits into more than one category. 

I'll be looking at two different systems of classification. The first system of modalities is based on how we take in information best- by hearing, seeing, or doing. The second system is linked more to our personality- and why we may respond better to different methods.

Keep in mind while reading, that your learning style typically translates into your teaching style. When you're not reaching your child in ways that seem natural to you, the two of you likely just have different learning styles. Sometimes, this difference is misinterpreted, making you wrongly assume the child is lazy, unintelligent, misbehaving, not listening, or just not trying.

Down the road, as your child grows older, he'll also benefit by recognizing for himself how he learns best and using corresponding strategies to compensate for weak areas and maximize strengths. "Learning differences are not just liabilities as we tend to think of them. They are pathways to the great potential that lies within."(1:109) Your child's learning style is likely related to his special gifts & talents waiting to be discovered. These "hidden talents can become a great source of joy and direction."(1:133)

Update: I still find the modalities and personalities to be interesting topics. However, I think sometimes people stress over them for nothing. As it turns out, our Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool utilizes all three modalities, and I am equally confident that it naturally stimulates all four learning personalities. 

Is this to say that the information about learning styles is useless? Not at all. Knowing where your child is coming from helps you relate to them better. When you're aware what stimulates them, even what is more likely to distract them, you're better able to understand them and work together. Knowing their learning personality will make it easier to facilitate discussion about what they just read or learned. Or, when you hit a brick wall and something just isn't clicking, take a fresh look at it. Perhaps switching up the modality will help. For example, after an ongoing struggle with spelling words, we approached the subject fresh by incorporating sign language (kinesthetic) and voice recordings (audio) for practice (instead of strictly visual), and it really made a difference.

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