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Learning Style: A Mirror into a Child’s Natural Soul

09/01/2009 16:17 ● Published by Anonymous

Does it seem as though your child is constantly moving?  Does she prefer things explained to her, rather than reading it herself? Does your son read everything he can get his hands on, yet fumble with verbal instructions?  The reason this occurs is because each child has a preference for the way they decipher, retain and disperse information.  The manner in which information is learned, material is comprehended and concepts are processed is called a “learning style.”   How often have adults wondered what makes a child tick?  Identifying one’s learning styles and understanding how best to utilize it, is like a shortcut to deciphering the code – at least from the learning aspect.

Types of Learning Styles

Since there is such a variety of ways in which information can be received (through words, music, nature, logic, pictures, self, and movement), there are also a significant number of learning styles, and they are broken down into two categories, primary and secondary.

The four primary styles:

  • Visual: When information is watched (seen or read) or visualized.
  • Auditory: When information is heard by the individual.
  • Somatic (Tactile/Kinesthetic): When information is manipulated (handled, drawn, or written), or performed.
  • Reflective: When new information is developed from thinking about what was experienced.
With the following secondary learning styles:
  • Inductive Reasoning: When information is broken down into pieces and explained in smaller quantities.
  • Deductive Reasoning: When conclusions are drawn from the contents of the “big picture.”
  • Interpersonal Interactions: When dialogue is used to solve problems after the presentation of information.
  • Intrapersonal Interactions: When information is solved by working alone.
Why are Learning Styles Important?

Learning styles uncover how we best receive and process information.  The idea is to use an individual’s natural preference to help facilitate learning.  Did you know that less than twenty-percent (20%) of the population are auditory learners?  Did you also know that approximately eighty-percent (80%) of all materials are presented in an auditory manner?  That said, knowing how a child best learns material and looking for ways in which to either present materials in his/her preferred style, or helping a child develop the learning style that he/she will be most apt to receive information in, are two ways this information can be utilized.

The Benefits to the Student

Each day millions of students worldwide are being presented information which may or may not be delivered in their preferred learning style.  Some of these students will be made to feel inadequate because they are not readily grasping the information their peers seem to comprehend with ease.  After months or years of this reinforcement, is it any wonder the “love of learning” light dims or extinguishes?

Imagine how much easier it would be to keep a child engaged if his/her learning style was addressed on a regular basis.  Imagine a child’s delight at being taught spelling with play dough, or being allowed to listen to tunes while studying?  Suppose your child thrives on projects, but because of his/her learning style tests are a problem?

Just think about how the typical teenager could be struggling with a specific subject in school, yet know the words to every song by his/her favorite singer.   Well, as frustrating as it might be, if learning style preference were applied, perhaps the solution would be to put the subject matter to music as well.

The Benefits to the Parent/Family

As a caregiver, your role is to do what you can to help your child be the best person he/she can be.  Imagine how much easier this would be if you knew your child studied best sprawled out in the middle of the floor with the television or radio on for background noise, or at the library where it’s quiet instead of at home with his/her siblings?  What if you were able to understand the reasons behind the poor grades and take the problem to his/her teacher to discuss ways in which you could work together to help the child better decode the information being presented in class?  What if you worked with the child at home and presented the class work in his/her preferred learning style?  Being in possession of this key piece of information during preschool years could help you mitigate these potential problems and help your child learn to navigate through the learning process easier.

One of the key things parents can learn through learning styles is that they also have a preferred manner in which things are learned, and that their learning style will probably differ from their child’s.  Knowing this - what works for the parent, will probably not work for the child.  How enlightening is this piece of information for the family unit?  The children are probably not being disobedient, but have simply learned their preference regarding study times or location –and it’s not at their desk in a completely quiet environment like yours.  Or, flash cards may have worked for you, but recalling facts while tossing a ball works better for them.  Who knew learning styles could be the start of “family peace?”

The Benefits to the Teacher

Teachers are humans too, and most teachers have a preference for how their lessons are presented.  Remember the teachers who always gave multiple choice tests or essays?  Well, in order for teachers to best utilize learning styles, they should also know their own learning style and consider it when devising their plans.  In essence, teachers should mix things up a bit.  If a teacher has a class in which a mere twenty-percent of students receive information through listening, when lecturing they’re going to be losing eighty-percent of the class.  However, if a lecture is accompanied by a demonstration, and/or slide show, that teacher will probably end up reaching the majority of the class.  This would be a definite win-win for teachers, parents and students.

It’s not easy, or possible, to reach every student, each with his/her own distinctive learning style, but any tools a teacher can use to meet a variety of learning styles with each lesson will greatly improve the learning process.   A class full of engaged students will have less time for disruptive behavior which will result in better time management.  I can’t think of a single teacher who wouldn’t mind completing his/her lesson plans each day and possibly having free time at the end of a class or two.  Can you?

In a Nutshell

It’s in the best interest of each child for parents and/or teachers to observe and determine a child’s natural preference to facilitate learning and comprehension.  The earlier it is done in student’s home life and school career, the better.  It’s much easier to start the learning process being in possession of all of the tools, than to implement them after the fact.  However, while earlier is better, it is never too late to determine learning styles to facilitate learning, or the manner in which one is naturally inclined to teach someone else.

Any tool designed to help adults gain insight into how a young brain works is an excellent resource. While a learning style takes note of one’s natural inclination towards a specific style, it is not the only way a child can learn, but the easiest way for the child to learn.  Most importantly, it is a tool to be sharpened and honed to suit the purposes of the child and his/her educational and lifelong environment.

Ironically, when I self-administered a learning style tests, I was found to be middle of the road in the primary learning styles – meaning I can successfully learn in each of them, with an intrapersonal secondary learning style and told that writing might be a good career choice!  One of the free online tests I utilized can be found at www.Edutopia.org.  However, if interested in learning styles and testing, there are a great number of both free and fee testing resources available.

Kim Green-Spangler, B.S. Ed and M.S. Eng., is a freelance writer, coach, wife and mother.  She specializes in topics pertaining to family life, fitness, parenting, and home-based businesses.

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