It is important for a teacher to realise that he has to provide for a group of students with variable learning styles
WHEN you say "this is not my style", you mean "this is not the way I do things". In education, the learning style of a student is a method that best allows him/her to gather and use information.
All teachers, irrespective of their disciplines, can put an understanding of learning styles to good use in their teaching practices. It makes teaching more rewarding, communication more effective and increases students' participation in teaching/learning activities.
All students, regardless of the course they are in, can learn more effectively if they know their own learning styles. It helps them to maximise their learning potential, overcome problems in the classroom, improve their learning strategies, understand how best to study and get better scores in examinations and reduce stress.
There are three basic learning methods: visual; auditory and tactile. No one learning style is better than the other. Most individuals possess a combination of different learning patterns; however one mode is more dominant than others.
Visual Learners: These individuals study through what they are able to see with their own eyes. They usually occupy the first row in class and have a tendency to describe things in terms of appearances. They love images, diagrams, graphs, maps and pictures. They prefer to read instructions or the text on their own to increase their understanding.
When studying, these students use different colour highlighters or pens when they are reading and taking notes. They may also be more sensitive to visual distractions. Visual learners frequently are good writers and will commonly perform quite well on written assignments. Nearly 65 per cent of adult students are visual learners.
Auditory Learners: These students learn best by listening. They absorb information more efficiently through sounds, music, lectures, discussions and debates. They like recorded lectures and books on tapes so that they can listen to them again and again. Reading aloud helps them to retain information. They may also be more sensitive to outside noises. Rather than the written examination, auditory learners tend to do better at oral presentations and reports. About 30 per cent of adult students are auditory learners.
Tactile Learners: They are also called kinaesthetic learners. They learn best through doing, acting and touching. They like hands-on activities, exploring, performing tasks and conducting experiments. Nearly all the children in nurseries and early school days are tactile learners but only five per cent of university students fall into this category.
Most individuals will be able to determine their particular learning patterns. It may not be quite so easy to identify if you possess characteristics from more than one learning method. A number of inventories and questionnaires on learning styles are available on the Internet.
LdPride.net (www.ldpride.nt) in its booklet on Understanding Your Learning Styles has given some of the following useful tips for students.
The visual learner should:
l Ask for written directions.
l Use diagrams and flow charts for taking notes.
l Visualise spelling of words or facts that must be memorised.
l Sit in the front row of the classroom.
l Watch videos.
l Use highlighters to mark important points in notes.
l Use graph paper in order to make diagrams and charts for key points.
l Use illustrations to remember important material.
l Use visual metaphors to associate relevant content.
l Write down explanations for difficult points.
The auditory learner should:
l Use audiotapes for learning.
l Read information aloud when studying.
l Use word association techniques to remember facts.
l Participate in class discussions.
l Join a study group or study with a partner.
l Make up songs or rhymes to go along with the pertinent material.
l Write steps in a sentence form and then read them out loud.
The tactile learner should:
l Practise techniques.
l Create models.
l Engage in hands-on activity.
l Study in a position that is comfortable, even if it is not a tradition desk/table or chair.
l Take field trips.
l Work on drills or memory exercises while walking or exercising.
l Act out key points.
l Use beats or rhythm to explain or memorise information.
l Record lectures and then listen to them while working out or walking.
Another description of learning styles groups students into:
i) Competitive (compete with other students and prefer teacher-centred classroom activities);
ii) Collaborative (share ideas with others and like student-lead small group sessions),
iii) Avoidant (uninterested and non-participant, sit quietly in one corner );
iv) Participant (eager to take part and get actively involved in discussions);
v) Dependant (seek authority figure and like clear instructions and follow them strictly) and
vi) Independent (think for themselves and like unregimented study and projects).
Implications for teaching:
It is important for a teacher to realise that he/she has to provide for a group of students with variable learning styles.
The teaching session should have something for everybody and the same material should be presented in different ways so that all the students benefit equally. The teacher should :
i) incorporate materials from students' everyday experiences (global), balancing theory and models with demonstrations and examples (tactile),
ii) using pictures, sketches and diagrams (visual)
iii) to supplement verbal information which should be delivered clearly and loudly enough to be understood easily (auditory).
Assessment methods should also cater for different learning styles. Preferred assessment methods :
i) for visual learners are essays, maps and diagrams;
ii) for auditory learners, oral examination and written responses to lectures; and
iii) for tactile learners, filling in the blanks and multiple-choice questions.
The writer is Professor of Paediatrics and curriculum coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi Mara. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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