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Educating to Different Learning Styles

There are different learning styles for everybody and each of us learns in unique ways.

Some people do better with visual information while others glean knowledge from a lecture. There are those who absorb everything through reading, and other students who benefit from some sort of movement to fully grasp a concept.

And the diverse range of learning styles doesn’t stop there. As such, learning is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Thus, neither is teaching.

Conventional schools generally use linguistic or logical learning styles that work well for a specific group of students. But some learners find other styles more effective. The most successful educators are able to identify different learning styles and then teach to those.

What Are the Different Learning Styles?

For a long time, the idea that people learn in different ways was limited to only the most astute educators. It certainly wasn’t embraced as an educational concept.

But by the 1960s, it began to gain momentum. Since that time, the concept of actual learning styles has influenced how educators teach. And it was revolutionary in spawning specialized institutions such as arts academy high schools or tech academies that cater to unique teaching approaches.

By many accounts, there are three or four basic types of learners. For our purposes though, we’re going to look at seven different learning styles here:

1. Visual

As the name would suggest, visual learners acquire information most effectively through seeing or interpreting illustrations of material. Yet, they also do remarkably well with reading – as this is also a visual skill. Plus, they have the ability to see in their minds the action of what they’ve read and then lock it in.

Visual learners have great observational skills too. They do tend to struggle with listening to directions or any information that’s not written out for them though.

2. Auditory

Unlike their visual counterparts, auditory learners are at their best when processing knowledge through hearing and verbal communication. They thrive on lectures, oral reports, and reading out loud, as they need to hear information in order to fully understand it.

They also enjoy discussing and even debating material they learn in class – though, with their proclivity for verbosity, they tend to dominate conversations.

3. Verbal

Students who are strong at expressing themselves through writing or speaking are considered verbal learners. They love anything that has to do with words and are often hungry to play with and learn new vocabulary.

Verbal learners use scripting, role-playing, and mnemonics to process information. Pretty much anything that involves both speaking and writing appeals to them.

4. Kinesthetic

If you’re someone who best acquires information through movement and touch, then you’re a kinesthetic learner. These are students who may have trouble sitting still because they thrive on hands-on activities such as art projects, role-playing, and skits.

Unlike visual, auditory, and verbal learners, kinesthetic learners need the experience of movement to absorb knowledge. Therefore, they often have trouble in classes with a lot of reading or lectures.

5. Logical

Students who shine in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects are likely logical learners. They’re most comfortable when they’re using their brains for mathematical reasoning, linking concepts, and recognizing patterns.

Similar to the verbal learners’ love for words, logical learners adore numbers and organization. They learn through classifying and grouping information that helps them to better grasp it.

6. Social

A social learner is one who excels in social or interpersonal learning environments. This classification, along with #7 below, is really more a sub-category or a qualifier of the above five learning styles.

For instance, a student may be both a verbal and social learner if he or she adores words, reads voraciously, yet loves to listen to others and is able to extend empathy.

Which brings us to the second subcategory.    

7. Solitary

Solitary learners are independent and introspective. They are at their best when learning in a way that allows them to be alone and focus without the distraction of others.

Logical learners are often solitary learners as well. Being able to learn introspectively is crucial to how their minds function. But it’s important to note that that won’t be true for every logical learner.

Once again, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to learning styles.

Educating Different Learning Styles

So how can educators parse out all these different learning styles in order to best serve each individual student? It’s a big order, to be sure.

Here’s how.

“We should start by addressing something important,” says William Haynes, educator and recruiting regional manager for the Princeton Review. “Learning styles, as we often think about them, don’t necessarily exist.”

Wait, what?

“We are generally taught to believe that our learning styles are either visual, audible, or kinesthetic,” Haynes continues. “But studies have found that students who thought they were visual learners, for example, didn’t necessarily do better when presented with more visual material.”

“That being said, the idea of learning styles is prominent in our culture. Maybe we could call them learning preferences or learning familiarity.”

Ah. There it is. And Haynes knows of what he speaks. As a teacher, he was able to engage more students and get better results by offering material in a variety of formats. “Engaging more senses and even the mere repetition certainly makes a difference.”

This is part of what makes specialized schools like arts academy middle schools and high schools, for example, so successful. Using art to teach geometry will appeal to a visual learner. And an auditory learner may learn history through music.

Think about it. Chances are, you learned to sing the alphabet before you knew what all (if any) of the letters were. Right?

Not Getting Boxed Into Different Learning Styles

At the end of the day, educators in these schools play on the strengths of each learning style but recognize the value of exploring other avenues with their students. Because no single individual fits neatly into a specific learning style box.

They encourage their students to try any number of methods for processing information including:

  • Using flashcards, lists, or flowcharts.
  • Taking visual information and turning it into words.
  • Joining with other students to brainstorm ideas.
  • Recording lectures so they can later apply images or music.
  • Writing a song to memorize a theory or historical information.
  • Tracing words with their fingers as they read.
  • Printing out Powerpoint or other presentation slides to review.
  • Rewriting ideas using their own words.
  • Walking, dancing, or bouncing a ball while reviewing notes.

And they’ve found that experimenting with these varying techniques for different learning styles has revolutionized their students’ ability to process and learn information.

Even more importantly, students who struggled to learn in the past have greater confidence and self-esteem when they’re finally able to show the world where and how they shine.

The possibilities really are endless.

Does Educating Different Learning Styles Appeal to You?

If your child is struggling in school, it may be the result of his or her school not educating to different learning styles.

So consider sending your child to a specialized school that recognizes his or her strengths and encourages exploration.

Contact us today to discuss enrolling your child in Arts Academy in the Woods. And prepare for possibility.


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