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Going Beyond Just Visual Vs. Verbal Learning

Once upon a time, the world of science discovered the differences between the right and the left hemispheres of the brain. Initially, the belief was that those who were right-brain dominant were creative. And those who were left-brain dominant were more logical. It would later come to light this wasn’t truly the case. 

At the time though, it encouraged many educators to see a world of visual vs. verbal learning in order to educate their students. 

Thankfully, many more subtleties have emerged since the early days of understanding learning styles. And this includes looking at learning preferences.

The Learning Style Fallacy

There are many theories abound centering on learning styles. They strive to classify people as verbal, visual, auditory, or tactile. The intention behind this was to create teaching styles that would mesh with these learning styles.

Unfortunately, it’s never been quite that simple. That’s because it goes deeper than just the learning style. So much of a student’s ability to comprehend the material depends on their learning preferences.

Moving Beyond Just Visual Vs. Verbal Learning

So the question is, what are learning preferences? 

Think of learning preferences as a sort of sub-category of learning styles. They have to do with the way students take in and process information. And yeah, visual vs. verbal is one of those subcategories. 

For example, when it comes to the presentation of material, visual learners tend to better comprehend visual presentations of material such as pictures, graphs, or charts. Meanwhile, verbal learners have a firmer grasp on information when it’s presented with words – be that spoken or written.

Traditionally, conventional education has heavily favored verbal learning preferences. This left visual learners in the dark. Aware of this discrepancy, arts academy high schools were developed to be more in tune with each individual student’s learning style AND preferences. 

Educators at such schools have always thought outside the box. They also consider three scales of learning preferences when working with their students:

Sensing Vs. Intuitive 

This scale relates to how a student prefers to take in information. 

For sensing learners, information that focuses on details, facts, figures, and proven procedures appeals to their concrete and practical nature. They are highly realistic.

Meanwhile, intuitive learners prefer to look at the big picture and seek patterns. They thrive on abstract and original information. They’re hungry to work with ideas to discover possibilities and relationships.

Active Vs. Reflective 

This scale addresses how a learner prefers to process information.

As the name implies, active learners learn better by doing. They want to talk about information and try out what’s presented in a hands-on fashion.

By contrast, reflective learners like to think. They want to sit with the information and think it through before taking any sort of action. 

Sequential Vs. Global 

This scale looks at how students prefer to organize information.

Sequential learners work in a linear and orderly way. They prefer information offered in sequenced steps and tend to be very organized and systematic.

For global learners, the process is far more holistic. For them, organizing information can appear random and disorganized. Even so, this is how they arrive at an often creative solution. 

How Arts Integrated Educators Incorporate Learning Preferences

Though each of these scales presents two opposite preferences, it’s important to understand that students will likely utilize all of these preferences at different times. They just tend to favor some more than others.

1. Visual/Verbal Preferences

For those with a visual preference, educators utilize sketches, photographs, and a wealth of other visual representations. The use of color coding and flow charts can also be helpful in presenting information.

Meanwhile, converting diagrams, graphs, and other visuals into written descriptions is helpful for those who process info verbally. Educators may schedule meetings or assign students to discuss the material with family members or friends as well.

2. Active/Reactive Preferences

Because active learners are ready to go right into action, teachers may have them compensate for lack of discussion by having them seek out other students interested in the same or similar topics so they can discuss the information. 

Meanwhile, those who prefer more reflective processing are encouraged to go beyond the reading and review the material to come up with possible questions or applications. They may be assigned tasks such as writing a short summary or journaling.

3. Sensing/Intuitive Preferences

Students who demonstrate sensing preferences are encouraged to find real-world connections with the information and discuss them with the teacher, other students, or family members. They also benefit from finding specific examples of the concepts presented.

On other hand, students on the intuitive side do well to find theoretical connections to information presented. They’re reminded to not overlook details and to seek out interpretation when linking facts.

4. Sequential/Global Preferences

Educators working with those with sequential preferences will take the time to organize the material into sequential order. At the same time, they may encourage global skills by relating new information to that which has already been presented.

As for the more globally inclined, teachers will recommend students generate an overall picture by casually skimming through the reading first before attempting to focus on details. They will also encourage students to find real-world connections to information they’ve just learned. 

Is Your Creative Child Struggling With Conventional Education?

Some kids thrive in a conventional learning environment. But it’s not ideal for everyone. 

If you think your child could better grasp information in an educational setting that works beyond just visual vs. verbal learning, contact us today.

We welcome you to take a tour of our school and see what education looks like when teachers take the time to teach based on each student’s individual learning preferences. 


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