Learning Styles – how do we learn best???
I was talking with our senior students recently about the topic of learning styles and how we learn best. This is an article I have written about the topic, but I have adapted it in a few places, to show how it pertains more specifically to our students here at Living Way…
Every person on this planet is unique. That’s a wonderful thing about the human race, don’t you think? Each of us has our own distinct blend of personality, temperament, intelligence, and learning styles. Some of us are number-crunchers and list-makers, others are natural born leaders and orators, while still others are artists, poets, philosophers, and still others have enviable practical or technical skills. Our world is a richer place for so much variety in the family of mankind.
What a pity, when it comes to schooling, that so much of it has to be done on a “one size fits all” basis. I realise this is driven by practical necessity, but parents and teachers do well to identify, value, and cater to the unique characteristics of our children as best we can.
There are many different ways of analysing and identifying the unique facets of humanness. Labelling such characteristics can be both helpful and limiting, depending on how such knowledge is used.
Take learning styles, for instance. Understanding how we best learn is really helpful for identifying and unlocking our potential.
One method of analysing learning styles applies two separate continuum: firstly, whether we are “concrete” or “abstract” learners and, secondly, whether we are “random” or “sequential” in our learning style.
A “concrete” learner is someone who learns by doing. They are task oriented and get satisfaction from achieving goals. They get impatient having to sit around listening to theory and would rather “just get on with it.” These students appreciate the goal setting aspect of our curriculum at Living Way, and can be successful learners because our programme enables each individual child to achieve success at their own level.
At the other end of this continuum, a more “abstract” learner needs to understand the theory and consider the possibilities. They will take longer to get around to things, but will think things through and understand more deeply. There is plenty of knowledge for these learners to “get their teeth into” in the ACE curriculum!
On a second continuum, a “random” learner is one who follows their intuition rather than the set procedure. These people are often very relational, and interaction with others in positive ways is important for their learning. Students who tend towards this learning style tend to find the procedural aspects of the ACE style curriculum challenging, but they do benefit from learning to work within structures and routines. To help meet the needs of this learning style, we are continually looking to supplement the daily ACE programme with opportunities for more creative and interactive learning activities.
By contrast to the random learner, a “sequential” learner is much more organised. Lists, facts, data, are all neatly categorised and filed in the filing cabinet of an orderly mind, ready for retrieval at a moment’s notice. These students will find the ACE curriculum a very good fit to their learning style.
A danger with applying labels such as these is that we can limit our children [or ourselves] to what we perceive to be their particular learning style: “Oh, he’s a ‘concrete-sequential’ learner, so he probably will find poetry boring.” We can also find ourselves making excuses for not trying to overcome the challenges inherent within a particular learning style: “Oh, I’m a random person, so I could never learn how to do long division.”
We must realize that this is only one facet of the very wonderful and complex diversity of human personality. No one “learning style” can adequately or accurately summarise our child’s uniqueness. But recognising these particular learning styles can help us identify what best motivates and energises our child’s learning, and what things are likely to be more of a challenge for them. It can help us understand and appreciate their wonderful individuality and better enjoy participating in their journey of growth and learning.