How Understanding Learning Styles Can Help Your Children

We all know that individuals learn differently — some remember best the material that they hear, while others remember what they see better. Some people need to experience something hands on in order to do it, while others need to just read the directions. These needs within us are shaped both by our experiences and our biological make up. Learning styles go beyond memory style and learning preference, though. In fact, there are a LOT of things that go into making the learning environment around your child (or yourself) as successful as possible! An article published in California Journal of Science Education, Survey of Research on Learning Styles, says that learning styles are “as individual as a signature” and that understanding them can give us the ability to set up a learning environment designed exactly as a student needs. You can read the article (and the Journal it’s from, which is pretty interesting!) at http://marric.us/files/CSTA_learnjournal.pdf#page=76

According to these authors, here are the things that make up a child’s learning style:

  1.  Right or Left Brain Hemisphere Dominance. This information will give you an idea about the structure, independence, group/individual needs, background noise/activity, if they’ll be motivated by peers or adults, and even optimal lighting for the learning environment.
  2. Age and Gender. Considering these things will help you figure out lighting, mobility needs, and sound needs. For instance, the need for sound is stronger for younger children, who also need less light (the need for light increases with age). And as I’m sure you already figured, boys need to move while learning more than girls do!
  3. Perceptual Preferences. According to the Institute of Learning, “Perceptual learning styles are the means by which learners extract information from their surroundings through the use of their five senses.”  The different preferences (with links so you can learn more) are: 
    Print – refers to seeing printed or written words.
    Aural – refers to listening. 
    Haptic
     – refers to the sense of touch or grasp.
    Interactive – refers to verbalization.
    Kinesthetic – refers to whole body movement.
    Olfactory – refers to sense of smell and taste.
    Visual – refers to seeing visual depictions such as pictures and graphs.

    Studies have shown that in order to score the highest on evaluations of learning, the child should first be presented with the material in his or her perceptual preference, then that material should be reinforced by their secondary or tertiary preference (. So for example, my son is very visual. I might show him a video of a Magic School bus episode or a picture book about germs first, then I might reinforce that lesson by doing a hands on germ experiment (to meet his secondary preference for kinesthetic), and end by him listening to a song about germs (aural).

  4. Social Preference. In general, small groups are best for young students (as opposed to them doing work on their own without teacher involvement), heavy social learning in Jr. High, and then tapering off to do work independently and without as much teacher involvement in High School. This can all be affected by the student, though, so remember that your child is an individual and watch (and ask) to see how he or she learns best among peers and with/without a teacher!
  5. Time of Day. Is your child a morning, afternoon, or evening person? IOWA achievement test scores were significantly higher in the research when children were administered the test during the time of day that matched them best! I can vouch for this personally as I know my daughter does best with her most challenging subjects (her reading to me) in the morning, but then listens the best in the evening (if I’m reading to her).
  6. Mobility Needs. (I’m going to paraphrase from the article here). A bunch of kids were sent to psychologists for hyperactivity assessments. What did the psychologists say? That the kids were just “normal kids” with higher mobility needs–they were not actually hyperactive. Furthermore, the research found that the typical classroom environment was actually HURTING the education of the high mobility needs of (mainly) boys. Yikes! So instead of running to medication or discipline, consider the possibility that your boy might just be a boy and might just need to run around. 
Put it all together, and you’ll have a really clear picture of what your child needs in order to learn and succeed the best! Learning styles are more than just being partial to sight, sound, or hands on. How do you think you learn best, and how do you think your kids learn best after reading this post?

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