I want to encourage my readers to take the learning style inventories Dr. Angela Tagaris assigned to her class this week (here is one from the North Carolina State University, and here is one from a commercial outfit. Doing so will reveal how you learn and allow you to adjust the biases that are thereby built into your teaching and communciating with other humans. For teachers, the knowledge will be important in helping their students learn.
According to the first test,
- I am an active, more than a reflective learner (score 9)
- I sense, more than intuit data input (score 5)
- I learn by seeing much more than by reading (score 11), and
- When engaging in learning tasks I proceed more sequentially than globally (score 7)
The second test shows my “Learning Style Preferences” to be:
- 33% a Visual Learner
- 41% a Auditory Learner
- 25% a Kinesthetic Learner
This shows me what I have known about myself, but never in such high relief. I would have been able to tell you, for instance, that I was a visual learner before I took the first test, but I would have supposed that I were much more verbal than I am shown to be. That is because I am an English teacher, and English is a field that, as Eisner (2002) says, is dominated by one mode of presentation and response, the written, or verbal.
Everyone is different, and so everyone will learn in somewhat different ways. Acknowledging how “humans employ different knowledge systems to acquire, store, and retrieve understanding, and [how] they use different performance systems to express what they know about the world” (Eisner, 148) means an educator must adapt to these important differences in his/her learners. By knowing the students’ learning styles and preferences when designing and implementing curriculum, the teacher can more efficiently provide them with the sorts of learning experiences that will maximize their learning.
By checking the students’ learning styles, we can customize a curriculum to each learner. Of course, teachers are ethically obligated to provide their best care for the children in their charge, but according to Eisner, a constitutional lawyer could bring suit against a teacher who fails to account for the learning differences in his/her students. “One could argue,” he suggests, “that by withholding [diverse modes of learning]… opportunities from students, a significant proportion of them are denied equal educational opportunity and that certain modes of presentation and forms of response deny them the opportunity to display what they have learned in the forms that most suit their aptitudes” (148).
So not only is inventorying and adapting to learning styles important on a practical level, it may also be a teacher’s legal liability!
Work cited: Elliot W. Eisner, The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs, third edition, 2002)
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