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Students and Their Learning Styles

learning styles

Students and Their Learning Styles

learning styles

Oops! Where’s the Motivation?

Picture this: School has been out for a month and there is a home school curricula convention coming up. You aren’t sure what in the world to teach for middle school history next year, and you talk to several friends about what they do for history. Two people you really like and trust totally love their history curriculum and their kids do too. So, you go to the convention, see the program, and listen to a speaker present it. You think it’s a little bit expensive, but you don’t have to pay for shipping if you buy today. You buy it, bring it home, let it sit for a while because you’re afraid of it and a week or two before school starts again you crack it open and get going.

Everything is going well for the first few days. Then, oops! A page seems missing. The page that says: “How to Motivate Your Students.” There can be many reasons why a student isn’t motivated. Today’s twist will be on one of those reasons: learning styles.

The “Struggling Learner” blog that I wrote previously concluded with an encouragement to watch what brings your student more alive in the learning process. This is directly related to learning styles. My “Labeling Children” blog ended with a few ideas to apply, one of which was to know that children learn in different ways, and to be willing to change what you are doing to accommodate. This is also is related to knowing a child’s learning style.

(I know that no one has an ending supply of money to keep buying new curricula, but you could borrow your friend’s books for a week or two in the summer before you decide to buy your own, or with wisdom, allow your older student to be part of the choosing process in research at home or at a convention or both.)

Considering your child’s learning style is sometimes very helpful, especially if you hit a roadblock in any of your teaching progress. Click to tweet

Learning Styles

learning styles What do I mean by “learning styles”? Perhaps this is a “no brainer” for some of you, but if you’re like me you need it a bit more spelled out. A learning style is your tendency toward how you like to learn best. If you are a visual learner you may not enjoy a straight lecture. You would rather have someone show you how to do something rather than tell you.

Typical Learning Style Definitions

Typically there are three divisions of learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. The auditory learner’s strength is seen as within the hearing realm. The visual learner’s strength is in what he/she sees, and the kinesthetic learner learns best by doing, moving, and using their hands. But these three categories seem to make learning styles too simplistic.

Debra Bell Says…

This brings us to what Debra Bell says about learning styles. She goes beyond the typical auditory, visual, and kinesthetic categories of learning. Most of us are a mixture of a couple of types, but once in a while one particular style jumps out at you, and you say, “That’s why my son/daughter/student isn’t responding…they are totally THIS instead of THAT.”

Mrs. Debra Bells puts her learners into 4 categories defined in an expanded way.

  1. the Active learner
  2. the Routine learner
  3. the Focused Learner
  4. the Global learner.

learning styles Ms. Bell’s research in the development of her categories takes into account the typical auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, plus information from Myers-Briggs, considering the thinker/feeler, sensor/intuitor, judge/perceiver, and introvert/extrovert.

In addition to Myers-Briggs categories, Ms Bell gives focus to the concrete/abstract, active/reflective learners and how they take in and internalize information. She gives attention to temperament types, going on the work of Dr. Keith Golay and his research on learning patterns and temperament.

A condensed version of category breakdowns and suggestions from some of Ms. Bell’s own words:

The Active Learner

The active/spontaneous learner likes to take things apart, learn spontaneously, does not like constraints or routine, has short attention span, is competitive and quick, is inventive and outgoing, and can be somewhat deviant when boundaries are proposed. This child needs quiet, needs rewards, and needs to move. Make learning concrete rather than abstract: think unit studies and sports.

The Routine Learner

The routine learner is compliant and thoughtful in nature, but is upset easily and does not work well in large noisy groups. This learner has difficulties thinking in the abstract and is not an idea person. Rules and clear guidelines are important to this learner. Material that is presented as factual and in a timeline fashion makes the routine learner most comfortable. Set up this type of learner for success by giving small and frequent opportunities to be creative, which is hard for this learner. This learner is very dependable and organized.learning styles

The Focused/Conceptual Learner

This learner can’t get enough information about everything. This child is serious minded, inquisitive, doesn’t mind being alone, likes to collect things, can be easily frustrated, and is somewhat of a perfectionist. The weaknesses in this learner are social skills and acceptance of their own limitations. This learner needs to be able to be free to move ahead at his/her own pace. This child is good on the detail, but not on interpersonal skills. Set him up with ways to develop relationships or to care more about others’ needs.

The Conceptual/Global Learner

This learner is creative, loves to read, is outgoing, dramatic, ambitious, and popular with a broad range of interests. They do not like to study be organized, or not have choices. She can be competitive, but like to cooperate among a group of friends. Group learning like in group unit studies is appealing to this learner. A group is fun and motivating for this learner.

In Short

Giving credence to learning styles can help you select curricula that your child may better respond to. (See: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, by Debra Bell.)

The descriptions of Debra Bell’s learning styles are very helpful in choosing curriculum for your struggling learner or any learner if you want to design your studies around them. Spend time in the books you choose before purchasing. Look through the table of contents and any notes to the teacher. Leaf through its pages; see what the assignments are like, all the while keeping the learner type in the back of your mind.

Taking into account your child’s learning style is sometimes very helpful, especially if you hit a roadblock in any of your teaching progress. If you can’t afford more curricula right now, take courage and adapt what you have. Create assignments that cover the same material, but in a different way. Have fun using your teaching manuals and workbooks as tools that work for you not against you.

photo credit: Storytime Through the Seasons: Under the Redwood Tree via photopin (license)

photo credit: Storytime Through the Seasons: Under the Redwood Tree via photopin (license)

photo credit: Beyond: GENERATION HACK – Vancouver, BC, Canada via photopin (license)

photo credit: students-in-class-with-teacher-reading via photopin (license)

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About Pam Fink

Far from the rolling hills of PA where Pam grew up and went to college, she now resides in sunny southern Arizona with her husband. Pam used her Bachelor’s in Elementary and Special Education as a starting point to teach her children at home until they went off to pursue careers and families, and then she taught in other capacities. For over 25 years this diversely talented woman has tutored students and mentored teachers and parents in the areas of reading, spelling, writing, teaching with a classical bent, and home schooling in general.

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