Learning Styles

Have you ever hit a brick wall when helping your child understand a concept? Did you take into account his learning style? Everyone has a preferred way in which they process information and learn new skills. Sometimes presenting the information in a way that agrees with your child’s learning style will help the concept become clear.

The simplest model of learning styles is broken into three groups: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

  • Visual learners tend to grasp things by reading or watching a video. They tend to be more comfortable with textbooks and workbooks.
  • Auditory learners tend to learn best by listening. They would respond well to being read to or listening to tapes or lectures.
  • Kinesthetic learners are the ones we generally think of as “antsy.” They prefer to learn through a hands-on approach or through activities. Most children start out as kinesthetic learners.

As some scientists attempt to walk back learning style research, we nevertheless see it in action nearly every day. For example, when my husband asks me to draw him a picture so that he can see what I’m talking about. Or when my daughter tells me she’ll have to read the printed book because the audio book was harder to follow. Or when my preschooler tells me he doesn’t want to see the fish, he wants to make it with his hands — he wants to create a 3D model, not look at a two-dimensional picture.

The best use of learning styles comes not when trying to memorize a list, or learn a song by ear, but when understanding a concept. Yes, it may be easier for me to remember that long list of words (if that is for some reason necessary to my future well being…) if I set the words to music or draw a graphic representation, or create it with blocks. But the real benefit of learning styles will come when I grasp meanings — an Algebra concept becomes more clear with manipulatives, or by reading the book, or by listening to a lecture.

While we wouldn’t think of limiting our child’s learning experience to one way of taking in information, understanding learning styles can give us insight into how to proceed when our children don’t seem to be “getting it.”

While other learning models may show us where are strengths are, what our aptitudes are, or where our talents lie, learning style models are useful in helping us learn new things.

Just remember three things:

  1. Beware of labeling. Children tend to view labels as defining and absolute.
  2. No child learns in only one way. No one will fit perfectly into any one category no matter which model we use.
  3. You won’t always be there to control the way your child receives information. Introducing material in several ways is not only practical — it is also fun!

Further Reading
The Way They Learn

The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Subtitled How to Discover and Teach to Your Child’s Strengths, The Way They Learn serves as a good first source for investigating various learning-style models. Read our full review.

Learning Styles
More information and resources.

Learning Preferences
Simple summary at Bowdoin College.

What’s Your Learning Style?
Download from the University of Oregon that not only includes an assessment but also a list of characteristics common to each type.

Leverage Your Learning Style for Better Test Prep Results
Article at U.S. World & News Report showing ways to use this information when studying.

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