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Understanding different learning styles is important for every parent and teacher. Only through proper guidance can we help students realise their full potential!
Learning is one of the greatest joys of life. Learning is also an instinct. Many of us may find it difficult to think of learning in these terms – if it is instinctive, why do we struggle with studies? But it is true. As parents, our role is to hone this natural instinct in our children, find out just how they learn best, and help them grow up smart and intelligent! So, what is your child’s learning style? Let’s find out…
When we look around at the offspring of any species of the animal kingdom, we see how they learn, every day. A pony does not simply sit on the ground and refuse to try and get up; it learns how to use its legs and stand up on its feet, just like monkeys learn to climb trees, and birds learn to fly. In fact, animals can be taught to do a lot of things that are not even part of their instincts. We teach dogs to fetch, elephants to dance on their hind legs, and birds to call out names. Learning is something that is fundamental to all living beings.
But do we all learn the same way?
Why Do Different Learning Styles Exist
Consider two dogs that are being taught the same trick – the ‘handshake’. One dog might respond well to a treat. You can hold a treat in your hand, and get the dog to do what you want thim to do. The other dog, may need a little more of coaxing. Perhaps you need to hold the leash in your hand – so unless the dog places his paw in your hand, he won’t get to step out of the house for a walk.
We do not know how or why certain people respond better to certain stimuli, but through different studies that have been carried out over the years, we know this with certainty:
All people do not learn the same way, just the way that we do not all like the same music or movies, or food, or do not marry the same kinds of people. Owing to different factors that affected their cognitive development, different things work for different people.
Why Is It Important To Understand Different Learning Styles
Let us consider the same example of the two dogs to understand this. If you use a treat to motivate the second dog (instead of a leash) – do you think he is going to want to learn? No! But does that mean he is incapable of learning? No. He is very much capable of learning. So who’s fault is it really, that the dog is failing to learn a trick?
Now you can get mad and angry at the dog for not responding to the treat (which you are certain is the best way to teach a dog). You can call him a bad dog. But would that be fair on the dog? No, right?
Now just imagine two children in place of the two dogs. As parents, teachers, and the elders who are primarily responsible for the child’s well being, is it fair of us to say a child is a ‘bad’ student or has average learning abilities just because he is unable to learn a certain way that is adapted as the most common method?
“I observed that my daughter was able to understand concepts quickly when she saw pictures and did activities related to the chapter taught.” – read real mom Gayatri’s story here.
Different Learning Styles
Around the 1970s is when human beings became aware of the possibility of there being such a thing as indiviualised learning styles. Although different people have different thoughts and opinions about this, it has been largely acknowledged that different students may respond to different types of teaching, corresponding to the different learning styles. Let’s take a look at the different learning styles and strategies, and you’ll be able to find the kind of learner your little one is.
The VAK Model
This was proposed by Walter Burke Barbe et.al.. according to this model, there are three major modalities of learning – Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.
- Visual learners learn by seeing. They find it easiest to learn with visual aids – pictures, photographs, shapes, paintings, etc. These learners like to see the things they are being taught. Instead of reading description about a plant, they’d much rather see the plant.
- Auditory learners learn by listening. The best way to engage such learners is through ‘sound’ – recitations, audio books, rhythms, etc. Such a learner would probably be able to focus of studies better if there was good music playing in the room.
- Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. They like to be up and about when they are learning. They might find it most difficult to be chained to a desk. Such learners depend a lot of gestures, movement, and tactile inputs. If you are teaching them about metal,s it would be a good idea to give them a piece of metal to inspect. They might throw it, feel it in their hands, and that helps them learn better.
Watch: Identifying Your Child’s Learning Style
The VAK model has been one of the most common model of learning styles used by teachers. However, as you may have realised, it does not cover all the different activities of school – primarily reading and writing. Also, this model does not take into account other people, i.e. the teachers. Hence, other learning styles were added to this list to expand it further.
Additional Styles of Learning
- Verbal learners: such people usually like to use words while learning. They will prefer speaking, being spoken to, discussing, reading and writing while trying to learn something new.
- Logical learners:these learners want information to be logical, and preferably tabulated, calculated, in pie-charts, Venn diagrams, etc. They cannot be told to accept something simply because ‘it is so’. They want to know ‘why’.
- Solitary learners: these people like to be left alone why learning. They will be averse to group discussion, study groups, and perhaps will sometimes also prefer reading instructions or information, rather than being given the instructions/information by a person. Put them in a group, and they will typically become avoidant and independent.
- Social learners: These learners will want to be around people when they learn. They will be ill at ease if they are put in a room with books and told to ‘read and learn’. More often than not, such learners ‘like’ school and college, because learning for them is a very social activity. Put such people in a group and they will participate, engage, collaborate, and even compete, all in a pursuit to learn.
Hence, there are the following 7 different styles of learning:
Different Learning Styles For Children: Debunking The Myths
Since the earliest times that people started researching about learning styles, two lines of thinking evolved: those who think learning styles are legit, and those who think there is no such thing as different learning styles, that it is all but a farce, a myth.
The theory of there being different learning styles (and of each student responding differently to each learning style) sounds simple enough to prove. But all studies and tests that have been conducted to prove the theory have not been able to draw up concluisive evidence. In short: we do not know for sure whether different learning styles actually exist, or if they don’t.
However, it has certainly been observed that certain subjects are better understood by students when taught in certain ways. So, if you want to strength their language, the best way to do it would be to engage them verbally than just visually. For maths, it would be best to engage learners visually and using logic. For more complex subjects like science, an amalgamation of different styles should be used. For example, while studying the water cycle, a diagram to explain the water cycle (i.e. visual cues), can be supported by a simple experiment to demonstrate how evaporation occurs (i.e. kinesthetic approach); following this, students may be given a simple set of data to analyse and predict the rainfall of a region (i.e. logical modallity of learning).
Finally, going back to the example of the two dogs: the leash and the treat, both work as ‘rewards’. Hence, it would be best to supplement learning with appropriate rewards for each child. Nothing works better to motivate students to take efforts than rewarding those efforts.
How To Identify Children’s Learning Styles
As a parent, or even as a teacher, it is important to identify children’s learning styles. Not only will it help you teach your child better, it will also enable the child to fully recognise his potential and harness it to succeed in life. Here are a few tips to identify different learning styles of children.
NOTE: Before you take a look at the tips, please remember that a child’s learning style is not necessarily just one of the above styles. Any child will exhibit a mix of two or more styles of learning.
- It would be best to try and explore different learning styles in early childhood.
- Try using differernt technique while teaching your child: you can take him out in the nature and show him plants and trees while talking about them (visual and kinesthetic), or you may read to him about what dinosaurs are (verbal and auditory), or you may act out for him the great battle of Panipat (Kinesthetic and visual).
- Quiz your child about the things that you teach him using the different learning styles. If he seems to have remembered more about dinosaurs, and very little about the plants and trees, he is more of a verbal-auditory learner.
- So as to ensure that your child does not become confined to a certain kind of learning style alone, make sure you stimulate overall and comprehensive cognitive development from an early age. Do not engage only in a single type of activity. Diversify and help your child grow.
How To Stimulate Children With Different Learning Styles To Study
Just as it is important to recognise your child’s learning style, it is also important to adapt teaching methods to his unique blend of learning style. In fact, it has been found that even your parenting style can determine your child’s intelligence! Here’s how you can motivate children with different learning styles to take an interest in studies and learn better.
- Visual learners: use visual cues. Instead of telling them about things, try and show them things. You can use pictures, diagrams, paintings, etc. such children will also work better if they are asked to draw things.
- Auditory learners: instead of leaving such a child with a book, pick up the book yourself and read it out to him. If he is also a kinesthetic learner, you can ask your child to walk around the room, or play with something while you read to him. Believe it or not, it is actually going to help him learn better.
- Kinesthetic learners: allow such a child to move about while he is learning. It would be a very bad idea to ask him to sit in one place and study. If he is also a verbal learner, ask him to walk around the room while he is reading something. Use scrabble to teach him spellings, use playing cards to practice maths.
- Verbal learners: verbal learners need words to learn. You can engage them by asking them to describe things, or write answers to questions. It is best for such learners to read and learn.
- Logical learners: do not force such a child to do rote learning, he will not be able to succeed. Try as best as you can to answer every ‘why’ of this child, and don’t let his ‘why’s rattle you. He does not mean to question your knowledge or authority, he just wants to know.
- Solitary learners: do not force such children to engage in group studies. Instead, try and give such children as much privacy as you can while studying. If they wish to be left alone while studying, trust them.
- Social learners: do not limit such a child’s interaction while studying. You can try and organise study groups for such a child, with his classmates. Give him access to other people. If it’s not easily possible, you may sit with him in his room when he is studying. Many times, even the mere presence of another person in the room can help such learners.
Children are all different – each one unique, each one brilliant. To expect all of them to prosper in a single type of schooling that takes into account only certain types of learners is not only unfair, it is cruel. We hope this article made helped you become more aware and attuned to learning styles in children.. Use this knowledge to ignite in your child a love for learning!