Friday, June 5, 2015

What Learning Style are You?

I can hardly believe how fast the year has gone, and summer is fast approaching. It has been an incredibly busy year. It seems only like a few weeks ago when I was sitting down in my office and thinking about the upcoming year and imagining what it would be like. First impressions? It's been a good year. However, either I'm getting old because I'm tired a lot of the time, or we have packed so much into the school year that we've worn ourselves out. Summer is going to be a time of rest and rejuvenation. Many of students need that rest too. So I hope they slow down a bit during the break and get some much needed rest. But I digress.

As a teacher, it's important to reflect over the year and think about what we taught, how we taught it, and how we assessed learning. If I just motor through the year and do the same thing year after year, and don't review my lesson plans, or examine the curriculum outcomes, or think of new ways to present the material, or do new activities for the upcoming school year, I'm not doing my job as a teacher. I wouldn't go to a dentist who did the same thing the same way for 50 years. There have been some significant changes in practice and technology over the years that I would hope the dentist would adopt. I would hope that they are continuously bettering themselves as a professional so that it makes my visit less stressful and painful. As a teacher, I need to do the same thing. I need to constantly be learning. Reflecting on my past school year is part of that process in learning. Already I'm thinking about how I will do some things differently. Some of my lessons and activities missed the mark with the students, so I need to differentiate (a big word for saying use a variety of methods to teach a concept) the instruction. 

You see, not every student learns the same way. That's why Howard Gardners 7 Styles of Learning are so important to education. Not everyone learns the same way. So when I'm teaching a class, I need to be aware that in a class of 20 students, there may be up to 7 different ways each student learns a concept. As a teacher, I must vary or differentiate the instruction so that different learning needs are addressed, and students get the greatest possible advantage available to learning that concept. Take for example, I'm a visual learner. I need the visual, hands-on instruction. If I am trying to figure out how to fix something at home, I go to Google and watch a video showing me how to do step by step. But once I've done it once, I've got it. So I've added a visual, because some people need the visual to understand what I'm talking about.

As I am reflecting on my teaching this year, I realize there are things I need to improve or change for next year, but I'm also concerned by what I see from some of our students. Despite all the efforts to make the curriculum more engaging and mix it up in how we teach the material, I'm sensing an apathy among some students about school or learning. Being a small school, we try very hard to compete with the city schools and offer as many extras as we possibly can so that students feel they are getting as close to equal as anywhere else. Staff cheerfully immerses themselves into coaching, travel club, field trips, music festivals, video projects, and more, because we want those extras for students. But when it comes to learning in the classroom, we seem to be losing ground on engaging every student on the importance of learning starting at about grade 8 and up. I recognize we live in a very social society, and that trickles into school as well. But schools have become more about a social get-together than an opportunity to learn for the future. Don't get me wrong, I want students to have a social life, and they need that social interaction, but there needs to be a balance. Have you ever gone on a trip with your kids and they spend most of their time on their phones, while you are taking in the sites and wonders? That seems to the norm for our teenagers. They spend a lot of time on their phones with Instagram and Snapchat. The result is that they are so visually stimulated by all the visual images and video clips it isn't really a surprise that sitting in a classroom and taking notes and listening really doesn't meet their expectations on the excitement meter. Homework is constantly interrupted by the ding of iMessage. How can they possibly focus on the task at hand if they are checking their phones every minute?

So when it comes to school and learning, it's not enough for teachers to provide a lot of busy work to students, we need to engage students so they are learning. There's no easy fix for this other than we need to do a better job of differentiating the instruction so that we can cover the 7 learning styles. They are:
  • Visual Learning - when the student prefers using pictures, images, and spatial understanding,
  • Solitary (Intrapersonal) Learning - when the student prefers to work alone and self-study,
  • Social (Interpersonal) Learning - when the student prefers to work in groups or other people,
  • Logical (Mathematical) Learning - when the student prefers using logic, reasoning, and systems,
  • Physical (Kinethestic) Learning - when the student prefers using body, hands, and sense of touch,
  • Verbal (Linguistic) Learning - when the student prefers using words, both in speech and writing,
  • Aural (Auditory-Musical) Learning - when the student prefers using sound and music.
So what learning style are you? 

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