Choice of learning style

This post is in English for several reasons. Mostly it's because it was originally posted in English on "Metacognition: Learning to Learn" on Linked-in and I care not retype the whole thing, much less translate it (most of it was pasted without editing). For more about English posts in my predominantly Hebrew blog see my new page about this.

I'm a beginner in the field of education, but I want to become a better teacher. Here's one of the issues that bugs me the most – Is there a widely agreed-upon taxonomy of teaching/learning styles, accompanied by tools to figure out which approach is needed by each student?

Quoting from Debra Franciosi on another thread in that forum:

This worked in my classroom, and now I incorporate it into my adult training activities:

Provide learners with opportunities to learn in different modes — so they can work from their strengths, shore up weaker areas, and possibly discover new areas of strength. Once they have had this introduction, if you clearly identify your learning goals, then give the learners a menu of choices — how they get there CAN be up to them — as long as they get there. In K-12 classroom situations, it can take a while (months) to train them in the different options. I found that they were much more willing to try things when they understood the master plan — they would get to choose the best methods for their learning styles once everyone tried everything.

So there it is. One student gets confused or shut off if you show them the target before you embark on the journey. Others need to know that goal, so it's easier for them to put the stepping stones in place (putting the information available in context, if you will, to build it into knowledge at their own pace). Another class of learners can't grasp new ideas if you don't keep relating it to a subject they already know – throwing the burdain of finding parables for every unit of the subject. Other students will find it key to figure out those connections themselves and not have them spoon-fed.

The problem is that many of these approaches might contradict, most learners use more than one technique to handle different types of knowledge buildings (One example of the difference was given in the "Metacognition" forum by JM Ivler: "Math: Hierarchy ; Science: Helix ; Languages: Immersion"). I suggest that we try Franciosi's suggestion at some age (10-13, depending on the learner's levels of "self awareness", if you could suggest a test for evaluating that). At that point, somewhere at the upper two classes of elementary, we tell the kids – "these are the 6 common learning styles we see, there are also these other 41. Do you recognize yourself in 2 or more of these categories? maybe try to think about this during classes and see which is your style in terms of liking/comfort or efficiency of understanding the information. Can you recognize the different teaching styles and be able to figure out if you prefer subjects because the teachers that teach them are conforming with the ways you are most likely to learn better or be more engaged? do you think you'd like lit/math/history/whatnot better if it was taught in a style more like that of that teacher or another?

Someone asked how is metacognition related to "learning to learn", so there's metacognition in the learning process for you. Sadly nobody ever approached me to give me this choice. In highschool we were grouped for certain subjects like math and physics based on our grades, which determined whether we would be taking 3, 4 or 5 unit matriculation tests come senior year.

I'm thinking: If a certain teacher simply can't give all the students what they need in a specific class, maybe it's time for students to pick the teacher by style and not have the school pick one for them by grades? How much better of a student could I be if at the 5th or 6th grade I was given to the tools to figure out what learning styles are better or worse for me and allow me to try the adjustments and be able to give feedback on what's not working right. rather than just thinking I hate the subject or the teacher or both without having the vocabulary to explain why.

A moment of metacognition then: As any of you can read from this post, I'm the kind of person who needs to understand the goal, try to break down its meaning to the needed secondary goals, and then attempt to plot the shortest "route" of stepping stones to reach them all with efficiency. not sure it's a good strategy, pretty sure most students don't try to get down this kind of a road at all, and most teachers thought I was a pain in the #$%, which in turn caused my school years to seem mostly as an attempt to pull the breaks rather than try to keep up with the teacher. I hope to start a project where learners of all ages and styles could find their path to learning even when sharing the same environment. More on that in a different post.

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  1. I'm not sure if there's an official taxonomy of 4 or 6 or 10 learning styles, this is just an uneducated guess[^]

2 Replies to “Choice of learning style”

  1. very intersting, and i'd love to hear more about this idea.

    I think of one pitfall: the styles may be (or will be) associated with value: e.g. some kids don't like to be spoon-fed, and they will be therefore tagged as 'smart'. Eventually, kids will choose styles according to the tag, and not necessarily according to what fits them best.

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