15 Jan 2014

Recognizing Different Learning Styles

Each of us takes in outside information through our five senses; processing that information, however, is not so universal. Have you ever wondered why your child seems to understand something better after viewing a graph, or hearing a story read out loud? Maybe he uses flash cards for vocabulary tests or revels in a hands-on science experiment. These preferences may not seem all that important, especially if your child is doing well in school, but for those students who struggle academically, a brief investigation into their particular learning styles might prove useful for success.

It should come as no surprise that Education is not a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. No two people are exactly alike, so it makes sense that not everyone learns in the exact same way. There have been many studies done on this subject, and there are, of course, different schools of thought, but the most widely accepted conclusion seems to be that there are three distinctive learning styles. They are: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Here is some information about each one:

  • Visual Learners learn best when looking at graphics, watching a demonstration, or simply reading. They are “big picture” people, and are often interested in layout and design. Charts, graphs, and pictures are usually helpful, while just listening is not. If your child is a visual learner, she might want to try color coding her notes, learning the bigger concepts first before focusing on details, using flash cards, and removing excess visual distractions while studying (i.e. an open window).
  • Auditory Learners learn best when things are explained to them out loud; because of this, your child may recite information to himself while studying. Often these students will process things by talking about them, rather than talk about things after processing them. Auditory learners can benefit from listening to recorded lectures, utilizing study groups and discussion materials, and studying with background music.
  • Kinesthetic Learners process information through hands-on experience. For them, doing an activity like going on a field trip or performing a science experiment is the easiest way to learn. They prefer their learning to be connected with reality. If your child is predominantly a kinesthetic learner, have him take frequent study breaks to move around, learn new material while doing something active, or try to take classes with teachers who encourage demonstrations and fieldwork.

Interestingly enough, most people actually use a combination of all three learning styles but display a clear preference for one. It is very important to remember that while your child might favor one or even two learning styles, it is not set in stone. Training a child early on in learning styles other than the one he prefers can help him utilize multiple learning methods when he is older. This is important, as relying on a single learning style can debilitate a child’s true potential.

If your child is struggling in school, experiment with alternative methods of study, and talk to the teacher about how information is usually presented in class.  Most teachers teach orally and visually, but if your child has told you otherwise, you can ask the teacher to write things down for the visual learner or explain more thoroughly for the auditory learner. A tutor can teach to the student’s primary learning style and also encourage her to try different learning styles with games, visual aids, discussion techniques, and even computer programs.

Help your children discover how they learn best, and then you and your children will have more control over the learning process.

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