DURING parent-teacher conferences, teachers frequently mention learning styles when discussing children’s academic performance with parents.
Many parents, however, may not know what learning styles are, or why knowing their child’s learning style is important.
Learning styles are simply different approaches or preferred methods children use to learn and/or organize information. Contrary to what many people believe, there is no such thing as a "good" or a "bad" learning style because there is no “right” approach to learning. Thus, no learning style is better than or superior to another.
Research shows that most children learn in three main ways – visually, aurally, and kinesthetically. Visual learners rely heavily on their sense of sight to gather and organize new information, aural/auditory learners use their sense of hearing, and tactile/kinesthetic learners need to touch and manipulate objects in order to fully absorb new information.
Types of learning styles
Visual learners: These students need to see pictures and images to fully understand the content of a lesson. They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated textbooks, overhead transparencies, videos, flipcharts, and handouts. During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to grasp the information.
Aural/auditory learners: These students learn best through lectures, discussions, talking about things, and listening to what others have to say. For auditory learners, written information may have little meaning until it is also heard. These learners often benefit from books on tape, or using a tape recorder to record text read aloud.
Tactile/kinesthetic learners: Kinesthetic students learn best through a hands-on approach. They need to actively explore the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods, and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration. Many tactile learners have experienced difficulty learning in a traditional school setting.
Those parents who are interested in determining their child’s dominant learning style can do so in several ways. They can have their child evaluated by a teacher or another school professional. They can carefully observe their children at play and/or while completing household chores and school assignments.
A simple, quick, and inexpensive way is to examine how their child behaves during a read aloud. Auditory learners will be satisfied to listen to a story without having to see the pictures. Visual learners, however, will insist on looking at the pictures on each page during the reading. Kinesthetic learners may not sit down for a story at all. They may get a toy that somehow relates to the story and play with it, or get involved in another activity while listening to the story.
It is important for parents to know and understand the dominant way in which their children learn and process information. That way they would be able to provide them with as many opportunities as possible to gather information in their own way, to improve the speed and quality of their learning, help them perform better in academically, develop their love of learning, and help them become more successful in school and in life.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 23 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.