Learning Styles

How we learn depends a great deal on what we learn… and not a primary learning style.

As parents, we always want what’s best for our children. We search for the healthiest foods, the safest car seats, books about how children develop etc. Therefore when we hear about a technique that can improve our children’s learning skills, we jump to it in a hurry.

It is a concept called ‘learning styles’ and according to the learning style theory, Kids learn better when you:

  1. Figure out the one, single way that your child learns best, and
  2. Customise all your teaching methods to match it

People often express preferences about how they would like to receive information, by reading (visual learners), hearing (audio learners) or doing (kinaesthetic learners) these are often referred to as ‘learning styles’.

Parents get excited if they think they can help their children learn all sorts of lessons faster and more effectively if you simply taught them everything using their preferred method.

You could teach your visual learner to crawl by getting down and showing it to him.

You could teach your audio learner by singing to her and let her listen.

You could teach your kinaesthetic learner the alphabet by using your body to make the shapes of the letters and once you put your child’s learning style into practice, sit back and wait for those wonderful academic results to roll in!

There’s just one problem, as it turns out:

For every piece of research that seems to support the usefulness of learning styles, there are dozens more that show NO benefit whatsoever.

More effective and practical alternatives for parents:

  1. Focus on the subject

It makes sense to tailor it to the subject being learned.  For example, learning to play the guitar is best suited to kinaesthetic learning.  You could listen all day about how to hold it, strum the guitar,  play the chords, play loudly and softly and how to keep the rhythm but none of it would really stick until they actually got to practise playing the guitar themselves and get the ‘feel’ of it.

  1. Get kids out of their comfort zones

Although people enjoy a particular method of instruction, it may end up being the one that teaches them the least. Learning can be hard and sometimes we need to push past the easy and familiar way so we can become learners who ask questions and get a deeper understanding of concepts taught.  That way they get to think about their thinking. An individual’s learning method will be different in different situations, and like change over time.

  1. Be a flexible instructor

When you are teaching your child, keep an eye on his progress.  If he is having trouble, you need to switch up your style as needed as there is NO style that is guaranteed to teach your child best.

  1. Mix up your teaching styles right from the start

Children learn best if they are exposed to new concepts in different ways.  So instead of sticking to one style, offer a combination of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning whenever possible.

  1. Remember to praise the effort

Be sure to praise your child, help them appreciate the value of working hard to accomplish their goals.  Praising their efforts will motivate them to keep trying and show them that you believe in them.

Written by Anelle Rheeder, Primary School Teacher