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Applying Awareness of Learning Styles to Teaching

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

It is important to know about learning styles, but awareness is not the whole story. In this lesson, you will learn about how you can apply what you know about learning styles to improve your teaching.

What Are Learning Styles?

For a long time, Ms. Heart, a fourth grade teacher, has been feeling like her teaching only meets the needs of some students. She works hard and plans carefully, but she senses that though all of her students are happy, not all of them are learning as much as they can from her curriculum. Recently, though, Ms. Heart attended a workshop where she learned about learning styles. Put simply, learning styles are different ways of absorbing, processing and remembering new concepts and skills. Ms. Heart begins to understand that every student really does learn differently, so it's not a big surprise that one teaching style will simply not meet everyone's needs. She begins to think about concrete classroom strategies she can use to meet the needs of more of her students more of the time.

Teaching Visual Learners

One style that Ms. Heart learns about is visual learning. Learners who tend to have a visual style can get a great deal out of pictures, diagrams, maps and graphic organizers. These learners may not retain information that is presented aurally. Ms. Heart decides to adopt the following strategies to teach to the needs of the visual learners in her class:

  • Using color coding and labeled diagrams to organize her classroom materials, notebooks and binders
  • Drawing and outlining on the Smartboard when she teaches direct lessons
  • Allowing students to draw their own pictures and diagrams as a way of processing new concepts and skills
  • Incorporating visuals like maps, pictures, and diagrams into lessons in social studies and science
  • Encouraging the use of visualization as a reading comprehension strategy

In general, Ms. Heart realizes that by simply saying her lessons out loud, she has been under-serving her most visual learners. She also discovers that these students have a lot to offer her and other students in terms of bringing stories to life, organizing ideas and materials visually, and finding neat visual tricks that help with memorization.

Teaching Auditory Learners

When she learns about auditory learning, Ms. Heart discovers that she herself is an auditory learner. Perhaps as a result, these learners, who tend to process the information that they hear and use sounds and oral language to make sense of things, are the ones she has taught to the most in the past. Ms. Heart articulates the following strategies as helpful to auditory learners:

  • Using rhymes and songs to help with literacy as well as with memorizing facts and figures
  • Using repetition as a way to promote processing and memory
  • Encouraging students to read out loud, softly, to themselves
  • Allowing students to talk aloud about new skills and ideas they are encountering
  • Incorporating music into classroom routines and lessons

Overall, Ms. Heart realizes that auditory learners respond well to verbal direction and sometimes need to process material out loud before they are able to do quieter, more independent work. These students are often active discussion participants and, though they might struggle to stay quiet, if their needs are met they can learn and process well.

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