Using Your Strengths to Accommodate Learning Styles

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

We talk about teaching to our student's style of learning, but do you know your own? This lesson will guide you in determining your own and offers tips on how to use your strengths to accommodate all types of learning in the classroom.

Explaining Styles of Learning

Imagine you're throwing a dinner party and planning to bake a complicated entree for the first time. How do you tackle this learning challenge? Maybe you read the recipe and are able to bake without a problem. Perhaps you need to watch a video to make sense of the steps. Or maybe you're one of those people who just dive in and get their hands busy, figuring things out as you go. Each of these methods is right in its own way. They're different styles of learning, and everyone has one they're most comfortable with.

We all have a blending of styles and rely on one or more depending on the circumstance and our development. You may need to see a piece of furniture in your home before you know it works, using your visual side, or throw the directions away when putting a bookshelf together, preferring to learn by doing. Just like it helps us as educators to learn and understand our students' styles of learning, knowing our own can help us use our strengths in the classroom. Let's take a closer look at the different styles.

Styles of Learning

We define a learning modality as a sensory pathway in which students learn. They take in, share, and store information through their modalities or learning styles. There are many opinions about the quantity of learning styles. Most educators agree on these three as styles of learning found in most classrooms:

  • Visual learners like to see things and understand spatial relationships
  • Auditory learners prefer to hear lessons
  • Kinesthetic/tactile learners like using the body for learning

Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile are the three learning modalities. You may not be aware of the impact your learning style has on your experiences, both in and out of the classroom. How can you figure out your learning style?

What's Your Modality?

Using your strengths as a teacher can help accommodate styles of learning in your students. How can you determine your own learning modality? Think of yourself in these situations.

  • Spelling - When trying to spell a new word, do you try to picture the word (visual), use your phonics skills to rely on letters and sounds (auditory), or write the word down (kinesthetic/tactile)?
  • Bumping into an acquaintance - When you bump into someone you met once or twice, are you good at remembering the faces but not names (visual), remember names but not faces (auditory), or remember the things you did with this person (kinesthetic/tactile)?
  • Doing something new - Do you need to see diagrams or pictures (visual), need verbal instructions (auditory), or do you prefer to just get busy and figure it out as you go (kinesthetic/tactile)?
  • Receiving information from administration - When your principal wants to give you information, do you prefer to read it in a memo or email (visual), hear it in a voicemail (auditory), or attend a face-to-face meeting (kinesthetic/tactile)?

Were you able to learn about yourself and identify your modality? Great - let's take a look at how to use this information in your practice.

Using Your Modality to Teach Students

Instead of asking students to adjust to you as a teacher, effective educators modify their instruction, or make changes to what and how they teach, to reach all learners. Now that you know your learning modality, you can use it to accommodate the learning styles of your students.

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