Have you ever tasted a dish and said, “Something is missing”? Have you ever tried to create or fix something only to realize that there is one missing piece that can make it perfect? This can happen to anyone anywhere and anytime – and once you find that missing something, everything “magically” falls in place. This applies to academics too.
Traditional school of thought categorizes a student as a topper, average, or weak. This categorization is so deeply entrenched into the mind that children grow up with feelings like “I’m weak at Math” or “I just don’t get Science.” That missing piece is perhaps the way the child learns – which may not be in tandem with the way other children learn.
Every child learns differently and understanding how your child learns can go a long way in enabling him to perform better.
The Learning Process
Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge. Think of it this way, a single teacher teaches about 50 students in a class yet only a few truly learn. The rest just learn by rote – memorization without comprehension or cognition. So is the teacher doing something wrong? Well obviously, something’s not quite right- but what?
Going back to traditional school of thought, the distinction between a bright, average, or weak student may simply be the difference between students who understand and those who learn by rote. So why do some children learn by rote?
The reason why some children learn by rote is that they are not taught the way they like to learn.
When students do not perform to their full capability, it may simply mean that they need a different approach from the one they currently follow – they should perhaps be taught differently. For instance, when explaining the concept of addition to four or five year olds one child may be comfortable reading what a teacher writes on the board, while another may need a physical demonstration. Yet another may need constant repetition of the concept while a fourth may learn through application in daily life – such as counting the number of rotis (Indian bread) his mother makes. Does this mean that only the child capable of understanding the first time round is bright? Definitely not!
A good teacher is one who does not simply disseminate knowledge but adapts her teaching to accommodate different learners.
The Teacher’s Challenge
In a classroom – or even outside one – a teacher’s task is nothing short of a juggler’s feat. She is burdened with multiple responsibilities. Apart from handling multiple learning styles, a teacher must face up to the demands of the school administration, parents, conduct assessments, ensure that the school’s record of accomplishment is upheld, and discipline a pack of 50 odd energetic and curious children. A teacher must do all this while handling a load of administrative tasks, and ensure that the curriculum is completed on time amid other activities and school holidays – and do all this with little or no support from either the parents or the administration.
Teachers face numerous challenges and adapting to learning styles may not always be possible.
Why should parents care?
Fair enough, after all you are sending your child to school for learning! But then, as we said, a teacher must accomplish several tasks single handedly – and she can use all the support she gets.
Teacher’s challenge apart, it is important for every parent to be involved in all aspects his or her child’s life – be it health, social activities, emotional, spiritual, or learning. Moreover, learning does not happen only at school. It is the parent’s responsibility to relate what a child learns at school to his real life; and knowing how your child learns can help you do this effectively.
Understanding your child’s learning style will help you better guide him through is academics and prepare him for the future.
The 7 Learning Styles
The concept of individual learning style was first suggested in 1970. Many theories were put forth but Neil Fleming’s VARK model is the most popular and widely accepted so that’s what we will talk about here. Fleming classified learning styles into Visual – learning by seeing, Auditory – learning by hearing, Reading & Writing – learning by reading and/or writing, and Kinesthetic – learning by application.
Learning styles have since been expanded further to include the grey areas between these broad classifications. Accordingly, seven universally accepted styles of learning have evolved –
- The Visual Learner – Also called the spatial learner, a child with this learning style learns best by looking at pictures, diagrams, and video. He may be a little slow on the uptake when reading text; but if you pepper it with a generous dash of images and diagrams; he’ll catch on pretty fast.
- The Aural or auditory learner – This child loves music- in fact, he loves any kind of sound. You might catch him playing the radio – or his iPod – as he struggles with his schoolwork. Show him a video of the lesson or read out the lesson to him and he’ll quickly complete all his tasks.
- The Verbal learner – The verbal learner loves words. He will excel at language study and will use words extensively to explain concepts and ideas – to himself as well as to others.
- The Physical or Kinesthetic learner – Hands on for this guy! He must try out everything before he really understands the lesson and imbibes it. Only then can he deliver results.
- The Logical Lerner– the Why guy – this child will always look for logic and reasoning in everything he does.
- The Social learner – The social learner is a people’s person and will learn best in a group where he can ask and answer questions, interact with his peers, and discuss topics, concepts and more – he learns through discussion so sit him down and talk it out.
- The Solitary Learner – Also called the Intrapersonal learner, this child prefers to work quietly in a secluded place imbibing knowledge from books, videos, and other media.
So these are the different ways in which a child learns. It is important to remember however, that these styles are not compartmentalized and there still exist grey areas. Learning styles are personalized and categorizing – or compartmentalizing – a child into a particular way of learning may be counter-productive. For instance, a Solitary learner may also be a Visual or Aural learner – not necessarily using texts to learn.
On a closing note, understanding how your child learns should ideally be an intuitive process and as parents – or teachers – it is perhaps best to let the child lead when it comes to learning methods or tools.
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