Career & Education

Are learning styles important?

Dr Karla
Hylton

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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Promoting learning in our children is paramount to their success, but we have to be keen on how best they learn. The way a person prefers to absorb, process, comprehend and retain information is called his/her learning style. Learning styles have been a source of controversy for some time where some persons believe there is no specific learning style, while others believe there are distinct styles of learning.

I believe that individuals do have preferred methods of learning but that we all are capable of learning in more than one mode. Generally, a successful learner is one who is capable of learning in a variety of ways.

Whether you believe learning styles exist or not, it is helpful to understand your child's various learning preferences. This information will make you better equipped to assist your child in his or her quest for success.

Understanding learning styles or preferences is also crucial for teachers. Most classrooms are large and will have students showing a variety of preferences. Teachers should combine teaching methods geared towards these diverse types. Students learn more when information is obtainable in a variety of approaches rather than from a single approach. It is my belief that the concept being taught determines the strategy that should best be used for teaching so that effective learning takes place.

There are many different theories as to how we should define and categorise learning styles. I will be focusing on the generally accepted styles: visual, auditory and tactile (or kinesthetic). I have included tips to make that preferred learning style work more effectively for your child.

AUDITORY LEARNERS

These kids must hear things for them to have the best chance of learning. They enjoy discussions and remember oral instructions well. They speak slowly and listen carefully. They study best when they can talk about information and listen to other people discuss the material.

They remember best by verbal repetition and saying things aloud. They are easily distracted by sound and find it difficult to focus for long periods of time. They may hum or talk to themselves. The auditory learner remembers 75 per cent of what he hears.

Study Tips

• Think aloud and talk to oneself when trying to learn something.

• Participate in class discussions.

• Read textbook aloud.

• Recite information.

• Use a tape recorder in classes (if allowed) and listen when at home.

• Record your notes and listen to them

VISUAL LEARNERS

These kids remember best what they read and write. They understand information best when they see it. They tend to be fast talkers and enjoy day-dreaming. When something is being described, they prefer to see a picture. Visual learners prefer written to verbal instructions. They study best by reading notes and organising them in an outline form. They remember 75 per cent of what they read or see. Visual learners prefer to take detailed notes rather than to participate in discussions. They tend to sit at the front of the class so that they can see clearly.

Study Tips

• Use colour to highlight important points in notes and textbooks

• Visualise information as a picture when trying to learn something.

• Use charts, graphs and tables in one's notes.

• Rewrite notes more than once if necessary.

• Use multimedia such as videos and computer.

TACTILE/ KINESTHETIC LEARNER

These kids must do things for them to have the best chance of learning. They like to move about and may be seen to fidget during classes. These learners are very slow talkers and enjoy hands-on activities and learn well when they physically handle learning materials. They usually are good at sports and their hand-writing may actually be poor. They often speak using their hands and gestures. They may use a finger as a guide while reading material and they enjoy role playing. They often doodle while listening. A good strategy to teach tactile learners is to use models, charts, maps, demonstrations and experiments.

Study Tips

• Make frequent study breaks

• Use bright colours to highlight material

• Include physical activity while studying (squeezing a tennis ball, reading while on an exercise bike)

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com.

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