It is evident that schools in the current society are filled with diversity whether it is culturally, ethnically or socially (Montgomery & Groat, 1998). All of these unique features can play a part in the type of learning style the child prefers. The personality and genetic makeup of the learner also affects the way in which they perceive and process information differently to other learners. (Gregorc, 1982) According Ellis (1985, p.14) a learning style is “the more or less consistent way in which a person perceives, conceptualizes, organizes and recalls information.” Therefore it is extremely vital that teachers adapt their teaching styles within the classroom so that each child is able to gain full knowledge of content taught and are able to apply knowledge when required. Dunn and Dunn (1979) also stated that students learn best and most productively when the teaching methods used match their preferred learning styles. Therefore a teacher needs to be creative, efficient and dedicated to allow every child to progress and achieve their full potential. “Students tend to behave more independently when they are confident of their ability to perform.” (Randall, Buscher & Swerkes. 1995, p. 73)
Dyer (1995) found that “each preferred learning style has a matching preferred method of instruction.” The student-teacher relationship will therefore also be important as the student is more interested in learning when they feel comfortable and motivated in the surrounding environment which will result in a higher success rates. The classroom conditions are therefore important to ensure that learning takes place, specifically for learners who are visually orientated, which will be discussed below. (Lemmer, Meier & Van Wyk, 2006) The environment does not only need to satisfy the learner but also the parents and community, an example could be equality which needs to be enforced. This is one of the reasons why being a teacher is more complex and challenging then society makes it out to be. Lemmer, Meier & Van Wyk (2006, p.74) state that “the teaching style of an educator is determined largely by his or her own learning style.” This could also cause conflict as often they will favour that particular teaching style and thus disadvantaging the learners who do not share the same style.
It is essential that there are places in the classroom to work quietly for those learners that are distracted easily, as well as places that invite student interaction and debates, for example mat time. The walls should be dressed with materials that reflect a variety of cultures creating a comfortable atmosphere for all. (Bennett, 1990) There should be set routines that allow students to know what to expect and boundaries they should adhere to during certain periods, for example solo reading time should be done in silence and there after games on the mat allow those who are more collaborative to wait in anticipation. All learners need to understand that some people need to move around to learn, while others do better sitting quietly. With this knowledge they then take their peers in to consideration before doing something while the class is busy. (Tomlinson, 1995, 1999; Winebrenner, 1992, 1996)
The above mentioned learning styles are able to be broken down further into the different types of learners. According to Grasha- Riechmann (1974) Learning Styles there are Competitive learners who learn best when in competition with others, so the classroom environment that would best suit this type of student would be classroom games and activity centred lessons. Secondly one gets the Collaborative learners who works well in groups and sharing ideas with others, therefore group projects and role plays would intrigue this type of learner. Then there is also a dependent and independent learner which the one is good at working alone (independent) and the other requires more attention and guidance (dependent). So for the dependent learner will need constant attention with a busy lesson full of colour and activities. While the independent learner is able to be given individual activities and research that they can enjoy in their own time at their own pace.
These types of learners go hand in hand with the different learning styles, all depending on the individual themselves. There are many subjects that do not fit all types of teaching styles, especially when reaching the later grades in the educational environment. (Lemmer, Meier & Van Wyk, 2006) However by this stage most learners have been equipped with the necessary learning skills to understand and learn by the style that best suits the subject. Science is a good example as to grasp the concepts of mixing chemicals or gaining textual knowledge one needs to physically acquire such information by means of experiments and examinations. In this type of subject reading material would not be enough to gain full understanding. In universities where there are a great number of students lecturing is the best teaching method as other teaching methods would fail due to allocated time, space and effectiveness.
Yet lecturing would not work in a Grade. 1 class as the children do not have the skills to understand need more hands on, personal teaching. Therefore age, knowledge and ability influence the teaching style an educator may use when teaching particular content. (Lemmer, Meier & Van Wyk, 2006) In conclusion it is inevitable that learners bring to the classroom a great diversity of learning styles. So as for a teacher it is difficult to please all styles simultaneously, but if you vary the activities that you use in your lessons, you are sure to cater for learners with different learning styles, at least some of the time. According to Cohen (1998, p.5) “teaching is a practise of human improvement” and in the process of improvement the best method is practise. Therefore learners learn effectively when they practise it, which should go hand in hand with their learning style they prefer.
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