Multiple Learning Styles
Multiple Learning Styles
More than one student in Kindergarten through College has complained of boring courses and tedious homework that had no discernible connection to their immediate environment. Many students describe their courses as lectures that force them to sit and listen to a professor for one to three hours, sometimes without a break in between. It is rare, or even unheard of, for a student to participate in a class-related activity that involved groups, going outside, discussions, or movement. The physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects of the classroom are not often addressed, leaving school a less safe and less stimulating environment (Sprenger, 2008).
Not surprisingly, school is labeled as a stagnant place lacking in the stimulation of our senses. Students would rather be with friends, play a sport, master a hobby or skill, or even immerse themselves into fantastic games than go to school. Yet these same students appreciate learning new ideas, growing stronger, and having fun in a wide array of visual, audial, and kinesthetic activities. Shouldn’t public and private education use the best methods to impart history, math, science, language, and philosophy to younger generations? While there is no “best” method to accomplish this, I believe that using multiple learning styles to approach teaching and learning is more effective than using one style to accommodate multiple unique individuals.
In its entirety, a learning style is “the complex manner in which, and conditions under which, learners most efﬁciently and most effectively perceive, process, store, and recall what they are attempting to learn” (Lujan and DiCarlo, 2012). Most professionals and students have used three major learning styles to categorize themselves: Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. These perspectives can be defined in simpler terms to be “hearing”, “seeing”, and “moving/doing”. In the 1980’s, a fourth category was added to differentiate “visual” and “read/write” learners, since people like Neil Fleming noticed that “some students had a distinct preference for the written word whilst others preferred symbolic information as in maps, diagrams, and charts (Fleming, 2006). As a result, the VARK questionnaire was created to identify an individual’s “preferences for particular modes of presentation” (Lujan and DiCarlo, 2012).
Learning style dimensions are connected and related to one another, not “either/or” categories (Felder and Spurlin, 2005). Some people excel at interpreting locations on maps, while others would rather hear a location described; some would rather draw the map itself. Thus, if a teacher is monotonously lecturing a topic to sophomore students in college, some students will interpret and make connections with the information presented more easily than others. Those students that “learned less” or “slower” than other students in that example would have benefitted from other styles of teaching, such as a visual diagram of the information, a mind map, written bullet points, or physical interaction with the subject matter. Without this insight, flexibility, or desire, most teachers would remain unaware that the students who performed worse in their courses might have scored higher on tests or assignments if they had understood the class material from another perspective related to learning styles.
The use of multiple learning styles outside of the classroom has even more important and practical implications that could lead to more effective problem solving, safety prevention, and innovations that would stimulate more than one sense. Signs on streets could be renovated to accommodate audibly-inclined (or deaf) people while driving their car: their eyes can focus on the road, while their ears would be notified (via radio-wave, for example) of changes in speed limits, lane rules, and traffic congestions. Medical students, who spend roughly two to six more years in school than other college graduates with a bachelor’s degree, would benefit from this in the classroom and during residencies.
These future and current professionals are responsible for memorizing and utilizing a multitude of technologies, medications, and other holistic treatments that must be understood through scholarly research papers and on-site administration of those same procedures. How else would they do this without being taught and teaching this complex information via multiple learning styles? In an experiment done by Heidi Lujan and Stephen DiCarlo (2005), only 36.1% of their study’s sample preferred using a single learning style over multiple learning styles. Not only are models and demonstrations useful in imparting information, but peer-to-peer interactions and roleplaying can also foster a student’s ability to create connections between ideas.
Some researchers categorize learning styles into eight components: Sensing or intuitive, visual or verbal, active or reflective, and sequential or global. This is also known as the Felder-Silverman Model (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). Each set of words are opposites to each other in terms of ways of interpreting information. According to the Index of Learning Styles (ILS), which adapts these eight ideas into a measureable tool, each of us is a mixture of each learning style, represented by a numerical gradient that connect each paired learning style to itself. When comparing the VARK questionnaire to the ILS, the latter seems to take the four modes in VARK and categorize them even further. However, the audial aspect of the VARK isn’t clearly synonymous to any set of categories in the ILS, but rather, it is a part of the ILS in its entirety.
This might be due to the fact that each of us learns things using a unique combination of the VARK, so instead of separating major senses into a questionnaire, the ILS separates major preferences into an index. The accuracy of these tools is always questionable, even by Neil Fleming (2006), who says that the VARK should be used to create conversations that pertain to how each individual learns, and how those learning preferences connect to decisions made by those individuals. As our technological advances increase, teachers, students, and other people will find newer, cost-effective, and dynamic ways to impart and absorb new information (Solvie & Kloek, 2007). Positive uses of virtual reality and MRI’s can lead humans to understanding the way our brains send and receive information. Nano technology might eventually allow us to physically connect our brains to each other’s through the tiniest circuits. This eventual phenomenon will have the potential to collect our natural resources, connect to each other, and commit to providing excellence in education, our professions, and our daily lives.
Solvie, P., & Kloek, M. (2007). Using technology tools to engage students with multiple learning styles in a constructivist learning environment. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(2), 7-27. Fleming, N., and Baume, D. (2006). Learning Styles Again: VARKing up the right tree! Educational Developments, 7.4, 4-7. Heidi E. Lujan and Stephen E. DiCarlo (2005). First-year medical students prefer multiple learning styles. Adv Physiol Educ, 30, 13-16. Marilee B. Sprenger (2008). Environments for Learning. Differentiation through Learning Styles and Memory, 2, 1-10. Richard M. Felder and Joni Spurlin (2005). Applications, Reliability and Validity of the Index of Learning Styles. Int. Engng Ed, 21, 103-112.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 4 January 2017
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