When discussing learning styles, the most familiar component is preferred sensory modality. In fact, when people talk about learning styles they usually mean which of the VAKT sensory receptors does the learner prefer. (VAKT stands for Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic and Tactile). We have already discussed that this model is too simplistic (see Step 3: Verbalize).
Many of you are also familiar with the idea of “left brain” vs. “right brain” learners or conceptual vs. detail oriented learners. This idea as presented is also too simplistic. For a learner to own their knowledge at the level where they can troubleshoot they need to understand both the concept AND the details. Understanding how a particular learner approaches information tells the teacher how to prepare the lesson. But what should we do when we teach a class with both of these learning styles being taught to simultaneously? I propose you teach in a circular fashion. Begin with the concept, for the detail oriented learner can wait for the details. However, if you begin with the details the conceptual learner has no way of organizing the details so they get lost. Think about the way people approach doing a jigsaw puzzle. One approach is to look at how the individual pieces connect. A person who does this may even be able to put the puzzle together on the reverse side, with no picture cues. Another approach is to look at the picture on the box, so that you have a frame work by which to place all the individual puzzle pieces. The former is your detail oriented learner and the latter is your conceptual learner. If your lesson is prepared by first explaining the concept your conceptual learner will now have the framework in which to put the upcoming details. Your detail oriented learner will need to be reminded of the concept after they get the details since the concept meant nothing to them without first having the details. To them the concept is the glue holding the puzzle together, rather than the framework guiding them in placement.
As an example, when you are teaching phonics what is the concept? Is it explicitly taught?
The next component to learning style we discussed in Engaging Materials part 2. While most people know these concepts, we do not think about how they contribute to learning and need to be incorporated into the lesson planning. I am referring to level of concreteness. Imagine (abstract right there 😊) if geometry was taught by description only, no graphics shown. I am sure you can see how people would have a much harder time learning with such an abstract method. The airplane was a concept that Aristotle struggled mightily to get people to understand. This is because while to him it was concrete enough to draw, to his generation it was as much an abstract idea as me trying to convince people that my time travel machine can work, if you just help me tweak it, because I have drawn diagrams of it. You see how I made an abstract idea more concrete by giving you an example you could relate to and thus understand what I am trying to communicate? You’ll also note how the burden is on me, the speaker to help you understand? While it may be frustrating to me if I could not come up with a relatable example I think you can see how unfair it would be for me to tell you that you aren’t trying hard enough, are lazy or worse, stupid because I have failed to take my audience into account and made sure to speak to their level of understanding.
To be continued…