While many public school classrooms have traditionally taught all children using the same lessons and techniques, recent studies show that a child’s unique learning style should also be taken into consideration. Considering that each child has his or her own learning style, public schools are now experimenting with programs to accommodate the individual needs of every student, gifted, normal, or special.
The Various Styles of Learning
According to Learning Styles, a program devoted to helping each learner understand more about his or her own unique cognitive processes, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to engage in an optimal pattern or routine of learning. As each individual has his or her own intellectual strengths, educators and parents should utilize a child’s strengths in order to teach him or her to succeed.
The various styles of learning are typically referred to as “multiple intelligences.” Although a very recent and often debated theory, many educators and public school leaders are slowly recognizing the potential benefits of incorporating the multiple intelligences approach. As many experts support, by allowing students to recognize and understand their own unique methods of learning, teachers can more appropriately use a variety of techniques to adapt lessons for a range of individuals. Additionally, understanding and accepting the various types of learning most often helps to improve the speed and quality of each child’s comprehension and learning. Currently, there are seven identified basic modes / styles of learning:
- Visual – Visual learners prefer learning with pictures and images, and they excel with spatial concepts and tasks.
- Aural – Aural learners prefer using sound and / or music to grasp new concepts.
- Verbal – These linguistic learners excel with words, both in speech and in writing.
- Physical – Physical learners, also known as kinesthetic learners, engage most optimally when using their own bodies through hands-on activities or by touching / interacting with the subject of focus.
- Logical – Students with a logical approach tend to demonstrate a more mathematical style of learning, as they prefer logic and reasoning assignments.
- Social – Social learners prefer to work with peers or in groups.
- Solitary – Contrary to social learners, solitary learners favor working alone and / or using self-study techniques.
Are Learning Styles Actually Important?
While there are many diverse arguments regarding the significance of learning styles, leading research asserts that a student’s learning style ultimately influences how an individual internally comprehends experiences, recalls memories and information, and even influences the specific words students choose to use in speech.
Subsequently, school leaders have begun to harshly analyze the traditionally used methods of public school instruction. In the past, and oftentimes still today, public school teachers have relied on using only linguistics and logical teaching styles. Adding to this, many teachers still solely depend on a textbook-approach to instruction, involving a great deal of repetition and frequent exams for review and reinforcement. According to Learning Styles, this un-productive approach results in a disproportionate tracking of students’ abilities: “A result is that we often label those who use these learning styles and techniques as ‘bright.’ Those who use less favored learning styles often find themselves in lower classes.”
How are Public Schools Accommodating Learning Styles?
While each public school community is ultimately charged with creating their own school policies and philosophical approaches to instruction, a rising number of public institutions are seeking to adapt their classroom procedures to offer a more diverse model of instruction.
Perhaps leading this trend, as the Greenville News reveals, are current and former leaders of national public education programs, such as former U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard Riley. In light of troubling statistics that compare our nation’s academic performance in contrast with the global environment, Riley argues, “We must take a closer look at schools that are succeeding and recognize that they are doing so because of high expectations for every student, effective engagement of students, parents and teachers, and a level of personalization that meets every student's learning style.” Aligning with the philosophy of multiple intelligences, Riley, along with a new wave of educators, hopes to immediately improve student performance by catering to individual learning styles.
A shining example of integrating new teaching tactics to support unique learning styles is evident at Bellingham Public Schools (BPS). BPS, located in Bellingham, Washington, is one of the many districts embracing models that cater to the various styles of learning. Specifically, BPS follows clear and focused goals that strive to personalize the learning experience for each student. Some of the strategies BPS is using include:
- The district provides students with small learning environments for more meaningful and caring relationships in the classroom.
- Smaller learning environments are encouraged to cater individual opportunities and interventional strategies for each child.
- Students develop an academic portfolio of their progress throughout their school years. This portfolio is sent with students to each of their subsequent school years, allowing teachers to find out immediate information regarding a student’s needs, learning styles, and strengths.
- Teachers create personalized interventions for students who are below-standard level, while also requiring additional and more rigorous challenges / expectations for students who are at or above standard levels.
With BPS’ modernized and holistic plans for diverse instruction, many leaders anticipate that the trend for varied instruction will be embraced by public leaders across the country.