Learning Styles

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The secret of education is respecting the pupil.” Part of respecting the ‘pupil’ is understanding them; learning their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, the way they learn… their ‘style’.

Think of how frustrating it is when someone wants you to understand something, but they don’t take time to explain it in a way you understand. Our children can get frustrated when we expect them to learn, but aren’t communicating in a manner they can grasp.

feet in water - Psalm 139God created us that way, so we can’t all be expected to think, learn and process information in the same way. There are many different studies, tests, and philosophies of learning that discuss various aspects of learning. The bottom line though, boils down to the fact that we are all unique individuals, with a myriad of different ways we learn. In teaching, our goal is to learn our child’s ‘style’ and encourage them in their strengths, help them in their weaknesses and develop them into the person God created them to be.

As we seek to understand how our child/children learn, it helps to have an understanding of some of the different philosophies of learning. One way of understanding learning is ‘how do we best take in information?’ The auditory/visual/kinesthetic approach says that most of us will learn best in one or a combination of these styles.

When children are young, most will be kinesthetic learners, they want to touch, feel, experience the world around them. As they grow they can continue to be kinesthetic learners, which means they will learn best by doing and experiencing, others will develop into more auditory or visual learners. The auditory learner will learn best when they hear what they need to learn and the visual needs to see it.

Beyond this though are many varied ways people learn. Think about it, do you learn best by reading, having someone explain? Do you need to take notes as you read or listen? Do you learn best in a quiet place or in a busy, noisy place? Do you learn best sitting up straight at a table, lying on the floor, sitting under a tree outside? Watch your child, how does he/she seem to learn best?

Processing information involves how we take in information, how we file it, and then how we use it. I always thought it was interesting how one of my daughters liked to have the ‘big’ picture first, then the details would fall into place. She could make the jumps from the steps almost intuitively once she understood the whole. On the other hand, my other daughter didn’t want to know the whole, she wanted the steps. She liked to know how to get from step one to step two. If I tried to show her the large picture, I would just end up frustrating her, whereas my other daughter would get frustrated by the steps if she didn’t ‘see’ the large picture first.

The way we learn effects the way we teach. We tend to expect our children to learn in the same way we do. If we were in a classroom situation with 20 to 30+ children it would be hard to give each child individual attention and to attempt to learn his or her unique strengths and abilities as well as weaknesses and disabilities. Our situation is different though, thankfully. We have the opportunity to get to know our students style and not only that, we have the joy of getting to know our child/children and see them flourish in an environment that supports their uniqueness and cherishes their God given strengths as well as their God given weaknesses.

There are many sources and resources out there to help you determine yours and your child’s learning style. Do a search on the internet or go to the library and check out some books that will help you understand some of the various philosophies. Most importantly though, take the time to respect your student, learn his/her style, and watch them flourish.

By Tami Munden

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