For some time, research studies have concluded that we do not learn/study in
precisely the same way. For this brief commentary, I have deliberately grouped
both terms as similar. While this common sense approach towards scholarship
represents a welcomed message for parents and students, many teachers still
teach a large number of pupils one way, more often than not, by using
traditional teaching styles that might appear to be successful for the teacher
but unsuccessful for a large majority of the youngsters seated in front of them. This is
incorrect teaching -- proof that common sense continues to be not all that common within many
of today's classrooms.
My following commentary attempts to address this key issue, while at the
same time, offering suggestions for possible classroom improvement. If teachers require
their students to receive domain-specific information in a way that does not correspond
with their dominant learning modalities, to perform under classroom conditions
that interfere with their preferred learning, or to demonstrate learning
in such a way that fails them to use their more dominant intelligences,
then such teachers create within their students forms of artificial stress,
reduced motivation, and repressed performance. Along this same line
of thinking, there is a considerable body of research evidence suggesting
that many special education students who have been formally categorized,
for example, as learning disabled (LD) are, in fact, not LD students per
se but assessed and taught incorrectly in terms of their dominant learning
style. Perhaps a more positive way of describing their LD is that they
simply Learn Differently!
And now, after painting a negative but realistic
image of numerous contemporary classrooms ... the good news, and the good news
is indeed promising! An efficient classroom teacher will tend to
teach in many different ways in order to reach all of her/his
students. Teaching something only one way (such as lecturing to one's auditory
learning channel) will miss all the students who do not learn best in that
manner. Simply put for this web comment,
good teaching is teaching through a
variety of learning channels. Most students can
learn the same content. But how they best receive and then perceive that
content is determined largely by their individual learning styles. Simply
defined, a student's studying style is the way a student processes,
concentrates, internalizes and retain novel and often difficult bits of domain
specific content knowledge, usually for testing and examination purposes. And as is the case with how one best learns information, many of the same
elements, emotional, environmental, biological, sociological, and physiological
must also be taken into account when studying.
factors which may influence learning are: motivation, responsibility, and
persistence. Through identification and modification, bad study / learning habits
can be replaced by more productive habits. Knowing your current levels
of these emotional factors, and working to positively reshape them can
not only enhance your studying potential but change your outlook toward
factors such as sound, temperature, lighting, and physical arrangement
can have a significant impact on your ability to learn / study. Although some of
us enjoy loud background music, many prefer a quiet place to learn, clear of
distractions. Some students crank up the heating system whereas others seem to
prefer a cooler studying environment. Some children prefer a low
lighting system around them, while others have all the lights in the house
on. Others enjoy the traditional chair and desk study approach
while still others seem to be able to study all curled up in the middle of
a bed. In short, paying close attention to these environmental factors and establishing
an environment conducive to studying can increase overall learning.
the 1960s, Roger Sperry's Nobel prize winning work suggested that the right
and left hand sides of the human brain possessed specialized and different
functions: the left being clinical and analytical while the right influenced
the more artistic and sensing side of our nature. That is, our left
cerebral hemisphere handled, in the main, logical/linear functions and
verbal/linguistic skills, and the right half of our brain developed a reputation
as the artistic, imaginative, emotional, musical, and holistic side. Today,
while that form of cerebral thinking is considered somewhat simplistic,
it may have opened up additional avenues to greater exploration into the
true nature of cognitive functioning and how all of us acquire, store and
employ domain specific knowledge.
split-brain hypothesis so prevalent at that time represented a challenge
to the concept of intellectual quotient (IQ) which, in the main, purported
to assess verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical skills, skills that
were once considered to be handled by the left half of the brain.
Today, more advanced research suggests that IQ scores actually measure
only some of our overall abilities. This fact is evidenced by the realization
that good athletes, artists or musicians were once simply (supposedly)
talented while those considered good in science and math were considered
smart or intelligent. In today's 2009 world, all of them ought to
be considered 'intelligent.'
students are not aware of the sociological factors that positively affect
their ability to study effectively. Some prefer studying alone, in pairs,
or in teams with adults or any combination thereof. Similarly, some
seem to learn best in bright lights while others prefer darker corners.
And some seem to learn best while eating or drinking or with loud music
on in the background. While it is difficult for a variety of these
sociological patters to operate simultaneously within one classroom, their
value for efficient learning, especially studying, is of note here.
To sum, students benefit from utilizing a variety of different sociological
settings, as some serve to enhance initial learning while others act as
reinforcement for studying.
factors which influence your studying / learning style are those that involve your
senses: auditory (ears), visual (eyes), tactile
(touch), kinaesthetic (motion), gustatory (taste), and olfactory
(smell), the initial three being more predominant. Visual students
study best by watching a process, or reading materials. Research
suggests that most learning occurs here. Next comes the auditory
learning channel. Here, we study best by listening in class, discussing information
in groups, and reciting study notes. Tactile students study best by hands-on
activities, manipulating objects or flash cards, working problems or re-typing
notes. Kinaesthetic students study best by demonstrating movement in their work,
exercising while reading, or walking while reciting their notes. Olfactory
students involve their nose to distinguish specific elements. And finally,
gustatory students study best by tasting the item under investigation.
These latter two factors account for only a minor part of overall learning.
How more auditory
students tend to learn mainly by hearing classroom information. They
seem to learn best through their ears, especially via verbal lectures,
discussions, talking things through and listening to the words of others.
They interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone
of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. When they have pages to read
for homework, they need to quietly say the words aloud in order to hear
the words as they read. Often, written information has little meaning
until it is heard. When they are learning concepts such as phonetic sounds,
they need to hear the similarities. For example, they may not realize
"ph" sounds just like "f" unless they say the sounds out loud. Reading
aloud, going over class notes and talking to oneself about the relevant
points is important. Before reading, set a purpose and verbalize
it, after finished a task, be sure to summarize out loud what was just
learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.
Taping lectures or notes and playing them back to learn the information
can be quite an effective way for an auditory student to understand and
remember the information. The speaking of ideas into a tape recorder is
like having a conversation with someone. If possible, such learners should
talk to their friends about the material. Because auditory learners
sometimes encounter problems keeping columns aligned, math computations
can be completed on graph paper. The extreme left-hand column in Table
1 below lists alternative strategies for the auditory learner.
more visual learners study
students learn mainly by 'seeing' the material to be learned, that is,
when the material is presented graphically, as in charts, tables, illustrated
text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flip charts, hand-outs, maps,
etc. Such students often prefer sitting at the front of the classroom to
avoid irrelevant visual obstructions. When in class, visual people should
look at the teachers when they are speaking, participate in class discussions
and take detailed notes during lectures. Visual learners enjoy watching
the teacher's body language and facial expression. This enables them to
better comprehend the content of the classroom subject under discussion.
When studying, such students tend to study alone in a quiet place and try
to transcribe their material on paper. When possible, make designs,
drawings, graphs or tables of complex abstract ideas and work alone.
who learn visually often have trouble working while having a dialogue,
even if the dialogue directly pertains to the subject matter. Any
homework they can complete using diagrams, time lines, charts, or graphs
will be better remembered. As they read pages for homework, they
need to either take written notes or underline important facts and dates
in colors. When they are learning such auditory concepts as phonetic
sounds, they must see the letters to learn.
more kinaesthetic-tactual learners study
all the types of classroom students, perhaps the kinaesthetic / tactual
learners are the most maligned group; they learn best through a hands-on
approach. In other words, these are your touchers and feelers; they
like to be physically involved as they find it extremely difficult to sit
still. They often get out of their desks, pace around the classroom,
want to have music or television playing in the background. In short,
they are almost constantly finding themselves distracted.
need to learn keyboarding skills, because these types of learners work
well on computers where they can touch the keys as they type. They
learn well when they can do things, such as in a lab. They need to
actually use their hands and bodies while learning. Kinaesthetic /
tactual learners may need to walk around or pace or hop or whatever while
reading. When studying for tests, they need to make flash cards to
remember important dates and facts. Unfortunately, they often have
a hard time in school because they have to sit still and listen to a teacher.
They need to learn to take notes in class in order to have something for
their hands to do. The two right-hand columns in Box 1 below contain
additional alternative strategies for such learners.
asking you to identify your more dominant studying style, one comment. All of us use the three above studying modalities but often to different
degrees. For instance, I seem to study best visually with a pen or
highlighter in my hand, with a secondary studying style of kinaesthetic-tactual.
If asked to listen to auditory directions, I may understand the first item
or two, but then I am lost, in more ways than one. I have to either
write down the directions as I hear them, or visualize the oral directions,
often requiring the aid of a map. When listening to lectures, I seem
to learn best by taking numerous notes and sketching diagrams depicting
the content under investigation.
My Studying Styles Inventory
out and read over the following three (3) lists of statements.
Using a highlighter or pen, circle or/and note the numeral to the left
of every statement that you feel that best applies to you, at this point in time
of your busy life. As we all differ
so markedly in how we acquire and retain knowledge and especially, for this
note, how we best study, there are no
right or wrong statements, only non applicable comments. You may
have as much time as you need to complete the three sections, so read over
each studying characteristic carefully and, if it applies to you, note
it in your own way before you complete the two remaining sections.
If I hear someone's name, I remember it easily.
Rather than reading a book, I prefer to listen to a tape or someone read
the book to me.
I can pay attention and remember easier when others read out loud to me.
I find that songs and jingles help me to remember things.
I use oral explanations and ask students to repeat or paraphrase.
I use audio recordings whenever possible.
I give oral instructions most of the time.
I explore and develop information through class discussions.
I remember songs after hearing them only a couple of times.
I often read and study by repeating information aloud to myself.
When taking a class test or term exam, I am easily distracted by background
I like to study for tests by having someone quiz me aloud.
I like to talk and listen.
I work out my math story problems by talking through them aloud.
I participate in class discussions/debates.
I make speeches and presentations.
I use a tape recorder during lectures instead of taking notes.
I read text out aloud.
I create musical jingles to aid memorization
I create mnemonics to aid memorization
I discuss my ideas verbally.
I dictate to someone while they write down my thoughts.
I use verbal analogies, and story telling to demonstrate my point
I prefer to have a clear view of my subject teachers when they are speaking.
In this way, I can see their body language and facial expression.
I use color to highlight important points in a textbook or in a handout.
I take notes and I ask my teachers to provide handouts.
I illustrate my ideas as a picture or brainstorming bubble before writing
I write a story and illustrate it.
I use multi-media (e.g., computers, videos, and filmstrips).
I study in a quiet place away from verbal disturbances.
I prefer to read illustrated books.
I visualize information as a picture to aid memorization.
To see if I have spelled a word correctly, I write it out to see if it
I can remember names if I see them written on name tags.
I enjoy reading books, looking at the pictures and using visual materials
such as pictures, charts, maps, graphs, etc.
Before doing a project, I prefer to read the instructions or look at the
I take down class notes to help me to remember what the teacher says.
I usually write down my assignments to help me to remember its contents.
I like to use flash cards to practice vocabulary words.
My desk and locker is neatly organized.
I am able to sit and watch TV or work on the computer / internet for a
I understand things better when I read them than when I listen to them.
I prefer being given a list of duties to complete rather than being told.
I seem to be able to picture things in my mind easily.
I learn best via visual aids (e.g., chalkboard notes, visual illustrations,
charts, graphs, concept maps, outlines, graphic organizers).
I seem to understand knowledge best via video recordings.
I take frequent study breaks.
I move around to learn new things (e.g., read while on an exercise bike,
mould a piece of clay to learn a new concept).
I enjoy working in a standing position.
I chew gum while studying.
I use bright colors to highlight reading material.
I dress up my work space with posters.
I listen to music while I study.
I skim through reading material to get a rough idea what it is about before
settling down to read it in detail.
I emphasize and clarify ideas through gesture, facial expression and dramatization.
I enjoy active learning and direct experience and experimentation.
I prefer completing tasks which imply physical movement.
I prefer doing class assignments that involve project work.
It is hard for me to pay attention when I must sit still for the entire
I enjoy sports and being active.
I count on my fingers or with other objects to do math problems.
My favourite classes are those where I can move around a lot.
I choose to play outside rather than sit inside and read a book or listen
I have a hard time staying neat and organized.
I am good at skills that require precise movements, for example, walking
on a balance beam, serving a volleyball, or playing ping-pong.
I prefer to learn a new activity by being shown how to do it rather than
by reading about it or listening to a tape about it.
I would like to act out stories rather than talk about them.
I have a good sense of balance and rhythm.
three (3) above totals may suggest your possible dominant studying style.
That is, if your highest total is visual, you likely study best
by SEEING, that is, you tend to remember best by using your eyes
for studying. If your highest total is auditory, you likely
study best by HEARING. In other words, you remember best by using
your ears to study. And, if your highest total is kinaesthetic-tactual,
you probably study best by DOING things, that is, you remember best
by movement or physical activities that involve many parts of your body,
in particular, your hands and feet. Box 1 (immediately below), outlines some of the many alternative ways of studying that I have found to be successful.
/ CD / DVD recordings
journals / diaries
pictures / posters
videos / DVD's
maps / visualizations
charts / schematas
letters / reviews
graphs / models
dioramas / games
cartoons / puppetry
movies / masks
photographs / slides
Box 1: Some Alternative
Ways for Students to Study