How to Utilize Learning Style Assessments to Increase Every Child’s Potential
The phrase “learning style” has been a hot-button topic in recent years, and has many parents scratching their heads as to its usefulness, validity, and benefit to their family’s homeschool classroom. Questions abound: Do my children have distinct learning styles – and do they vary widely? Am I teaching the right way? If I realize my child favors one style over another, should that be the ONLY way that I disseminate information?
The consensus on the importance of learning styles in teaching methodology varies widely among parents. Most realize that many children have a distinct preference, but that the incorporation of a multi-faceted teaching approach has got some significant benefits. And some families have discovered that each of their children absorbs information in polar opposite ways!
Homeschool mom Alice, who has taught a Study Skills co-op with many children in addition to her own, has some very good points to make:
“I think trial and error in the homeschool setting is the most effective method of all. We have great maneuverability as homeschooling parents. I can adjust my teaching methods or try new tactics at the snap of a finger. We also have the benefit of immediate feedback. Unlike a teacher who has thirty children to teach, we sit beside our students and know immediately if they are “zoning out” or simply not “getting it.”
The incorporation of varying learning style approaches while teaching is important in preparing children for the adult world.
“Information will not always be packaged in the way they would like it to be,” said Alice, “so they need to take ownership of taking it the way it is and repackaging it themselves. Involving them in the process gives them the tools to overcome their own roadblocks, which may be different once they are an adult, in college, or out in the work place.”
So how do you make learning styles work in a real world homeschool classroom, with children of varying personalities, all while preparing them for life and continuing education in the big beyond?
Take a Learning Styles Assessment for each of your children.
No matter what methods you chose to utilize most in your classroom, having a better understanding of how your child BEST absorbs and retains information is a crucial step in the entire process. You should perform an assessment for each child, individually. Bridgeway’s newest learning style assessment tool will not only determine a favored style, it will offer unique strategies to incorporate into various subjects.
Educate yourself even more.
Perhaps an assessment will lead you to realize that your child is an auditory learner. A very simple translation is that these types of learners need to hear and participate in dialog to reach a full understanding and absorption of information. But what does this MEAN in relation to classroom strategy? To your teaching methods? Is reading aloud and repeating information the only way to go?
Absolutely not. You need to go a step further. For example, a visual learner may be weak in verbal skills, so it is just as important to draw them into discussion in order to strengthen needed proficiencies.
Here is a quick summary of tricks and tools for each learning style to keep in mind when contemplating teaching styles for varied learners:
Children who prefer to learn visually are often detail oriented, and will prefer written directions. Graphics, pictures, visual images in books, and maps, graphs or charts are often excellent ways to supplement course material. Teaching tools to keep in your pocket include providing check-off lists with written instructions, using cartoons, flashcards, and the use of graphic organizers. Online education video games can be an excellent reward AND an effective learning tool for the visual learner.
Children who prefer auditory lessons need to both hear and repeat when absorbing information. Teaching tips to keep in mind include the utilization of debate and discussion – keep back and forth conversation flowing – and always seek to talk out ideas, interests, problems, and possibilities. Keep in mind that auditory learners can be easily distracted by noise or commotion. If this is an issue for a multi-aged household, headphones can be helpful at times.
Also known as kinesthetic learners, these children may always seem to be moving, but keep in mind that movement actually helps them learn best. Frequent breaks may be necessary, as well as hands-on activities (also great for visual and auditory learners as well since most children learn by doing!) Remember that tactile learners need to keep their hands busy, so give them something to write down or highlight during lessons that may be more auditory or visual in nature. Look for lesson activities that include sculptures, crafts, or models of what is being discussed. One super trick: repetitive movement while memorizing – trampoline, jumping rope, etc. – will help engage their brain!
Keep in mind
It is important to teach with your child’s motivations and interests in mind, rather than what you perceive to be a propensity to encode information through one particular style. Excitement and energy are always the best go-to teaching methods!