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Video from Daniel T. Willingham about "learning styles."
Tags: Differentiation, Learningstyles
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Showing agreement of the students' differences in their abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but LS theory is being called into question. More about this controversial topic at http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back+Issues/September-October+201...
Some of the things you mention here are true. Maybe the theory of Learning Styles (LS) has lost credibility but still we learn in different ways and we tend to foreground some ways to learn more than others. I don't know how much LS theory has been revised but it is clear that the type of learner that served as a basis for the elaboration of this theory is not the same. Digital literacies have brought about a new learner; a multimodal learner that does not always break down learning processes into different channels of reception, as LS seems to do. Current learner's learning styles are more integrative since communication has become more complex and meaning-making requires various modes of communication to be working at the same time, e.g. visual, verbal, auditory modes, among others. Students have more exposition to all sources of stimuli, thus their learning strategies do not rely on one principal ‘intelligence’ (to use Gardner’s term), instead their learning may rely on multiple LS with similar levels of participation and relevance. You make an important point when suggesting that what “teachers want students to learn is based on meaning” not “particularly auditory or kinesthetic”. I agree that meaning-making is at the center of any literacy practice, however I differ from your inference that teachers don’t want student to learn “auditory or kinesthetic”. I don’t think teachers are teaching these styles, my take has always been that teachers use them to teach or inform some pedagogical decisions. The use of activities that realize any type of LS is intended to trigger students’ capacity for meaning making. Thus we would not say that students are visual learners because they favor certain mode of learning style rather we should say that they are better meaning-makers when exposed to certain activities or materials. Since the use of the term LS is becoming so tricky we may even start saying that our students are better meaning-makers when their learning is mediated by the affordances of visual or auditory materials, so to speak. I think learning and teaching should be multimodal and seen as fragmented as it has been seen so far. The core of the matter should be how students make-meaning as the first step leading to learning, consequently we should generate teaching/learning environments that account for the multimodal nature of meaning-making.
I work for a social studies company called TCI. We are known for creating programs that teach to the multiple intelligences. I think the point, which Gardner would reinforce, is that all people have intelligence. Learning styles might be better described as strengths (as Dr. Willingham points out). What's the instructional implication? To me, it's that a good lesson includes a good mix of learning techniques. Ideally, a teacher would like to include sound, movement, sight, interaction, and introspection in each lesson. Since every student has a strength and weak areas, a teacher should include as many as practical to reinforce the strengths and buffet the weak. At TCI (www.teachtci.com) we build all of our lessons exactly that way. To see how our approach happens in a lesson, watch this quick video from our 4th grade program: http://www.teachtci.com/programs/elementary/ssa-regions-of-our-coun...
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