As individuals, we are different from each other in so many aspects and this holds good for learning styles as well. Every child has a different method for committing something to memory – some may find rote learning easy while others have to understand and ask questions before memorizing.
With conventional schooling, your child may learn on his or her own, which method suits them best, but not without trial and error. This can be attributed to the blind exposure approach that schools adopt – exposing the child to various forms of learning and continue in the same manner; eventually, the child has to deal with subjects not taught in their style by delivering content to themselves in a manner that proves best for them. The issue here is that there is a lot of time lost – one in delivery of a subject matter not suited to their learning style and the other in conversion and re-learning.
What are Learning Styles?
The simplest manner in which this can be defined is that every individual has a different method of studying that works best for them and these methods are known as learning styles.
The most common classification of these styles is laid out in the acronym VARK – Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing and, Kinaesthetic.
There is no experimental evidence that such learning styles are specific to each student but if you ask an adult or a child, there will be different methods that they lean towards and this is considered logical evidence that supports the claim of multiple learning styles.
Teachers also study extensively upon how to incorporate these different styles in their delivery of material, although in conventional schooling, it is more often catered to concepts rather than students, given the diversity.
Why is this important?
With conventional schooling, teachers approach teaching by either exposing students to various types of learning and gauging the effectiveness of such styles based on a simple majority or, more often than not, they develop their own style over years which combines all the different styles based on which style he or she believes conveys a concept better – tailoring her teaching style based on concepts rather than students.
The issue is that not all students can work with multiple learning styles that are concept-based. With conventional schooling, they have no option but to spend time converting the matter into a form that helps them best remember information but with homeschool lesson plans, a more student-oriented teaching style can be undertaken.
There are numerous home education websites that can break this down for you by informing you how to understand what style is best suited for your child based solely on their personality and preferences. A student-oriented approach to education is unique to the student but it is important to also take into consideration the teacher’s perspective on such approaches.
VARK Learning Styles – Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, Kinaesthetic
VARK stands for the 4 different types of sensory modalities used for information retention or simply, learning. This was the result of hours of teaching and learning experience and the interpretation of research and observations. Although they are not strictly independent and overlap from time to time, they are distinct in prominent areas and we can help you distinguish between them.
Visual learners include children who learn best with diagrams and pictures. Children in this category more often than have eidetic memories. They remember information better when it is presented in the form of schematic diagrams, memory maps and tables.
They visualize information as a hierarchal diagram, responding to arrows, charts.
This may not mean that they prefer videos and photographs but instead retain information better when they have a rough idea of the overall concept presented to them as a whole i.e. a summary chart would help them remember information better than successive slides filled with text-based information.
Aural learners prefer information to be communicated i.e. content that is heard or spoken. They respond better to lectures, group discussions, and chat. Even though chats might be considered textual, its nature is colloquial. An interactive session might be of a little more importance for such learners – being able to discuss and question a concept.
More often than not, they benefit more from investing their undivided attention to listening and prefer not to take notes which is misunderstood as inattentiveness and idleness.
This method of learning works both ways – children learn from discussing concepts with their peers and also learn by reading information out aloud to themselves.
Children who learn best through reading and writing respond best to text-based information. In this case, sequential slides filled with information and text books help to a great extent. These students take down extensive notes and refer religiously to dictionaries and powerpoint presentations.
Written assignments help them learn and most of their understanding comes from reading and writing out information. This style of learning is the most commonly observed one (in India) and there is no information on whether it is promoted by the system of education or if it is just preferred to other styles.
Kinaesthetic learners depend on experience to learn concepts. They require exposure to a hands-on approach to learning information. Active participation is essential to their understanding of concepts.
To exemplify, imagine teaching them about the organ system. They would learn better if they were taught concepts while working on a rough model of the same with materials such as balloons, straws and rubber-bands. Being able to assemble a model and relate its working to the organ system would help them and their ability to understand concepts by either hearing information or a diagrammatic representation of information is significantly lesser.
From another perspective, it is a combination of the other learning styles with an additional style. They initially hear and read information which can be diagrammatically presented to them so to communicate a concept but understanding and learning come only with their participation in an activity related to the concept.
Some schools that accommodate specifically kinaesthetic learners even allow students to structure their syllabus but this mode of education is not as popular as it is effective and would only hold good for preschool learning and the exposure of subjects remains the parent’s or teacher’s prerogative.
Multimodality – Is the VARK system too constrained?
Life is a multi-faceted experience and the same goes for studying. Not everyone can be strictly categorized into one of these learners. Most people use a context-based approach (probably due to conventional schooling, but there is no research to support that). This means that they switch between learning styles according to circumstances. They usually have equal preferences in all methods of learning and, for the purposes of putting a name to it, they are classified as VARK Type-One.
Others prefer to use all learning styles, taking their time to compile information and may be seen as procrastinators or slow-learners, but on the contrary are intensive learners rather than extensive learners. They comprise VARK Type-Two.
On the other hand, children who fall in between the two make up the VARK Transition group.
Is it necessary to understand the learning style of your child?
One of the most prominent homeschool benefits is that the teaching methods and styles for your child are malleable and you have considerable control over them. Now we have established that the conventional method of exposure to all styles wastes a considerable amount of time.
Every child has a different method of learning which may include a single style or a combination of learning styles. Understanding which styles help your child learn is the most time-efficient method because time spent in trial and error can be diverted into learning more. Understanding and making them aware of which styles help them study best can have numerous benefits in the long-run.
Academically, they are inclined to study better and learn concepts more efficiently. Their chances of succeeding in college or school increase because they possess customized learning techniques that are unique to them and work best for them. They can perform well regardless of the calibre of their teachers or lecturers and reduces the stress that accompanies education.
Personally, they are seen to be more self-confident and self-aware because they are enabled with the knowledge on how to use their brain to the best of their abilities. In addition, they gain insight into their strengths and weakness and are academically armed with the tools and knowledge that allow them to study accordingly. In an overview, they are able to enjoy the process of learning.
Professionally, they are more likely to take on a leadership role and will be able to manage teams more efficiently. Their ability to communicate the same idea to diverse sections of a population is better and their confidence and tendency to play to their advantage command respect.
It is amazing to think that such traits are born at the early levels of education but if you have not started yet, don’t worry – It’s always better late than never!
Understanding and Identifying Learning Styles
So, we’ve covered why knowing your child’s style of learning is important and now let us delve into how you can identify it. In a home schooling system, as the primary teacher, you can observe these development indicators to determine which method of studying might best suit your child.
The most prominent sign of a visual learner is their interest in art – they are drawn to shapes and patterns. They enjoy illustrated books more than textual novels and also have vivid memories. They effortlessly recall faces, names and places.
They tend to recognise places that you would’ve visited with them before. Their memory usually relays visually-observed information.
They usually show keen interest in instruments or are interested in singing and are musically inclined. They are very good listeners and tend to follow verbal instructions well. They retain information from conversations and work best with extensive interaction. They also tend to recognize sounds that no one else might.
Such learners take extensive notes and may progress from illustrated books to novels quicker than their peers. If none of the other styles work for them, they usually tend to learn by writing the same thing multiple times and can be seen to be more proficient in written language.
Kinaesthetic learners are seen to be very physically active – they are usually inclined to sports and/or dance. They are interested in the working of processes that they are able to physically observe.
If you observe a strong hand-eye coordination coupled with a very fidgety and restless persona, it is likely that your child is a kinaesthetic learner. Such learners also tend to learn physical activities a lot quicker than their peers – crawling, craftwork, climbing, and so on.
They tend to use hand gestures while speaking and can be extremely expressive while speaking.
Now that we have covered everything you have to know about learning styles, let us discuss what you can do with this information.
Drawing out what you can expect might make you want one outcome more than the other but you have to keep in mind that this is not a list that helps you model your child, but instead helps you understand them. Introducing methods of studying that you believe will change your child’s style of studying will be counter-productive.
Most learning cannot be distinguished into set criteria and teachers swear by a multi-faceted learning approach. Nevertheless, knowing your child’s style of learning can help you train them to play to their advantages and weaknesses.
Following a “I do – We do – You do” approach also has proven useful regardless of which method of learning your child finds best. It is based on the simple foundation of teaching a concept, working with them on that concept and then, allowing them to apply concepts. It involves a combination of rote learning and understanding concepts which prepares them for the academic setting of most systems of education.
All this information does not go in vain and a little reading can take you a long way. The early formational years of a child’s education are very important and preschool homeschooling curriculums leave a lot of decisions in your hands. Identifying your child’s learning preferences give you a head-start and can guide you in deciding on suitable course material for your child!