Due to recent bombardment of both placement, house moving, toddler parenting and essay writing my E-Portfolio has taken a back seat. I am here to rectify that, while also igniting debate on one of my favourite topics (mainly because it’s up for debate)… learning styles.
During my placement at a local Dundee school I was able to see children absorb aspects of subjects in varying ways, then all be “tested” in one general manner. That “test” may come in different forms dependent on subject but this, lets check to see if they understand assessment will happen regardless. It is how we see as teachers that we are doing our job right. So when it comes to teaching a child about that subject do we approach it in all of the supposed learning styles, Kinaesthetic, Auditory, Visual and Read/Write? I beg to say that it’s just not possible. There will be elements that allow factors to be more prominent but then every child’s certain style isn’t being met for all lessons or all assessments.
I think the disadvantage to approaching learning styles as a credible and prominent feature in the classroom is the uncertainty of knowing what each child’s “style” truly is. Just like a child will maybe one day embrace their inner Emo or even go down the route of fashion blogger extra-ordinaire, we are not to know or predict. That’s not to discredit the extensive research, I know myself that I retain information I say aloud and recite better at times than if I were to just read it. But that’s the crux, “at times”, my style is so inconsistent and varies that even I struggle to keep up with it.
I was taught in a very read/write way, with times tables and spellings being rote learned. What David McNamara states as an ability to learn regardless. “Despite what they are offered the vast majority of children learn to read”. The critical analysis needed to decipher an approach different to what comes naturally, in itself, is a skill that children should acquire, scientific literacy. There is no harm in allowing children the space and time to speak with their peers and learn how others have approached testing aspects of a subject. However, that should never come at a cost or at the possible confusion of another. The skill of being scientifically literate should enable the children to analyse and question the world, the learning, the teacher, their learning style.
The increasing use and impact of ICT in schools and at home throws the debate up for further analysis. Children are being catered to in a much more visual and auditory manner when they use iPads, computers, apps, Interactive White Boards even. The step from books and one teacher with only so much knowledge has leapt to having a room with upwards of one computer, an interactive white board and a teacher who can utilise the internet and all it’s knowledge. Does this mean we have more to help us or is it information overload and we then stretch our own knowledge so thinly? Allowing our knowledge to not meet prior neccessary depths because “google” can answer it.
I set a group of children on my placement a challenge to research a Roald Dahl word from the “Giraffe, the Monkey, the Pelly and Me” , geraneous…. Now the children automatically said “Miss. Muir can I search it on my iPad”, to which I replied that they could with their carer/parent or they could check if it’s in a dictionary. “We don’t have dictionaries” was the resounding response. I grew up with more than one and I needed it for homework etc but they don’t have such archaic needs. They have the internet. So they came back with no answer, it’s a made up word. But around the “Geran” section of the dictionary is the word Geranium. A flower, a sometimes pink flower, which is the only plant the Giraffe in the story eats. It’s also a fantastically made up word from Dahl!!
Children will utilise and explore what they deem the best route to a solution, the best style. But as a teacher it will be my job to give them options to apply this to variety of contexts. A style all their own.
The teacher sits at the core to the debate. A teacher is one person with up to 33 eager (or not so eager as the case may be) children looking to them for help, guidance and empathic engagement. They way they pull those children to them speaks volumes. A child who has as many approaches as possible may feel overwhelmed or confused. A child who has only been reached by one method may feel like they can’t do something or anything. Growth mindset is about the ability to do one day. Learning styles are about children taking information on board when they are taught a specific way.
My argument is that we should believe all children can learn, all ways. Back in October last year I said teachers should, “Take an onus for their holistic learning,” and I stand by that.