In the field of education buzz words and techniques come and go. One big idea that has gained traction over the last few years is the idea of
learning styles. This way of thinking declares that each individual has a method of learning that is best for them. For one person it might be visual, for another auditory, and yet another might benefit from kinesthetic learning. In fact, entire programs have been built around teaching students in a specific manner to match an individual style. We can understand why this idea has gained momentum because we
feel like we have a learning style ourselves.
The reason learning styles is a myth is that it is NOT supported by research.
While it is a myth that each child has a learning style and can only learn in one manner, I would absolutely agree that each of us has a learning preference. However, limiting students to only one style/method of teaching, even if it is their preferred style, is detrimental.
You see, we all learn best when information is solidified in our minds through VARIED learning strategies. Allow me to illustrate. Students may catch a decent bit of a new concept when explained verbally, but the understanding is deepened when they then see an illustration of the idea, and deepened further when they touch the idea (blocks, drawing, notes, experiment, etc.). Students can then take it a step further when they are asked to explain or defend an idea.
When a student is exposed to an idea with a single method it may indeed be understood, but when students receive information in a variety of ways, all students are helped, not merely ones that prefer that teaching method.
We discover this to be true in our own Bible reading. When we merely read or listen to the Scripture, we obtain one level of understanding or memory. However, that improves when we take notes, underline, or annotate our reading. Our comprehension continues to improve when we discuss the reading with a friend or teacher, read commentary about it, or see pictures of it. Finally, when we have an opportunity to teach a lesson about what we've learned the information comes alive.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
First, I think it is important that you understand that your child can learn in a variety of forms and is not limited to one. Not only can they learn in a variety of ways, but understanding and retention is improved when information is presented in different forms and they are asked to interact with that information in various manners.
This is also an area of emphasis for our teacher development this year. We are working to give teachers an expanded tool box of methods and ideas to use in their classrooms to help expose and involve students with varied methods. Pray for us as we dive deeply into this area of professional development this year. It is exciting and your students are already benefiting from varied teaching methods.