Different learning styles in the classroom
There are different learning styles in the classroom, i.e. different approaches to knowledge transfer and acquisition. Although many learning theories are based on student character and their preferences, not all children/learners are the same, which means that it is practically impossible to define one learning style as the best. However, by combining different approaches, we can recognize the unique talents of each student and help them to develop their skills.
Wanting to raise learning to a higher level, many experts presented their notions of learning techniques. As this is a topic that has been discussed and analyzed for centuries, it is clear that we now have a number of theories and learning concepts. Of course, it is improper to pigeonhole children, because every person is unique in their own way. This is why teachers approach learning theories with certain hesitation, observing them as instructions that facilitate knowledge acquisition.
Different learning styles can be very useful, if they are not taken at face value. Namely, every student has unique interests, therefore they will react differently to similar stimuli. In addition, children also differ in character, which means that the same learning style won’t have the same effect on everyone.
Knowing this, teachers implement certain methods to reach each child. In addition, certain types of learning styles are often associated with certain areas of learning, such as music or history.
Identifying learning styles in the classroom using different theories/approaches
The implementation of specific educational programs facilitates the learning process, because methods are adjusted to the material. In essence, learning styles are based on three theories of learning: constructivism, behaviorism and cognitivism.
Proponents of this theory believe that learning is effective if new information is based on previous knowledge and experience. This means that everyone can master the material in their own way. To be successfully implemented, this method requires the acquisition of fundamental knowledge that will be used for the adoption of new knowledge.
This way, students create a database of sorts that will be later used to acquire new knowledge and skills. However, it is important that the acquisition of new knowledge is based on solid foundations. If the fundamental knowledge is wrong, everything we learn subsequently will be based on false premises. Therefore, it is important that teachers actively monitor their students’ progress in order to correct potential errors in the learning process as soon as they emerge.
Behaviorist theory proposes that students behave in line with their environment, i.e. based on the given input. Behaviorists believe that in this process, learners acquire information based on repetition, praise, reward and punishment. In this approach, teachers help learners to adopt certain information, and to perform certain actions habitually, when necessary. This is particularly important in school sports activities, or when performing complex projects that demand students to follow the rules.
Cognitive theory focuses on the way people think. Cognitivists believe that learners adopt new information more easily by deconstructing and organizing it so that it is easier for them to understand. This can be done by connecting the material with real-life examples, by linking different information together, and through attempts to place information in the right context.
Popular learning styles implemented in the modern classroom
Different models of learning used in the modern classroom developed from the classifications mentioned above. In these situations, group experience triumphs over individual work. However, through the implementation of different tactics, all students can acquire the desired knowledge. It is clear that there are solitary learners who will learn more effectively on their own (developing very useful specific skills), as well as social learners who achieve the best results in the company of their peers.
The VARK model
One of the most famous learning styles is certainly the VARK model of learning (Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic). VARK is based on four segments that address different approaches to adopting information.
- Visual – refers to students who prefer visual presentation of the information. The most effective methods for these students include infographics, tables, sketches, etc. Visual learning is not necessarily related to illustrations, photographs and videos, but rather to creating a mental image in one’s mind based on available information. Thus, a visual learner will learn a poem by heart if they make a mental “screenshot” of the text page.
- Auditory – auditory learners (or aural learners) best adopt the information they hear. When they implement this approach to learning, teachers use: speech, musical instruments, singing, but also radio, music apps (such as Tidal or Spotify), etc. Students who prefer this learning style will use it outside the classroom, e.g. by repeating lessons out loud or by memorizing information using rhythm and music.
- Reading/writing – perhaps the most traditional learning system, based on reading and writing. People who ‘like reading’ learn by finding written information in books, their notes or on the Internet. Even when they study, they do it by writing things down, copying them and manipulating words in general. Many writing learners learn solely from their own notes. They essentially learn and shape the material through the writing process.
- Kinesthetic learning – learning based on concrete activities, touch and repetition until a certain level of knowledge is reached. Thus, tactile learners will best learn if they do things by themselves. This method is applicable in sports and technical courses, although it can be implemented in other situations as well (e.g. for learning letters and numbers using letter and number blocks and toys).
Kolb’s learning styles
David Kolb’s learning style operates on two levels. On the one hand, we have a four-stage learning cycle that represents four distinct learning styles. This teaching method is based on the cognitive process where learning involves the transformation of previous experience. The four stages are repeated, in logical continuity, representing a closed cycle..
- Concrete Experience – a new situation or new interpretation of a previous experience.
- Reflective Observation – analyzing, finding differences, and connecting new information with previous experience.
- Abstract Conceptualization – reaching a new idea, or modifying an old, abstract concept.
- Active Experimentation – implementing new ideas on concrete examples and observing the reactions.
After the last item, we return back to the first step in order to analyze the new situation and the changes made. It should be noted that the first step doesn’t necessarily have to be the initial one – a learner can “break into” the process at any time, and find a solution of their own, going through the stages. However, in order to achieve results, one needs to go through all four stages.
Due to its analytical approach, Kolb’s learning styles are often used for case studies. Kolb’s model is also very practical for group discussions, because it helps students understand information before them, and thus reach a solution.
Additional learning theories
The modern approach to education has sparked a revolution among old learning theories, and given rise to completely new theories. Learning in the 21st century is continuously changing and evolving, in line with a better understanding of students’ needs and the development of technology. Therefore, teachers can choose among a variety of different learning styles in the classroom. We will mention only the most popular ones below:
- Transformative learning theory
- Vygotsky’s Theory of learning
- Bloom’s Domains of Learning
- Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences
Learning styles are an effective tool if used correctly
The fact that there are different learning styles doesn’t mean that each of them has to be implemented. It is up to teachers to assess what could work best, thus helping students to learn new skills. With good lesson planning, children will be more motivated to learn, which will help them to acquire and retain new information more easily, thus mastering numerous activities both in school and outside of it.