One big challenge that has been identified by many educationists is cognitive load. Most students are studying because they have to and not because they want to. So interest levels vary. To make things difficult the explanation of concepts is not broken down for the weakest of the student. Most classrooms work on the strongest students. The strongest or the most intelligent students, according to the teacher, may in fact be a child who understands the teachers learning style. In most cases the teaching style is standing in front of the class, reading and explaining the concept. Some may take the effort to explain with the help of the black board. These days some schools have adopted the smart boards which are big television screens which have presentations on it. However, all students are not accustomed to understanding the teachers oratory style. Honestly it has nothing to do with the teacher. Teaching should be about the student. Here we need to understand learning styles and how children understand things.
Understanding is Key to Learning
When we talk of reducing cognitive load it means the easiest way to explain a concept. This is because understanding is the key to remembering concepts. Once you understand a concept then remembering it becomes easy. If you don’t understand cognitive load you should read my article “How Does Memory Work?”
There are many learning styles and learning models that many educationist and psychologists have proposed throughout the years. We will talk about the one based on human senses.
Walter Burke Barbe, an educator from America and his colleagues proposed three learning modalities based on human senses. These were based on seeing (Visual), hearing (Auditory) and physical experience (Kinaesthetic).
A student could be a Visual Learner, or he may be someone who is a great listener (Auditory) or he or she may be someone who understands better by experiencing and touching things he learns (Kinaesthetic). It is not necessary that a student will have only one understanding style, though one of these maybe dominant.
Who is a Visual Learner
Most students are Visual Learners. That means if the concept is explained to them in drawing format like charts, graphs or moving images they can understand better. Vision is the dominant sense in our brain, therefore explanation of concepts done visually usually helps students.
How do Auditory Learners remember
Auditory learners remember what they’ve heard. So if you narrate things to them they will remember better. Story formats have been found to work better. Song format will probably do wonders. That’s one reason why we remember songs easily and we used to be taught songs and poems during our early years. Auditory learners also enjoy and remember Group discussions.
Who are Kinaesthetic Learners
Kinaesthetic learners need to experience what they learn. Like, do an experiment for themselves. They need to be given real life examples. Keeping this in mind many schools recommend project work in class. The growing of potted plants, the cutting of potatoes to make colourful art projects and science experiments about physics and chemistry are loved by Kinaesthetic learners. Kinaesthetic students will love needle work or building blocks.
How do Styles Overlap
If you observe your child you may believe a certain learning style is dominant in him or her. But a closer and longer look will reveal that he or she is good at remembering things in other ways also. For example you child may remember songs and poetry easily. Which may lead you to believe that he is auditory. But he will probably remember each dance move the hero of the song makes, which is mostly visual. You can relate to the fact that a simple act of writing down something helps you to remember something for a longer period. But this exercise also includes visually remembering spellings and you will have found that sometimes you need to write down a word to remember its spelling. At the same time the best memories are made from experiencing a great trip with friends rather than sitting down and chatting with them.
Neil D Fleming, a New Zealand based teacher added Reading to the list although I personally believe reading is part of visual learning.
Just because a certain style is dominant in somebody doesn’t mean you do not help him learn by other learning styles. A proper balance of these learning styles will help your child remember what he studies for a longer period.
In the next article you will find Techniques to Understand What You Study for Long Term Memory.