As lifetime learners, every human being has developed preferences for processing new information and absorbing it. These differences are more important than we realize. For instance, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that anyone can get to a new destination by following a map, but some people find it easier to listen to directions provided by a voice on GPS or by following written instructions in a step-by-step list. To help learners discover ways to study that work best for them, researchers have divided these different ways to learn into some common categories. This unit will help students discover their learning preferences and add new study tools to their educational toolbox.
Often students confuse learning style preferences with teaching methods. Students new to college will experience all kinds of professors during their years in higher education. Some lecturers, for instance, mix lecture format with engaging activities, video clips, and discussion questions, creating an interesting environment for all students regardless of their learning style preferences. Other professors will lecture without using any visual aids or interactive activities because that teaching method best fits their own learning preference. A verbal learner is at home in the lecture classroom, but the students who are visual or kinesthetic learners (learn through movement) often feel lost in a college lecture. What can be done about the latter classroom situation?
Although it is tempting to expect the professor to change a teaching style to help students learn course content, it is the student’s responsibility to adjust to the teaching environment. When students become of aware of their learning preferences, they take control of the learning experience by choosing study aids and methods of review that best fit their method of processing and encoding new information in memory.
Do you know your learning style preferences? To adjust your learning methods to fit with a variety of teaching methods this semester, students first need to identify strengths and weaknesses in learning preferences. Before completing the survey at the link below, take a moment to examine study aids and activities that have worked for you in the past. On a piece of notebook paper, jot down 7 – 10 study techniques you currently use either inside or outside the classroom to help you learn.
Next, click on the link below and take a quick survey of your own learning style preferences. The second link also provides information concerning each learning style preference and lists activities to help engage students in their own learning experience, and you will want to spend some time reviewing this information for your class discussion.
Although much research supports that analysis of learning preferences can enhance the college experience, it is important to realize that a college education itself will expand a student’s ability to learn in different ways. Many students who take the learning styles survey find that they have strengths in multiple learning preferences, possibly even in all of them. These students likely have had exposure to challenging job situations or to difficult coursework in their educational careers. Experience broadens a person’s ability to learn in different ways. Although it is hard work and requires sustained effort, the more flexible we become to ways of learning, the more adaptable we will be to various teaching styles in college, as well as to changes in occupational fields and careers when we enter the workforce.
As students experiment with new study aids and activities, they must be patient with new practices; changing our behavior patterns is a tedious process and new study techniques often take weeks (or months) of practice to master. The effort is always worth the brainpower gained. When starting a new study practice, remember to remain positive and be happy with progress in small steps. Meaningful change takes time even for the brightest students.
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