Different Learning Styles for Different People As we learn more from one generation to another on how the brain and body work together the more we change how we teach our children. The curriculum in schools today is far different than what it was 40 years ago and will continue to change as we discover more on how we learn. In recent years there has been extensive research and exploration on helping all students reach their full potential. Throughout history it has been thought by scholars that formal education is better suited for finding gifted learners rather than improving their ability to learn.
Many students of the past may have benefited from different teaching styles that fit their individual needs to learn more effectively. Furthermore, those that did excel in a traditional classroom may have developed skills that would have helped them surpass their already impressive accomplishments. Students often are asked to memorize rather than understand or make since of the material. Overall, new styles of learning are providing more knowledge to a wider variety of people, significantly improving their ability to become active learners.
A new curricula for young children have shown amazing results. This new approach to teaching geometry helped second grade students learn to represent and see three dimensional forms better than a group of undergraduate students at a prestige’s university (Lehrer and Chazan,1998). It has been thought for years that if students paid attention, took notes, and completed their assignments that they would learn. That does hold true for most learners but we now know that there are more variables involved “nature and nurture” Nature or genetics make up almost half of our natural ability to learn.
Genetics affect every aspect of our life’s, from eye color, to height, whether we can run fast or jump high, is all determined by our genetics. Of course some of these things we can improve on, although you may not be able to change your eye color, you can certainly work on how fast you run or high you jump, Also known as nurture. The same holds true for learning, we may not have the best genetics from our parents to learn but we can nurture our own abilities to learn more than we originally thought possible.
Another breakdown of learning is explicit and implicit, examples of explicit learning are things that we read, write, or talk about. Explicit learning starts within 15 minutes of being exposed to new information and will continue over the next hour. Implicit learning is lessons learned from living and experiencing life. It can take up to six hours for implicit learning to form and solidify in the brain. (Thornton 2000). Learning from life lessons is a great way to retain information. Being allowed to learn as we go can help us remember what worked, what did not, and why.
The more mistakes we make actually helps us streamline what works best for us. Of course there has to be someone around to correct us as we make these mistakes, otherwise we may not be aware that we have made an error an continue to do things incorrectly. Every year there is more and more added to what students are suppose to learn during the school year. Although the classes do not get longer there is more content in each class. The only thing that has shown to improve with more exposure is language acquisition. While learning a new language it is best to speak, listen and read it as much as possible.
All other subjects students need time to organize and store new information. Although humans learn their entire life’s there is a capacity our brains can handle in a day. The frontal lobes are where most of our short term memory is stored. Research shows that we can only store three to seven bits of information before become overwhelmed and start to miss new information. (Linden et al. , 2003). As a teacher it is important to engage a student, but to do this we need to consider what does the student want or even more so what does the student need to have for a proper learning environment?
A students brain thinks of many different things while at school. Frequently thinking of a chance to make new friends, change in room temperatures, avoiding danger or situations that maybe embarrassing. Most students would prefer to make it through the day without being embarrassed, rather than actually learning something. Students will focus on learning only when their basic needs are met. Seating will also have an effect on a student’s perceived safety and their ability to learn.
Not all seats are created equal, and it might be worth having certain seats for different types of learners. Most students will want to be seated next to a friend or at the very least away from their enemies. Also seating close to the teacher can be stressful for some students. What about access to class material, or near the heater, or air conditioner. Are they able to stare out the classroom door? All of this will effect each students cognition differently. Knowing each students different needs can help them succeed in learning. Another thing to consider with students is veryone has a natural fluctuation in energy levels. Trying to focus your attention on learning while energy levels are low can be extremely challenging and something we all have experienced at one time or another. These changes in the brain are known as ultradian rhythms. Over a 24 hour period we cycle from our peak ability to learn to our lowest ability12-16 times. This means after you reach your peak energy level your low will come only 45 minutes later. Of course as a teacher there are things we can do to alter this natural low in energy.
If you see a student losing focus have them stand in the back of the room so they don’t disrupt those that are still focused, stretching and getting the blood flowing can help refocus drowsy students. Also if the class as a whole starts to lose focus having exercises or physical activities that relate to the classroom can help the class continue to work and revitalize the entire class. As you can see there are so many things that effect how we learn as individuals, your parents, classroom environment, energy levels, life experience, and simply what learning technique works best for you.
As a student we need to learn what works best for us, but also teachers need to realize the potential in all students and focus on getting the most from each of them. References Bower,B (2008) Body in Mind: Washington: Science Service, Incorporated (Sept-24-09) Bransford, J. (2000)How People Learn : Brain, Mind, Experience and School: Washington: National Academies Press Crane,T Patterson, S (2001). History of the Mind-Body Problem: New York: Routledge. Dreher, H (2004). Mind-Body Unity : A New Vision for Mind-Body Science and Medicine. The Johns Hopkins University. Jensen, E (2005).
Mind and body: Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2) Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Linden D. E. 2003, (November) Cortical Capacity Constraints for Visual Working Memory: Dissociation of FMRI Load Effects in a Fronto-Parietal Network. Neuriomage, 20(3), 1518-1530 Marie, C (2008) The Mind Body Connection: 15, (10), 236. New York: Hearst Communications Inc (Sept-24-09) 1998 Designing learning environments for developing understanding of geometry and space, Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Thornton C. (2000) Truth From Trash: How Learning Makes Since. Cambridge: Ma: MIT Press.