How Does Your Child Learn Best?
This is a modified excerpt from Pat Wyman’s best selling book, Instant Learning for Amazing Grades. You can find out how your child learns best here on HowToLearn.com.
Did you know that your child has an extraordinary capacity to learn in many different ways?
To understand what a learning style is, just think of how you prefer to learn new things. Do you like to soak up new information through pictures, sounds, or in some physical way through your feelings or touch?
How about when you recall what you have learned? Do you see images in your mind, hear the words of what you learned or actually re-create the information in a physical way?
Although some books report as many as 12 or 13 types of intelligences, there are actually only three primary learning styles and the others fit into sub-categories of these.
Finding Hidden Gold!
Your child’s unique learning style really is like finding hidden “gold” because even though it’s been there all along, before now, you didn’t know its value or exactly how your child could use it to generate a lifetime of success.
Together, we’ll discover exactly how to use the information to improve their grades, enhance communication, eliminate stress and overwhelm, save time and money, and build their motivation.
Most importantly, you can show your child “how to learn” by understanding their unique learning style, as well as the other two styles, and this in turn raises their self-esteem as they see themselves succeed in the process.
The benefits actually become the valuable “gold” of a lifetime.
It’s critical to share with every student that the school environment favors one style over the others.
This does not mean your child is deficient in any way because their learning style might not match how schools are set up. These strategies empower them with a better way to understand the type of environment they are in and ultimately – to “win the school game”!
Students who learn and think best in pictures form the associations needed to quickly and accurately retrieve information for their written tests. It’s that simple. These highly visual students have a natural learning style that matches the school’s highly visual learning and testing environment.
They easily make images from the words they hear and read. They are usually neat and organized, they take notes well and their mental images rapidly trigger the words they need to recall during a written test. Students who prefer to learn in a more visual style tend to have higher grades and test scores that reflect the match between their learning and testing style.
There are, however, millions of students who prefer to learn in other styles, such as auditory or kinesthetic.
For these students a mis-match occurs between how they learn, store and retrieve information and the way in which they are required to output what they have learned on written tests.
These written tests may take the form of multiple choice, short answer, essay or standardized, and the learning and memory processes required to answer the questions are quite similar.
Students who have stored the material they have learned in styles which are not aligned with the type of test they are taking, often find they either cannot translate what they know into written form or retrieve the information quickly enough to form their answers.
When they attempt to use an auditory or kinesthetic style to retrieve and write down information for these tests, they are often frustrated and hindered in their efforts due to the mis-match involved.
Often, kinesthetic learners prefer to learn in a single style and struggle to convert their knowledge into writing.
These children move around nearly all the time, don’t naturally make the pictures in their mind to “see” what organization looks like, and their crumpled papers generally reflect that they have touched and made contact with the material on them. Unfortunately, experts such as Dr. Stephen Guffanti say that kinesthetic learners are often diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD, when, in fact, they prefer to learn by doing.
When allowed to demonstrate their understanding of new material in a hands-on form, kinesthetic/tactile learners perform quite well and you can help your child and your child’s teacher by noting how your child learns best and then sharing that with the teacher.
One year, a student built an excellent model showing how the plates of the earth shift during an earthquake.
He placed two paper “plates” on top of his amplifier and played a low base sound on his electric guitar. The plates separated due to the vibration and it easily demonstrated how the plates move during an earthquake.
Although he got an “A” on his demonstration, he could not find the correct words to describe the process and answer questions on it for the written test. He received an overall grade of C on the written test, even though his teacher was certain he “knew” the information.
The scientific reason he got the lower grade is because he took a stroll down the “wrong memory lane” in his brain and could not retrieve the information for the written test.
While his memory of what was learned was stored in one location of his brain, this student was not able to gain access to it and convert it into words for the written test. For all practical purposes, he had only a “physical sense” of the information and had not linked it to the pictures and associations to trigger the “words” he needed to pass the written test.
This child’s experience is an example of the mis-match between how millions of students learn and how they are tested.
As a parent, you might want to know that this conflict also creates a serious dilemma for teachers.
For many years, teachers have been trained in a theory known as multiple intelligence (MI) teaching. The theory of multiple intelligences was written about in the early 1980’s by Dr. Howard Gardner. Dr. Gardner did not invent the concept of MI but expanded upon the original and groundbreaking work of Dr. J.P. Guilford’s Structure of Intellect (SOI) model.
MI teaching and its proponents advocate identifying and teaching to a child’s learning strengths.
Teachers are taught to design different types of lesson plans for 12 or more types of intelligences and allow students to select assignment options tailored to their preferred learning strength. In theory, this is the optimal learning environment –assuming that the testing formats match each child’s learning modality. In reality though, teachers have neither the time, nor the resources, to tailor all their lessons to every child’s individual strengths.
Problems arise for both teachers and students when, in spite of being trained to teach to many intelligences, most districts still require single modality, written and standardized tests to be the primary measurement for student progress. And today, teachers are held accountable for the results of those test results.
If a child’s preferred learning strength does not correspond directly with the testing method of choice, that child may suffer needlessly with low grades and low self-esteem.
To complicate matters, neither school districts nor employers have (or likely will) created tests suited to their students’ or employees preferred learning styles.
Fortunately, there is newer brain research available than when the model of teaching only to a child’s strengths first emerged. By understanding more of the how the brain works, the model of multiple intelligence teaching can best be used when the testing style matches the teaching and learning style. If written tests are used, MI teaching actually sets a child up for problems when their learning style doesn’t match the testing style.
This book raises student grades and test scores in reading, spelling, math facts, vocabulary and other subject areas. The strategies can be used throughout the curriculum and transforms how every child learns.
The strategies you’ll find in this book are solidly based on over 30 years of research, practice and experience with students of all ages.
The information in this book combines the best available scientific information from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, medicine, psychiatry, optometry, environmental medicine and several instructional models.
As long as grades remain the yardstick by which teachers and children are measured, I believe our students deserve to receive the knowledge and strategies they need to achieve excellent marks. Devoting just a brief course at the beginning of each school year on “how to learn and how to test” methods will help children learn the skills they need to continue to learn for a lifetime.
Amazing Grades was written to solve the dilemma that parents, students and teachers face and solve the mis-match between learning and testing styles. It gives you unique and practical strategies to help children learn “how to learn” and more closely match the way in which they will be assessed.
Pat Wyman is a best-selling author, founder of HowToLearn.com and America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert. She solves learning and reading problems for students who learn in different ways. To find out how your child learns best, take the FREE Learning Styles Quiz and you can read more in the book, Instant Learning for Amazing Grades which has faster learning strategies in all subject areas. © 2011 Pat Wyman, HowToLearn.com – This article is contained under a registered trademark and may not be reprinted without permission from the author.
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2011 Magazine