Have you ever heard what learning styles are? Many authors and scholars of the subject have made their definitions, but in general terms, learning styles are more related to “how people prefer to learn” and not directly to what they learn. It is more a way of interpreting, organizing, and representing information. However, we can all learn under almost any learning style, but we do have one that predominates and that we like the most.
For example, it happens to me that my best way of learning is writing, what I don’t write I forget, and when I have to review something, my mind travels to the notebook and I can remember what I’m looking for is on the right or left page, up or down, if I made a diagram or just text, but it doesn’t mean that if I do practical fieldwork, I can’t learn this way.
Authors such as Keefe (1979) define a learning style as “composed of characteristic cognitive, affective and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a student perceives, interacts with and responds to the learning environment”, Stewart and Felicetti (1992) they conceptualize learning styles as the “educational conditions under which a student is most likely to learn.”
Studies have discovered that children’s brains are continually growing, developing, and maturing, and also their ways of learning change over time, which is why we should not consider children’s learning preferences as absolute truth, instead of This is to always be observing, analyzing, and understanding their changes to adjust the activities, tools, and resources in our challenge of educating at home.
Learning styles and their characteristics
If we were to mention all the learning styles that exist in the literature, this article would be too dense and heavy for this blog. Since 1970 learning styles have been addressed by psychology and by different authors, there are about 70 different learning style models (Coffield, 2004), the vast majority of which are supported by “an industry dedicated to publishing learning style tests and guides” and “professional development workshops for teachers and educators” (Pashler, et al., 2009, p. 105).
Below we present an infographic that shows general learning styles, and the most common learning styles without categorizing them as the most important learning styles because each one has its pros and cons.
Below you will find a summary of the learning styles described above:
VARK Sensory Approach.
This acronym is used to describe four student learning modalities that were described in a 1992 study by Neil D. Fleming and Coleen E. Mills, who created a questionnaire to help learn more about the individual learning preferences of students. people, the inventory is developed through various situations where respondents select the answers that best fit their preferred approach to learning.
David Kolb’s experiential learning.
This model ensured that we are continually learning and developing specific strengths, which give rise to personal preferences, which Kolb framed in four learning styles: accommodation, convergence, divergence, and assimilation.
Ushers. In the “hands-on” type, they learn from real experience.
Converters. They deal best with abstract ideas but like to end with concrete results. For example, they start from theories but put them to the test in practice.
Divergent. They tend to use personal experiences and practical ideas to formulate theories that can be applied more broadly.
Assimilators. They feel more comfortable working with abstract concepts, they develop new theories of their own.
Using Honey and Mumford’s Learning in Practice
Peter Honey and Alan Mumford used Kolb’s model but focused on how learning is used in practice. They identified four new learning styles: activist, pragmatic, reflective, and theoretical.
Active. They are people who learn “by doing”, have an open attitude to learn, and commit themselves fully and without prejudice to new experiences.
Theoretical. They like to understand the theory behind actions. They use models, concepts, and facts to participate in their learning process.
Pragmatic. They need to know how to put what they have learned into practice in real life, they try new ideas, theories, and techniques to see if they work.
Thoughtful. They learn by observing and thinking about what happens. They prefer to step back and look at experiences from different perspectives, collect data, and take the time to come to appropriate conclusions.
Mental Styles of Anthony Gregorc
Anthony Gregorc and Kathleen Butler went into more detail about how we think and how this might affect the way we learn.
This theory puts us all on a spectrum between concrete and abstract thinking, and between the sequential and random ordering of our thoughts. Concrete perceptions happen through the senses, while abstract perceptions deal with ideas. Sequential thinking organizes information logically and linearly, while a random approach is multidirectional and unpredictable.
Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
This theory suggests that all people have different kinds of “intelligence.” Gardner proposed that there are eight bits of intelligence, and has suggested the possible addition of a ninth known as the “existentialist intelligence”.
Gardner theorizes that people not only have one intellectual capacity, but that they have many kinds of intelligence, including musical, interpersonal, spatial, visual, and linguistic intelligence.
While a person may be particularly strong in a specific area, such as musical intelligence, he likely possesses a variety of abilities. For example, an individual may be strong in verbal, musical, and naturalistic intelligence.
Examples of learning styles
Below we will mention examples of learning styles, which can help us better understand the concept and what lies behind them.
- Visual people. They learn any topic better if the knowledge is presented graphically (such as in infographics) or through other types of visual, clear, and colorful images.
- Hearing people. They take in information better when it is spoken or listened to, they can take great advantage of lectures or talking with a friend, and they explain things well, so they would do well in oral exams.
- People reading / writing. They are those who love to learn from the written word, they can read a textbook and be ready for the exam, they like dictionaries, and citation books and read everything they can on the Internet, and they use writing notes and cards as a good way of studying.
- Kinesthetic or tactile people. They do better involving their hands or body movements in the learning process, such as learning about computer programming by playing with one or learning to drive a car directly by driving without prior theory. It usually links what they are learning with life experiences.
- Active people. The most conducive activities are brainstorming, problem-solving, group discussion, puzzles, quizzes, and role-playing games.
Theoretical people. The most conducive activities are models, statistics, stories, quotes, background information, application of theories
- Pragmatic people. The most suitable activities are case studies, problem-solving, and debates which require time to think about how to apply what has been learned to reality.
- Thoughtful people. The most conducive activities are partner discussions, self-analysis questionnaires, personality questionnaires, observation activities, feedback from others, training, and interviews. They also require time for reflection.
- People with visual-spatial intelligence. They are good with instructions, as well as maps, charts, videos, and images.
- People with linguistic-verbal intelligence. They can use words well, both in writing and speaking, and they are usually very good at writing stories, memorizing information, and reading.
- People with logical-mathematical intelligence. They are good at reasoning, recognizing patterns, and analyzing problems logically, they tend to think conceptually about numbers, relationships, and patterns.
- People with bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. They are good at body movement, performing actions, and physical control, and tend to have excellent hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
- People with musical intelligence. They are good at thinking about patterns, rhythms, and sounds, have a great appreciation for music and are often good at musical composition and performance.
- People with interpersonal intelligence. They have the strength to understand other people and interact with them, they are good at evaluating the motivations and emotions, intentions, and desires of those around them.
- People with intrapersonal intelligence. They are good at being aware of their emotional states, feelings, and motivations. They tend to enjoy self-reflection and analysis, including daydreaming, exploring relationships with others, and evaluating their strengths.
- People with Naturalistic Intelligence. They have a strong connection with nature, they like to explore the environment, plant crops, learn about fauna and flora, and are also very aware of the changes in their surroundings.
Criticism of learning styles
Although learning styles theories have become extremely popular and widespread, they have also been criticized for their lack of proof and many of their claims have been challenged.
Here we describe some of them:
1. Although we can express our preferences about how we learn, they are not necessarily an exact reflection of how our brains work.
2. Attempting to “diagnose” someone’s learning style will fail, as an individual’s learning method will be different in different situations and will likely change over time.
3. There are differences between people’s assessed strengths and how they approach learning tasks in practice. For example, someone who gets better test scores after hearing the information might still choose to learn by reading, simply because she enjoys that style of learning more.
4. The idea that learning styles and teaching methods should match is unproven and may represent a disadvantage as educators focus on people’s strengths rather than weaknesses, leading to limited learning.
In conclusion, there are so many theories and so much information about learning styles that we could end up more confused with the subject, but in order not to overwhelm ourselves, let’s use our willingness to understand our children, their interests, their tastes and offer them a variety of activities that focus on all styles and methods and they will show us the best path to follow.
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Do you think that learning styles are important in the learning-teaching of your children? Do you have any other critiques of learning style theories?