A resourceful teacher should keep all kinds of students in mind while planning lessons. Jayasree N explains why this is important for different types of learners
Teachers should know their children thoroughly – their learning styles, strong and weak traits and even their family background, to customise their classes, so that all the students in a class are equally benefited. Reaching the level of expectation of each child in a heterogeneous group of 40 to 50 students is a big challenge for a teacher. But without addressing this challenge, a teacher cannot survive.
Students are generally divided as high achievers, low achievers, gifted students etc. But there is yet another group of students who suffer from one or the other learning disability. A conscious teacher will keep all these groups in his/her view, while planning the lessons and add different ingredients to meet the requirements of all the groups. Most of the teachers will follow a middle path, a rather easy method that ensures a definite, (but unfortunately average) share for all.
This middle path will yield only moderate outcomes. But average performances will not take our students anywhere in the present world of extreme competition. Hence, it is the unquestionable responsibility of each and every teacher to address the requirements of each student to maximise his/her performance; and success of a teacher is actually the success of the students, not only the high achievers, but all.
The best method for customising our classes for our students is to identify their learning styles and group them accordingly. The teacher should have a clear vision about the methodology, different learning activities and approaches that will suit the different learning styles also.
Broadly speaking, there are three types of learning styles, namely Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Some experts like Neil Fleming have added a fourth one that is Read and Write style. There are experts who say that nearly twelve different learning styles can be observed among students. Three or twelve, clear understanding about the learning styles will certainly help teachers and the students. The former can formulate better methodologies and the latter can very well refine their learning strategies. Classroom experiences show that the students feel more comfortable and their learning becomes easier when the concepts are delivered in a method that suits their learning styles.
The auditory learners prefer listening. They benefit more from group discussions and seminars. They can make use of audio lessons readily available in the market. They can prepare their own audio lessons and listen to them repeatedly to learn better. But in a class, children with auditory learning style are found to be lesser in number when compared to those with visual or kinesthetic learning styles.
Ironically, most of the teachers adopt the conventional lecture method suitable for this minority. The teacher talks continuously while most of the students who prefer either visual or kinesthetic approach remain passive. They lose their attention quickly. Besides, over exposure to visual media like TV and internet has very adversely affected the attention span of our students and this also demands a multi-sensory approach from the part of the teacher.
Adults generally prefer silent reading and sometimes parents criticise their children when they read loudly. The child who prefers loud reading is actually exploiting the possibility of hearing the concept along with reading. This helps them in understanding the concepts faster. Such preferences and practices which may appear odd to us, the adults, need not be snubbed or criticised because there is no such so called ‘right learning style’, what gives one the best result is the right style for him/her.
The visual learner learns better when more visual inputs are incorporated in the class. Diagrams, charts, pictures, films, written handouts etc can enhance their learning. They like it better to remember concepts more pictorially. Teachers can introduce a regular practice of making concept maps for each new concept to help this group of students.
The Kinesthetic learners excel with hands-on experiences. In such cases, a teacher can make use of real life situations. They prefer the involvement of all senses. It is said that for a kinesthetic learner, physical movements during the class enhance concentration. The teacher can try role plays, demonstrations, computer games etc. They advance by involving in real problem solving activities.Generally, teachers plan their lessons based on their own experiences as students.
Sometimes, the teacher imagines himself/herself to be a student and formulate a strategy that will suit him/her the best. This approach will not always give the desired effect. For example, a teacher advises the students to take down notes while the class is in progress, because as a student, he had followed that method effectively. Taking notes in the class is found to be reasonably helpful in remaining more alert and active too. But for an auditory learner it might be troublesome, because he might feel distracted. Hence it is imperative for the teachers to adapt themselves for each class and each concept.
Experts differ in their opinions about the implications of learning styles in teaching. But all of them agree that a clear understanding about one’s own learning style can help each learner modify his/her learning strategies. Teachers should help their students realise this. Teachers can formulate simple questionnaires that can throw light upon the intricacies of varying learning styles. Otherwise, the teacher can plan activities step by step in accordance with different learning styles. Analysis of these responses can provide some basic awareness to each learner about the style that suits him/her the best.
However, it may not be practical for the teacher to incorporate a number of activities in the same class. What is desirable is a multi-sensory approach and real classroom experiences to testify this, especially in lower classes. In this modern age of science and technology, planning such a class is just child’s play for a resourceful teacher. In higher classes, an approach based on different learning styles will be more comfortable for the teachers because it allows them to be more flexible. This makes the teachers more accessible too.
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