Every person has a different way of learning. The way people absorb information, whether spatially, visually, verbally, or internally, can drastically affect the way they live their lives. In a perfect world, guidelines would be established at the grade school level to better accommodate a wide variety of learning styles and techniques. But unfortunately, our education system is structured in a way that favors some learning types while discouraging others. This makes many students feel as if their efforts to study are ineffective, and that they have to put in more effort to achieve the same level of success as their peers. In reality, it is not the individual that is flawed, but the system itself, everything from the design of the classroom to the way work is distributed to the types of activities that are assigned.
Photo: Allison McGee
If teachers really want to help their students succeed, the first thing they can do is redesign the learning environment. Modern classrooms are typically structured in a way that inhibits creativity and emphasizes verbal and visual learning over all other methods. Children who learn spatially, through doing as opposed to hearing and seeing, are forced from an early age to sit still in their chairs and internalize their thoughts. Redesigning the classroom into individual stations catered to each learning style, will give kids the option to pick and choose which method of learning they like the best. It is here where students will discover their interests as well--whether or not they like to read, draw, exercise, etc.
Another way educators can help their students learn is through the integration of group activities into the curriculum. Focusing on collaboration earlier in a child’s life will help him or her accept learning styles that differ from their own. They will soon realize the importance of consolidating their strengths with those of others in addition to understanding the power of their own perspectives.
Finally, teachers should assign work that rewards a learner’s particular strengths, refines his or her skills, provides encouragement from their peers, and helps build confidence from an early age. Famed education researchers Kenneth Dunn and Rita Dunn, suggest a learning tool called “contract activity packages," an ongoing assignment that utilizes a wide spectrum of learning types, with activities that cater towards auditory, spatial, visual, and tactile learners. These packets encourage students too solve problems creatively, using the skills they’ve honed throughout their education.
By observing the results of these three alternatives to the traditional classroom structure, perhaps educators will finally realize the unparalleled importance of a student’s learning type.
Colson Kuliopulos is currently earning his degree in film from Emerson College. He hopes to become a writer for television and movies, then move to a seaside town and collect beach glass till the day he dies.