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Learning styles

August 16, 2005

Hello again. Frayed nerves today! I spent the whole weekend without Internet connection because my server had supposedly switched my coonection to broadband. Unfortunately the telephone company hadn't actually activated my telephone line for broadband. Now neither the server nor the telephone company will answer my calls: they seem to think repeated playing of David Bowie's "We Could Be Heroes" is an adequate response to disgruntled customers. I have had to activate an old account to get connected. I know modern technology is a wonderful thing but there are times when it makes you want to tear your hair out.

Well, what I really want to talk about today is the importance of offering students a range of learning experiences. I always feel aware of learners' frustrations when I watch classes based purely on reading and writing. Yet often learners don't themselves understand these frustrations. For many learners studying is associated with this method and they don't consciously question it. Yet if teachers gradually introduce other elements into the classroom, you can see learners blossom.

The first step to try is to use pictures to appeal to the visual sense. Even students whose primary learning style is not visual can benefit. The advantage is that the written word with its complexities is not there as a block to understanding. The picture speaks directly to the learner and they can interpret it as they wish. Any written work can come after use of the pictures as a means of reinforcing the message. One exercise I have used repeatedly is to get stduents to choose three postcards from a pile I scatter on the table. I ask them to associate each picture with an incident in their past, an issue from their present and a hope for the future. They each talk about their pictures and ask for help if they get stuck with a word or a structure.

Using soundscapes will appeal to students with auditory preferences. Again the sounds are open to interpretation and the students can give free rein to their imagination. Both pictures and sounds act as powerful anchors for the memory too.

Action-oriented lessons will appear to students who like to involve their whole being in learning, and don't forget that some students will prefer solitary study while others like group activities.

I think it's important for the academic programme to have varied activities that can engage many different learning styles so that classrooms are truly dynamic. Please share your ideas about this with me.
Back soon,
Patricia.

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