Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The pros and cons to assessing Learning Style

Through this weeks module I can see how a students learning style should matter to a teacher. As a teacher I feel I am successful when my students successfully reach their goals. Learning  about learning styles has made me see that knowing a students preference to learning would be beneficial for their success. As an example I can see that a learner who is visual will need more objects and pictures and diagrams in class and an aural learner would really benefits from small group discussions and being able to ask questions. Providing re-writing time, written instructions and worksheets into a lesson could really energize a reading and writing learner, and going on field trips, making things in class and hands on activities would benefit the kinesthetic learner. When I know the styles of each student I can prepare a more powerful/effective classroom time, and thus the students will learn more. Also the process of discovering their learning style is a way for the student to become more involved and invested in their own learning. I really liked what Dr. Howard Gardner had to say about multiple intelligences. This made me think of the importance of student involvement in learning and of teachers not seeing their students as all the same. Another benefit that I like about knowing a students learning style is that from it the best learning strategies for each student can be identified. The strategies that work best with their preferred learning style will accelerate their ability to learn and reach their goals. When they know this they can use what works best for them outside the classroom. As an example a reading/writing learner could be encouraged to carry a notebook to write new words as they come up, and a visual learner could use sticky notes around the house with phrases and words attached to items and places they might say the phrases.
There are some cons to assessing learner style that I learned about this week. The research being done on the affect of learning styles with students is not complete and in some cases needs a lot more research for the researchers to feel confident in it. The main con to assessing learning styles is the question of the scientific reliability and validity of the assessments. Another con that I saw is how some learners with lower level skills would not understand or accurately be able to answer the questions on the surveys to determine their style. Also depending on the amount of hours per week a program has, the value it has compared to the time it takes would need to be considered. When I think of these cons I am not dissuaded from my opinion that knowing each students learning style is valuable and even necessary but I do think it is important to consider these drawbacks. Here are some possible examples of how I might apply this in my class, which is 10 students, multi level and only 7.5 hours a week; We could talk about the different ways of learning and through discussion see where they feel they are at; I could provide them with a simplified style assessment questionnaire and review the results together; we could discuss different strategies for learning, have them try the strategies and see which one they connected with the best.

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