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In this week’s episode, we’ll discuss myths about learning styles.
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EPISODE 3 TRANSCRIPT:
Welcome to the Learn Their Way podcast, where we teach strategies designed to help students understand how they learn best and find success in and out of the classroom.
I’m your host, Melissa Droegemueller, and in this episode, we’ll discuss myths about learning styles and how we can use them to personalize our children’s learning journeys.
Welcome to episode three: Myths About Learning Styles
In last week’s episode, I mentioned that one of my goals for this podcast is to challenge outdated beliefs about education.
Our kids are all unique, and, as their parents, we get to inspire, empower, and encourage them to learn their way. And the first step to personalizing their learning at home and in the classroom is understanding what makes them unique.
Today, we’re going to dive into a hot-button topic in education circles: learning styles.
I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t even realize learning styles were controversial until a “debunking video” started making the rounds in my education groups.
If you are new to learning styles, they are basically different methods humans use to understand new information: their patterns and preferences. I first learned about them in college, in one of my elementary education classes, and suddenly — parts of my own learning journey started to make sense.
At the time, I was taught about three main styles: visual, auditory, and hands-on learning. A few years later, I discovered VARK, which includes four styles of learning (including my preference, read/write learning) along with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
In a nutshell, visual learners use their eyes, auditory learners use their ears, and kinesthetic learners use their bodies. Read/write learners prefer text to the pictures and graphics that visual learners gravitate toward.
When I teach parents about learning styles, I typically mention a fifth style — tactile learning– which is more about fine motor skills than the whole body movement of kinesthetic learners.
If you want to learn more about your preferences or your child’s, you can go to the VARK website and take a simple learning styles questionnaire.
But for parents of young children, I suggest observing what they like to do in their free time.
A visual learner might enjoy art activities, and an auditory learner might choose something musical. Our kinesthetic movers will likely be running, jumping, swinging, or riding a book — while our tactile learners might play with LEGOs, slime, or a sensory bin.
These free play choices reveal a lot about who our children are and how they might learn best.
(As a read/write learner, most of my favorite childhood activities included a book.)
When my two girls were toddlers, they loved using sign language to communicate. They were also obsessed with Signing Time, a show for young kids that excels at using all of the learning types. Each episode includes engaging video, catchy songs, written vocabulary cards on-screen AND captions — which helped both my girls learn to read. And of course, since it’s a show about sign language, each episode features lots of opportunities for kinesthetic and tactile learning.
Many of us actually ARE multi-modal. Different parts of our body work in tandem to process new information. Just this morning, my 5th grader bounced on an exercise ball in the living room while I read aloud from our history book — which I also casted to our television at her request so she could follow along with the words. Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, all working together.
Some subjects, concepts, and skills require using a specific learning style. Can you imagine learning geography from an audiobook? Or music from a textbook? There is a reason why higher-level science courses include a lab component — hands-on experiences bring ideas off of a page and into real life.
As parents, it’s important to understand learning styles so we can personalize learning for our kids at home.
Just a few weeks ago, I was working on a math lesson about surface area with my middle-schooler. We looked at the dimensions in the book, and then tried drawing the triangular prism on a piece of paper. No matter what we did, we couldn’t get the right answer. So finally, I grabbed a sheet of notebook paper and folded it into the right shape — and I immediately saw my mistake!
Sometimes, we need to try several different methods to understand something new.
As I mentioned earlier, I recently watched a video “debunking” learning styles in one of my education-themed Facebook groups. (I’ll link to the video in the show notes, if you want to watch it for yourself.)
While I don’t completely agree with all of the video’s points, what we do both agree on is that no child fits into a perfectly defined box.
Learning styles can be a helpful tool for ensuring that children are given lots of opportunities to learn something new. They can also help us communicate better with teachers, navigate homework struggles, and enjoy learning together.
It’s important for all of us to realize that our kids are going to grow — and their strengths and weaknesses can and will change throughout their educational journey as they become stronger readers and adopt new strategies for learning.
It’s also vital that we help our kids develop a growth mindset as they grow up. Holding too tightly to a preferred learning style can actually hold them back from reaching their full potential.
We’ve spent most of the episode so far discussing myths about learning styles for kids, namely:
- Children only have one learning style.
- Learning styles are set from birth and never change.
- Learning styles have no value in the classroom.
Let’s be very clear:
- Many children have multiple learning styles, or adapt their preference based on what they’re learning.
- Learning styles can change as children grow and develop new strategies.
- The idea of learning styles can be a helpful tool for classroom teachers and parents. The more methods students feel comfortable with, the more successful they can be!
Learning styles can be valuable for adults, as well — especially in the realm of communication.
Let’s say there are two people — one is an auditory learner and the other is a read/write learner. Perhaps they need to have a serious conversation about something important. Maybe the read/write learner struggles to follow along in the conversation, while the auditory learner gets frustrated that they aren’t being heard.
One of those adults is me, and the other is my wonderful, supportive spouse.
It’s taken us YEARS to figure out effective strategies for communicating, especially when we are so different.
These days, we schedule our big conversations so I have time to think through what I want to say, and I keep my planner close by to jot down notes as we talk.
As a family, we use a lot of systems to keep us all on the same page: a giant wall calendar in the living room, a meal-planning chart on the fridge, checklists for our schoolwork, and regular check-ins to keep things running smoothly.
All right parents, it’s time for homework.
If you have a few minutes this week, I would love for you to pull out a piece of paper or journal, and reflect on these questions:
- Have you learned about learning styles before? Do you know your preferred style(s) — and/or those of your family members?
- Do you think knowing your learning style can help you at work, at home, or in your relationships?
- What do your kids like to do in their free time? Can you see a pattern or preference that can carry over to the classroom?
- Would you like tips for ways to incorporate learning styles into homeschooling or homework?
You can head to rollingprairiereaders.com/episode3 to download a copy of these questions.
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode, and thank you for your support of Learn Their Way!
Be sure to tune in next time as we talk about practical strategies and fun educational activities for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning.