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links for 2011-06-04 
5th-Jun-2011 01:01 am
heart + stomach

This post can also be found at Thagomizer.net. Feel free to join in the conversation wherever you feel most comfortable.

5th-Jun-2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
learning-styles theory is sometimes offered as a reason to include digital media in the classroom. While including multimedia may be a good idea in general (variety in modes of presentation can hold students' attention and interest, for example), it is not necessary to tailor your media to different learning styles. We shouldn't congratulate ourselves for showing a video to engage the visual learners or offering podcasts to the auditory learners. Rather, we should realize that the value of the video or audio will be determined by how it suits the content that we are asking students to learn and the background knowledge, interests, and abilities that they bring to it. Instead of asking whether we engaged the right sense (or learning mode), we should be asking, what did students think about while they were in class? <--- this.

Whether learning styles or types of intelligence are a factor or not, my thought on the matter has always been that the only thing you are doing by specifically targeting a kid for their learning style is disadvantaging them when it comes to coping with an outside world that doesn't do that. I firmly believe that you should try to use all types of teaching throughout, but as a way of maintaining interest and presenting materials most effectively, not in order to engage different students. The goal in a lesson is obviously to have the highest number of students engaged in the largest portion of the lesson, preferably.

Besides, the danger of these things is the ability of kids to use cop-outs. They are, on the whole, lazy buggers, and anything that will allow them to claim they can't do something will be leapt upon.

Also also, and I know I sound cynical here but holy crap do I ever see this in action a lot, it's another way of removing responsibility for learning from the pupil. I don't know if I have a particularly shitty leadership team or what, but everything is about the teacher taking all responsibility for the learning of the student; sometimes they are just taking the piss, but that's not an acceptable answer. Management's role is to introduce new initiatives, the student's role is to hopefully absorb knowledge, the teacher's role is to take the blame for every bit that goes wrong in that. XD
5th-Jun-2011 01:49 pm (UTC)
I totally agree that when you get a student saying "I can't understand this; I'm a visual learner" you have failed them as badly as when you get a student saying "I can't understand English, I'm a scientist!" or "I can't understand anything, I'm stupid!" - you've provided a cop out and removed any intrinsic motivations.

(Just to clarify, when I say 'we have failed students', I don't mean in a way that implies there's no responsibility on the student, I mean that we need to get them to take responsibility)

OTOH, I'm wary that "use the right method for the content" provides a cop-out for teachers, who can then fall into habits of thinking that there is only one way, for example, of teaching flowering plant reproduction, and if students don't get that, then it's the fault of the student, not the method.

I think when it comes down to it, I'm leaning on learning styles / multiple intelligences firstly as a much better model than the numerically measured linear intelligence (*hackspit*), but mostly as entry points to engage interest, as well as non-boring ways to repeat the same content, in the hope it sinks home.
5th-Jun-2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
A lot of that article isn't really dealing with learning styles, but interests, which is totally different. It's true that if you're interested in something, you're probably going to work harder at learning it, but it doesn't mean it's being taught to you in a way that makes it easier for you to learn. I love history, but I did MUCH better in history classes that were more driven by discussion and papers than the ones driven by lectures and tests.

And a lot of things in that article just don't seem true to me, like how you need an extensive vocabulary to be a better reader. I think that's backwards--you build your vocabulary by reading! And ability isn't the same as learning style any more than interest is: being good at sports doesn't necessarily mean you're a kinetic learner. And that claim would even make more sense than the NBA stuff.
5th-Jun-2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
It's true - there was a lot of confusion and misinformation there, and I noticed that; firstly that they seemed to imply there were only 3 learning styles, which - no, and secondly that they didn't have a particularly strong background in what the model included.

But then, I'm willing to bet that a lot of teachers use that very simple model when trying to teach in a way that actually becomes problemmtic.

I mean, if you end up with a student who refuses point blank to try to listen to lectures because they've decided they only learn from discussion, then you've got a problem, because they're now going to use this excuse at every opportunity in later education.

But then, does anyone learn better from lectures and tests?
5th-Jun-2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I definitely think it's detrimental when taken to extremes...but then, so is everything :) I think ultimately, independent of the idea of multiple intelligences, is what you mentioned above--that differentiation is a great way for teachers to be creative in coming up with ways of teaching that will raise student interest.
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