Sensory Preferences Discussion
Why should we understand theories about learning styles?
Research shows that we tend to teach through our own learning styles and see those who are like as being more intelligent and more talented. If we are not aware of the rich diversity of different learning styles, we may unintentionally be prejudiced against students who are different from us.
Is one learning style better than others?
There is no right learning style for teachers, learners or artists. To have a rich and diverse world we need all styles and all combinations of styles.
How can we use learning style theories to make us better teachers?
If we become aware of our own learning styles we will see the areas where we are not as strong naturally. With effort, we can add to these weak areas so that we can become good teachers for students with all learning styles. By doing this, we also learn to appreciate many different types of people more as well. This is more important, according to research than to identify one child’s specific learning style and cater to it.
Are there any downsides to thinking of people as different types of learners?
We must remember that all forms of categorization are constructs. They help us develop a general idea that applies in most situations. Every human being, however, is unique so this type of theory helps develop a more inclusive classroom rather than becoming a rigid structure that students must fit within, for example, most people have one strong area and a secondary area of moderate strength while some people function almost completely in one learning style and some are spread evenly over 3.
How are learning styles categorized?
There are several different ways of categorizing learning styles. I like to think of these as floors of a house. In the basement of the house are the structural forms of learning styles called Sensory Preferences. They relate to the ways we take in information through what scientists have identified as our 17 senses. The sensory categories used are Visual (through the eyes) Auditory (through the ears), Kinesthetic (through the big muscles) and Tactual (feelings – both fine sense of touch and emotions).
The next floor of the house is the processing style – either global or sequential and concrete or abstract. The processing style defines what we do with the information we take in through our senses. A visual learner who is an abstract sequential processor is quite different from a visual learner who is a concrete global processor.
The next floor relates to motivational styles. You may hear about Myers Briggs and other tests. These relate to motivational differences such as strong intuition or power and control. Although it is not specified in tests like Myers Briggs, motivation also relates to the sensory preferences and the processing style.
This is a lot to remember – what if I forget some of it?
Some of this you will do naturally as it is part of your own learning style. Any steps that you take to work with all types of learners in your class will help make it meaningful for everyone and help reduce behavior problems. If you keep making small steps towards incorporating learning styles theories into your teaching, you will notice the difference over time.