All people learn differently according to their own learning style that adjusts to their individual characteristics. The different existing learning styles refer to the way we learn, in what terms it is easier for us to assimilate information or what sensory channels we prefer to process the different learning contents. Knowing our learning style will allow us to identify the conditions in which we can best develop our skills.
Both in the classroom and at home, it is especially important to know our children’s learning style in order to offer them the best learning environment, thereby increasing their motivation, as well as making the most of their personal abilities.
When it comes to talking about learning styles, we find several models, such as Bandler and Grinder’s Neurolinguistic model (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences model (linguistic, mathematical, musical, kinaesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal), Kolb’s model (convergent, divergent, assimilating and accommodating) or Honey and Mumford’s model (active, reflective, pragmatic and theoretical).
Learning styles according to the Neurolinguistic model
Bandler and Grinder’s Neuro-Linguistic Model describes three main types of learning styles:
Visual – This learning style prioritizes the sense of sight as a mechanism for acquiring information. People with a predominantly visual learning style tend to have a strong imagination, and they prefer images, graphs or photographs as learning tools.
Auditory – An auditory learning style primarily involves stimuli perceived by the ear canal. These types of people are great conversationalists and have a facility for music and languages. They like to comment on what they have read or done and repeat songs or rhymes.
Kinaesthetic – This learning style shows a preference for movement and play as learning mechanisms over sight or hearing. People with a kinaesthetic learning style are generally restless and have a knack for dancing or sports.
Learning styles according to the Multiple Intelligences model – Gardner’s model defines eight different types of intelligences:
Linguistic – People with this type of intelligence have the ability to express themselves both orally and in writing. They are able to make themselves understood easily.
Logical-mathematical – In these people, the use of reason and data predominates. They value mathematical certainty and do not like to leave things to chance.
Visual-spatial – This type of intelligence predominates in people with a keen sense of orientation and aesthetics. They capture information more easily when it is in a graphic or visual format and prefer written to oral expression.
Musical – People with this type of intelligence make excellent musicians and composers. They exhibit a special sensitivity to sounds and rhythms.
Bodily-kinaesthetic – This type of intelligence is characteristic of people with good body and motor skills such as actors, dancers or athletes. They prefer practical application to theoretical argumentation.
Naturalistic – This type of intelligence is used to detect the slightest differences in the environment. People with this type of intelligence are able to discriminate information with ease.
Interpersonal – People with this type of intelligence are empathic people, with the ability to understand the emotions of others. They easily develop lasting relationships and are proficient in non-verbal communication. This type of intelligence usually predominates in teachers, psychologists or lawyers.
Intrapersonal – This type of intelligence characterizes self-confident people, who know their strengths and weaknesses.
Learning styles according to Kolb’s model
Kolb’s model establishes four experience-based learning styles:
Convergent – This learning style characterizes objective people, who value logic and reason. They learn best when they can investigate and use deductive reasoning.
Divergent – This type of people enjoys challenges. They tend to be emotional and creative. They learn more easily through short and concise activities in which they actively participate. They also tend to get bored easily.
Assimilator – People in whom this learning style predominates are thoughtful and cautious in their conclusions. They analyse the consequences of their actions before carrying them out. They are observant and patient and prefer to go unnoticed.
Accommodator – This learning style defines pragmatic people with great problem- solving skills. They learn best through experimentation.
Learning styles according to Honey and Mumford
Honey and Mumford proposed four learning styles:
Active – People with an active learning style are open-minded people who enjoy new experiences. They are energetic and enjoy being in groups. They enjoy novel activities in the short term and become bored as soon as they lose their excitement.
Reflexive – These people are generally prudent both in their actions and in their conclusions. They usually consider all possible alternatives before carrying out a project. They prefer to observe and remain distant in any situation in order to know all the details before participating.
Theoretical – People with a theoretical learning style are characterized by being methodical and structured. They are rational and objective and tend to be perfectionists. They analyse facts within logic and like to synthesize.
Pragmatic – This learning style defines practical and realistic people. They tend to be impatient and prefer experimentation to theory.
There is an obvious relationship between Kolb’s and Honey-Mumford’s learning styles. Thus, Kolb’s divergent learning style corresponds to an active-reflective style in the Honey- Mumford model, while the convergent style corresponds to a combination of Kolb’s theoretical and pragmatic styles. Likewise, Kolb’s assimilating style is compared to a reflective-theoretical style in the Honey-Mumford model, and finally, Honey-Mumford’s accommodating style turns out to be a combination of Kolb’s active and pragmatic styles.
Despite the existence of defined learning models, we should not use these as closed labels that delimit our learning style. People do not have a single learning style, but a unique combination of styles depending on their personal situation, biological predisposition, or social, emotional, and surrounding environment, among other factors. That is why knowing our learning styles should only serve as a guide that allows us to enrich and take advantage of our abilities.
In the case of adults or even adolescents, there is the possibility of self-assessment that will allow us to identify our own learning style, knowing how we prefer to learn or acquire new knowledge. It is, however, more difficult in children, for whom analysis by the teacher, or by the parent in the case of family learning, is necessary in order to personalize teaching.
The way to identify both our own learning style and that of our children is to answer more or less simple questionnaires that allow us to identify our preferences and discover our abilities.
It is convenient to identify what type of stimuli we are attracted to (musical, visual…), what materials we prefer when learning (books, games, videos…), or how we go about tackling a task most successfully (in a group or individually, cooperatively or competitively, etc.).
In the case of family learning, it is necessary to observe the interests of our children, their toys, the environment, the people and the sounds around them. Try to observe what materials, activities, games or people are of interest to your children. Observe the way they like to spend their time, the things that amuse them, or the way they respond to stimuli.
Knowledge of our own learning style or styles will help us to personalize our teaching according to our own interests and motivations, enhancing our abilities and facilitating our progress. Both in the classroom and at home, learning based on students’ learning styles calls for a diversification and combination of teaching methodologies and strategies that ensure an optimal teaching-learning process.
When we consider the area of learning styles, we find that there has been great deal of research done in the field, which has led to different approaches and methodologies.
Different definitions are found for the term ‘learning style’. The most common ones are:
– Honey and Mumford (1992): “a description of the attitudes and behaviours which
determine an individual’s preferred way of learning”.
– Felder (1996): “characteristic strengths and preferences in the ways they [learners]
take in and process information”.
– James and Gardner (1995): a “complex manner in which, and conditions under which, learners most efficiently and most effectively perceive, process, store, and recall what they are attempting to learn”.
It can be seen that researchers have found that every individual approaches the learning process in a different way. It is crucial to find out our children’s learning style in order for us to be able to help them to learn more efficiently by carrying out the right learning strategy. Furthermore, when a learner is not supported in their learning style by the teaching environment, they will encounter serious difficulties in the learning process.
Parents can easily identify their children’s preferences, how they learn most quickly and the atmosphere their children are more likely to learn in.
The basic learning styles are visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinaesthetic (VARK). The main characteristics of students according to their learning style and the teaching strategies that should be applied to optimise their learning process are the following:
They prefer to see something to learn it. Characteristics:
● Easily visualize objects.
● Enjoy learning from charts, graphs, and diagrams.
● Have trouble remembering spoken directions or lessons.
● Remember better what is seen or when demonstrations are used.
● Work better if the overall process is explained for a project before beginning.
● Get distracted easily by movement.
● Observe rather than act or talk.
● Mind sometimes strays during verbal activities.
● Usually good spellers.
● Memorize by seeing graphics or pictures.
● Not easily distracted.
● Find verbal instruction difficult.
● Remember faces.
● Meticulous, neat in appearance.
● Notices details. Strategies:
● Use diagrams, charts, and graphs.
● Avoid distractions (windows, doorways, etc.)
● Use of colour, such as highlighting or using coloured pencils.
● Use mind maps, flashcards, transparencies, posters, films, etc.
● Sit them close to the teacher so they can see facial expressions and gestures.
● Use colour coding for important information.
● Allow time for reading assignments silently.
● Display important information to remember.
● Keep an outline of the steps to follow.
● Allow students many opportunities to observe others.
● Provide a variety of visual materials to facilitate the learning process.
Auditory learners prefer hearing information in order to learn or remember it. Characteristics:
● Easily follow verbal instructions.
● Enjoy talking, reading aloud, discussions, and debates.
● Prefer music over art.
● May talk to themselves while completing an assignment.
● Will sort through ideas by talking them over.
● Distracted easily by a loud environment while studying.
● Talk to themselves.
● Have difficulty with written directions.
● Like to be read to.
● Memorize sequentially.
● Enjoy music.
● Whisper to themselves while reading.
● Distracted by noise.
● Hum or sing.
● Outgoing by nature.
● Enjoy listening activities. Strategies:
● Study groups are an effective means of studying for this learner.
● Record lectures and lessons to listen to later.
● Read notes or text aloud.
● Allow the child to narrate a lesson to you.
● Allow them time to say words inside their head silently.
● Brainstorm ideas with others. Form study groups.
● When possible, teach information through recordings, television, oral reports, rhymes and songs, radio, lectures, book reviews, panel and group discussions, guest lectures, and oral questions and answers.
● Provide time for meeting with classmates before and/or after class to discuss material.
● Rephrase important points to increase understanding.
● Encourage discussion and invite questions.
Reading / Writing Learners:
Reading/Writing learners prefer text-based lessons in order to learn or remember. Characteristics:
● Learn best from a textbook or reading.
● Good at taking notes.
● Have good handwriting.
● Enjoy writing essays, reports, etc.
● Learn well from a dictionary, thesaurus, or manual.
● Words are the way to the heart of these learners.
● Use advanced planning.
● Like reading.
● Quiet by nature.
● Use textbooks or books.
● Encourage them to join a book club.
● PowerPoint presentations.
● Reading diaries or historical fiction books.
● Writing reports and taking organized notes.
● Use sight words, flashcards, note cards and experience stories.
● Encourage them to jot down and outline their ideas as they form in their mind.
● Train them to make a rough draft, skipping lines that will allow them to correct/revise their work.
● Help them to make quick outlines on scratch paper or in the margin of tests before writing their answers.
Kinaesthetic learners enjoy movement and doing rather than listening while learning. Characteristics:
● Learn best through doing rather than hearing, seeing, or reading.
● Enjoy participating in sports, drama, and/or art.
● Doodle while taking notes or sitting through lectures.
● Connect lessons to specific demonstrations or realia in learning.
● Prefer examples that use the sense of touch or smell.
● Remember what they do best.
● Classic “hands on” learners.
● Like physical rewards.
● In motion most of the time.
● Like to touch people when talking.
● Tap pencil or foot when studying.
● Reading is not a priority.
● Poor spellers.
● Like to solve problems by physically working through them.
● Will try new things.
● Outgoing by nature; express emotions by physical means.
● Use hands while talking.
● Dress for comfort.
● Use demonstrations that involve active participation.
● Use interactive activities.
● Employ acting in plays or creating art.
● Take frequent breaks throughout the school day.
● Make use of groups and field trips.
● Relate lessons to real experiences.
● Have them keep their desk clear of distracting objects.
● Have them cover the page they are not reading.
● Divide their work into short study sessions. Get a timer. When a task is completed, give them a reward such as a walk around the block, listening to a song, etc.
● Sit them as close to the teacher as possible, or sit them in the centre of the room surrounded by quiet students.
● When teaching, use a multi-sensory approach (hearing, seeing, touching and doing)
as much as possible.
● Encourage them to get plenty of sleep.
● Provide nutritious breakfasts and lunches. Allow them to snack on fruit or nutritional food if they are hungry. Use models, real objects, and materials that can be touched and moved.
● Assign interactive tasks.
● Encourage them to record in writing information learned. Keep a supply of paper on hand.
● When possible, let them role play, type, take notes, or construct models to learn the information.
As studies carried out on family learning show, this method builds students’ confidence and at the same time helps parents reinforce or expand their own knowledge.
To achieve positive results, a series of fundamental premises must be taken into account: family learning must be inclusive and must recognize and value cultural, racial and belief differences.
Despite parents assuming the role of teacher, there must be a relationship of trust, since parents and children form a unit at the same level: they learn in both directions. This does not mean the parents lose authority. The learner must be taught to listen and not to interrupt, and by doing so ourselves, we will act as a model for our children.
• Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. They are not penalised, but rather used for reflection and a starting point for further learning.
• The topics to be learned are all important, both the curricular content and the secondary topics that have arisen during the process.
• Achievements, however small they may be, must be valued to encourage them to continue making an effort and continue learning.
When considering family learning, it is important to have a general plan drawn up in collaboration with the teachers at the centre. It is also important to interact with other families involved in this type of learning, since they can provide us with ideas and advice.
When carrying out the learning tasks, it must be taken into account that one learns, on the one hand, by interacting with the object of study and, on the other, by mediating, interacting and negotiating with others. To acquire new knowledge, we have to relate it to previous knowledge and experiences, therefore it is necessary for parents to act by facilitating and mediating knowledge and encouraging questions and the curiosity of the learner.
Another aspect to consider is the environment. It is essential to create an affective atmosphere of mutual trust to attract the attention of the learner and make them feel at ease. We have to value the interests and previous knowledge of the student to avoid boredom. New content should be introduced at a reasonable pace in order to prevent feelings of frustration.
Emotion management is also something that we must teach. For example, if educational games are used, children must be how to handle losing.
The first thing to do is establish a learning objective and how attain it.
• To establish the objective, it is important to coordinate with the school whether reviewing or expanding contents.
• To decide how to carry out the process, we must first have observed the learner to find out what his/her interests and preferences are. We can introduce learning while they play, proposing joint readings, painting, etc. We should take advantage of a moment in which the learner is relaxed, approach him/her, interact in the activity and introduce what interests us. We must ensure that this is not seen as an imposition or interruption of the activity, because the learner could refuse to participate.
The activities that we carry out must be varied not only with respect to their typology, but also in relation to the place where they are carried out. We can take them out of the house, do them while we walk, in a park or when visiting a museum or a zoo. The more varied the options, the more we will attract the attention of the learners.
• Games can be used to expand vocabulary. For example, if the learner is playing ball, depending on age and educational level, he/she can be asked what other ball games he/she knows, what the parts of the body used to play are called, what bones are in those body parts. For mathematics, problems can be posed with objects that we add, subtract, multiply. Puzzle activities are very good for speeding up the process of learning to handle problems and find solutions. This ability will not only be useful for mathematics, but for life in general.
New games can also be created from games we know the learner likes, such as playing bingo with words on the card instead of numbers and drawing images from the drum.
• Drawing can be used to expand vocabulary or to learn to write or improve calligraphy at an early age. If the child is drawing a sun, we can teach him to write the word or ask him to draw the moon or a cloud. We can propose using markers, coloured pencils or watercolours on paper, or with chalk or markers on a blackboard.
• Reading can be done together after agreeing on a book taking into account the child’s interests. It is important for parents to have read the book before in order to organize vocabulary extensions, debates about topics that appear, propose alternative endings or ask the child to imagine an alternative ending. For this activity, it would be advisable to establish a fixed schedule to make it a routine and give it continuity.
Process evaluation The achievement of the objectives will be recorded at school, but it is also convenient for parents to keep track of the activities that we are carrying out at home, reflecting, for example, the suitability of the activity carried out, the acceptance of the activity by the learner and the results obtained. To do this, we can have a board at home with the objectives and/or activities that we have done. Depending on whether or not the aims have been achieved, we add stars or questions marks. In this way we make the learner an active participant and the child may even feel encouraged to repeat an activity if he sees the question mark instead of the star.
Another option would be to keep a journal of our sessions, either on paper or digitally. There may even be schools or family learning communities that offer a blog where parents can share their experiences and thus help give ideas to other parents.
It is fundamental to encourage learner to improve and to see failure as essential to academic and personal development.
From the moment we are born, and throughout our lives, we establish connections between what is known and experienced and what is new. These connections are a fundamental skill for learning and allow us to understand and be more or less successful in the world in which we live. The ability to make connections is related to the ability to see that symbols, such as numbers, letters, and words, represent real objects (symbolic representation). Making a connection involves executive function skills, including using what you know (working memory), figuring out what is the same and what is different (cognitive flexibility), and sorting these things into categories.
Actually, making connections involves developing an understanding of how things connect. Improving the ability to make common and unusual connections provides great benefits to both children and adults, as it is a central component of creativity.
In our daily life, we usually establish the following connections between what is known and what is presented to us as new:
– We identify similarities. Children naturally learn to classify and categorize objects.
They are classified by shape, size, colour and type.
– We identify differences. Classifying objects requires understanding how they are different, as well as understanding how they are alike.
– We connect different things or ideas. Children build connections by understanding how things are related, for example, by use and purpose.
– We make unusual connections. When children can make connections that are unusual or go against the norm, they have the foundation for truly creative thinking. As they develop their own unique perspective, children can think of new and interesting ways to understand and interact in the world. For example, they might transform a known game into a new one by changing the rules.
In education, it should be noted that learning is considerably enriched if we manage to incorporate into the classroom these connections that our brain establishes naturally. Along these lines, we highlight below some aspects that help learning:
Making mistakes. Making mistakes is a necessary part of learning, and when children make mistakes, they also make connections. Therefore, you have to get the most out of it.
Encouraging exploration in games. Games will become a different and entertaining occasion to explore and establish connections in the environment.
Playing different games. Sorting games help make connections.
Identifying new connections. This can help learners make or see new connections that they may not have noticed for themselves.
Encouraging innovative thinking. This can help children see things in different ways, helping them think in new and creative ways.
Numerous studies have identified routines and activities that can help establish relationships if we intelligently incorporate them into our daily lives, not only at school, but also in family life. The occasions are innumerable in daily life, but below there are some examples:
– At lunchtime: talking about the number of diners and how many place settings should be available at the table.
– When dressing: establishing differences and similarities between the different garments.
– When taking a walk together: taking advantage of it to observe the environment.
– Playing with songs and their rhythm to guess the title, doing sorting games separating the big from the small, for example, or writing the words that the children say and making them connect what they say with what is written. – Helping to reflect on why a mistake was made and what can be learned from it.