This is the third in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at #AllMeansAll
Disclaimer: I’ve read a good deal of literature and opinion around the validity of learning styles. Nonetheless, at the encouragement of a colleague (this colleague) during some collaborative course design work, I pulled out the learning styles inventory* again this year, in Physical Science classes. The intent was to use the data gathered to introduce graphing, and that was a win. The colleague suggested we share with students WHY we are interested in their learning styles. We are interested so that we can be sure to make learning available to all students in the modality each student best learns. We discussed this in both classes. The real win, though, was what I learned about my students, and what they learned about themselves.
The first inventory groups questions into visual, kinesthetic, or auditory categories. The inventory is a Likert scale (Almost always, Often, Sometimes, Almost never, Never) for responses. Students total their responses in each category, then total all their responses to find their percent in each category. (Finding percentages was difficult for many students. We did this together.) Each student reported out the category with their highest percent. In 2 classes of 30+ students each, the category results were:
21 students are predominantly auditory learners
23 students are predominantly visual
22 students are predominantly kinesthetic learners
Also interesting was the realization by nearly students students that most did not have big differences in their percentages. Most students had only a 5-6% spread among all 3 categories. In both classes combined, only 4 students had a strong bent toward learning styles and in all cases, the strong category was auditory. Both classes are very heterogeneous in student enrollment. The only common factor is that most students have not previously found success in science classes and in some cases, school.
Students then wrote a short reflection on what they’d learned about themselves. I read them, wrote a positive note on each. Each student re-read their reflections and my note, then came up with some ideas about personal learning strategies.
Here are a few excerpts from student reflections:
- “I never knew I should draw sketches of ideas to help me remember. I like to draw instead of write.”
- “I will try to picture what we did to learn instead of trying to remember the words.”
- “I need to ask for someone to say things in a different way.”
- “I should repeat what someone says to me if I want to remember it. I never thought of that.”
- “If I do something, I remember it. If I watch or read, I don’t.”
- “I could pretend my brain is a phone and take pictures in my head of what to remember.” and interestingly…..
- “Maybe I should put my phone and earbuds away and not listen to music when I am trying to focus. Heartbroken.”
But, wow. What did I learn about how to create a positive learning environment for these kiddos? We will write words and we will sketch or model. We will talk to one another more, in ways that encourage students to discuss their learning in specific ways. We will ask each other for clarification. We will each do each activity – if something is a demo, we will do individual walkthroughs after. We will stop after each activity and sketch, write, talk, or act it out.
The reflections are filed in the reference section of their binders. We will revisit their reflections and see how we’re doing once every few weeks.
*I cannot share the learning style inventory as it’s copyrighted. A quick search will yield many choices that are probably just as useful for this purpose.