Learning Styles – Which One, or Ones, Match Your Student

Clonlara School recognizes that children are smart in many different ways. There isn’t just one expression of intelligence, and it can’t be quantified with one number. Each child’s learning needs are as unique as his or her personality, so taking a “one size fits all” approach to education doesn’t make much sense. This is why families choose to homeschool: children’s educations are tailored exactly to their learning needs, by educators (often parents) who know them best. The beauty of homeschooling is that it is a direct educational response to each student’s unique intelligence gifts.

Defining intelligence can be a tricky business. In an interview with Simon Hanson at Brain Connection, Howard Gardner challenges what he says is the ‘standard view of intelligence: “The standard view of intelligence, held since the beginning of the century by most psychologists, is that there is a single intelligence. We are born with it, we can’t change it very much, and psychologists can measure it with a simple instrument. I feel that each of these claims is wrong.” Instead, he argues, there are several distinct types of intelligence, and “From an evolutionary point of view, it seems probable that each intelligence evolved to deal with certain kinds of contents in a predictable world.” (From his website’s FAQ) Gardner pioneered the theory of multiple intelligences with the publication of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences in 1983, initially listing seven and then adding the eighth, Naturalistic intelligence, in 1999 (source). Elsewhere in his FAQ, Gardner recommends observing students’ behavior and filling out questionnaires in order to determine a student’s learning strengths and weaknesses.

At Clonlara School, our campus instructors utilize a learning styles inventory to assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses. The test we use gives multiple scenarios as possible answers (for example, “When you study for a test, would you rather: a) read notes, read headings in a book, and look at diagrams or illustrations b) have someone ask you questions, or repeat facts silently to yourself c) write things out on index cards and make models or diagrams”) and tallies up students’ scores in different categories to determine the student’s learning style. A summary of the different learning styles is available here.

Too often, children whose learning styles do not conform to the educational models of our institutions are labeled “problem children” or are funneled into remedial or disciplinary programs that don’t actually help them. A student who is constantly fidgeting, moving around in his or her seat or even getting up to visit different areas of the classroom during instruction cannot be simply dismissed as a disruptive presence who deserves a time-out, but considered rather as a child who might score highly in the Bodily/Kinesthetic category. Having to sit still and passively listen for long periods of time would be difficult for such a student. If tactile and physical activities like drama, games or building projects were integrated into the material, would this student be more focused? Maximizing a student’s education by catering to different learning styles helps everyone, because it allows students to use their strengths while working on their weaker learning styles. Employing multiple intelligences and learning styles in teaching also provides educators with a greater array of teaching options.

Have you taken a multiple intelligences inventory? Whether you’re a student or not, it may be worth your while to learn a little more about how you uniquely process information. The one we use and recommend can be found here.

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