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Identifying Primary Learning Styles Can Benefit a Student's Performance

By Dr. Deborah Cutter

Reinforcing a child's primary learning style regardless of whether they are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner can be used to help a child reach their optimal potential. Read on to learn more about learning styles and student's performance.

Primary Learning Styles

For years educators have been aware of the connection between learning styles and students' performance as well as the advantages of introducing children to enriched learning environments that reinforce a child's primary learning style regardless of whether they are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. A child’s primary learning style can be used to maximize their ability to understand information and can help them reach their optimal potential. This is even more critical when the child has a learning disability and needs additional assistance in the classroom.

Howard Gardner, Harvard professor and author of the "Multiple Intelligence Theory" proposes that we have eight different types of intelligence that help us learn new skills or solve problems: Logical-Mathematical, Linguistic, Spatial, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalist.

Dr. Gardner proposes that the combination of these intelligences are needed for students with disabilities and all students to function well in society. When a new idea is introduced in more than one way, many intelligences are engaged simultaneously. This creates a more exciting learning environment leading to a deeper level of understanding which is important because each child learns in a different way.

Visual Learner

A visual learner often thinks in pictures and can more easily comprehend a lesson if provided with visual aides. They understand the teacher's intended communications by paying close attention to the teacher's facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures and body language. For example, if a visual learner is only presented with verbal information they will absorb and retain less information than if the verbal instructions were combined with visual materials.

Visual learners see the world in images or pictures. They need to see to learn. They excel in traditional classrooms where most material is presented visually. They enjoy reading, looking at pictures, watching people and thrive with interaction and verbal repetition. Useful tools for a visual learner are using books, videos, computers, and posters.

Auditory Learner

An auditory learner interprets the underlying meaning of speech through tone, pitch and voice speed. If they are only presenting with visual reading materials, they will absorb and retain less information and have more trouble concentrating than if the lesson was combined with a lecture by the teacher.

Auditory learners are good listeners. They do well in lecture based learning environments and are active in classroom discussions. They are distracted by noise, conversation or music. Useful tools for an auditory learner are using conversation, discussion, and debate.

Kinesthetic Learner

A kinesthetic learner absorbs information more easily by physically interacting with their environment through movement, dance, drawing or taking notes.

Kinesthetic learners process information through their bodies and touch. They have trouble sitting still in class and are often labeled as having ADHD. They must touch, explore and create in order to learn. They are unable to process or retain material just by seeing or listening. Their memory is linked to movement. They love to draw, write and are good organizers. They thrive in sports, drama, and dance. Useful tools for a kinesthetic learner are to emphasize note taking and introduce art and drama.

In Part 2 we'll take a closer look at some interventions and accommodations tailored to learning styles and students' performance - especially how that information can be used in the classroom to assist children with special needs.