When educators are able to identify the different learning styles of their students, they are better able to teach in a manner supporting success for all students. A chart of the various styles of learning is an invaluable tool when developing differentiated classroom lesson plans.
Most educators today are familiar with the work of Howard Gardner. Very simply, his research assisted in the understanding that not all humans learn the same. He originally identified seven intelligences: visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical-mathematical.
According to his research, the educational system teaches chiefly to the linguistic and logical intelligences. This is evidenced in the struggle and the failure of students in areas where standardize testing has become the evaluating tool of students' comprehension and skill.
Currently, classroom teachers in most places teach to the standards, which in itself cause great stress for both the educator and the student. Is there a light at the end of the dark tunnel towards excellence? Can teachers find a way to cope with their student's various learning styles without diminishing the quality of teaching? Perhaps the answer is as simple as identifying the various intelligences within the classroom in order to differentiate the curriculum taught.
Styles of Learning
The seven styles of learning actually correspond to the original seven multiple intelligences that Gardner discovered. They are visual, physical, aural, social, solitary, verbal and logical.
While the terms multiple intelligences and learning styles are often used interchangeably, it is important to understand that multiple intelligences and learning styles are, according to Gardner, two different things.
Multiple intelligences pertain to the affinity an individual has for a certain area of knowledge. In other words, some students like math, while others prefer science. On the other hand, learning style pertains to how individuals process the knowledge they are given.
For example, a student who loves math (intelligence) is able to process problems easier if he or she is able to manipulate Unix cubes (kinesthetic learning style). Students may have one or more intelligences as well as learning styles. However, there is usually one learning style that is dominant. Helping students find their style enables them to attain their highest potential.
In order to cope with multiple intelligences in the classroom, teachers need to quickly assess the learning styles of their students in order to incorporate into the differentiated curriculum activities that will meet their needs.
A quick Internet search produces numerous "Learning Style Charts" teachers can use to guide them through assessing the students in their individual classrooms. However, not all charts are the same. Many are simply someone's creative interpretation of Gardner's list. Classroom teachers need more. In addition to naming the types of intelligence, a list of characteristics for each is necessary along with various classroom activities that will feed the individual learning styles of the students.
When the student's needs are met, they are engaged in their learning. When students are disinterested, they become bored and sometimes resort to disruptive behavior. By understanding the learning styles of the students as well as their intelligences the classroom teacher can differentiate the curriculum enough to offer something of interest for everyone.
What does this look like? For instance, the class is assigned a science project. Each student needs to research a specific topic, develop a presentation and share his or her project with the class. In traditional classrooms, this is done by means of a research paper, which is ultimately read to the class. In a differentiated classroom, some children might write a paper, while others could do a poster or PowerPoint presentation, and still others a skit or cartoon.
By allowing each child to find the best way to present what he or she knows, the child engages and owns the learning process. They retain what they have learned better, which means that they are better able to demonstrate their subject knowledge. In addition, the classroom is a beehive of productive activity instead of a behavioral nightmare.
Chart for Classroom Teachers
Use this Learning Styles Chart, which includes the seven types of intelligence, the seven corresponding learning styles, and the basic characteristics for each as a teaching tool.
Educators note: Often the tools for teaching can be used for several types of intelligence.
Harmony in the Classroom
The idea behind creating a learning styles chart is to assist the classroom teacher early into a school year. The ability to include various teaching tools for multiple intelligences into the curriculum often heads off problems. As a classroom management tool, the learning style chart provides a fast and informative means to identify the learning styles of students.
Note: Often students have multiple intelligences and/or different learning styles. In other words, a student could have both spatial and interpersonal intelligence, while being a physical/visual learner. On the other hand, another student could have logical/musical intelligence but be a solitary learner. Classrooms where diverse quantities of teaching tools are utilized offer the best opportunity for all students to excel.